HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia

Skill-Based Pay

Looking for a change that drives growth and motivates employees? Skill-based pay may be the answer. In this article, get valuable insights and tips for evaluating and possibly implementing this compensation approach.

What Is Skill-Based Pay?

Skill-based pay is a compensation model that determines an employee's salary based on their skills, experience and expertise in a particular field. In this model, a person's compensation is not determined by their job title or responsibilities, but rather by their abilities and knowledge in a specific area. The goal of skill-based pay is to attract and retain highly skilled employees while encouraging self-development and training within the organization.

Should Companies Offer Skill-Based Pay?

Whether a company should offer skill-based pay depends on several factors, including the company's goals, budget, and culture. Here are some factors to consider.

Advantages of Skill-Based Pay

  • More independent culture. Skill-based pay can lead to a culture of improvement and self-development among employees, which can result in stronger performance and more innovation.
  • Better retention. Encouraging employees to continue their education and improve their skills while remaining in their positions nurtures a sense of ownership and emotional investment in their position.
  • More invested employees. As this pay model incentivizes employees to continuously develop their proficiency and knowledge, it gives employees a greater sense of control over their earnings. This can be a great motivator to increase employee engagement.

Disadvantages of Skill-Based Pay

  • Can be more expensive. This can result in higher pay rates for specialized positions. Additionally, it requires more experienced and well-trained recruiters.
  • Requires more involvement in recruitment, training and administrative work; it increases HR workload.
  • Greater pay gap. The skill-based pay model can cause some employees filling the same role to receive vastly different wages. This can open the doors to potential accusations of favoritism or discrimination.
Ultimately, whether a company should offer skill-based pay depends on its goals and priorities. If a company values self-improvement and innovation and has the budget and resources to invest in skill-based pay, it may be a good option. However, if a company is focused on cost control and maintaining objectivity in compensation, position-based pay may be more appropriate.

Factors That Influence Skill-Based Pay

There are several factors that companies consider when determining an employee's compensation. In this section, we'll take a closer look at three key factors that can significantly influence skill-based pay: experience, market demand and competition, and expertise and skill sets. Understanding these factors can help both employers and employees better navigate the skill-based pay model and make informed decisions about compensation.


The level of experience an employee brings to a particular job or function significantly influences their skill-based pay. For instance, an employee with several years of experience in a specific field or industry equates to a higher pay rate in comparison to someone who is new to the field, even if they share the same position.

Market Demand and Competition

The demand for specific skills and expertise within a particular market or industry influences skill-based pay. If there is high demand for professionals with a particular skill set, companies must offer higher salaries to attract and retain top talent.

Expertise and Skill Sets

This compensation approach is designed to incentivize and reward employees who have acquired advanced skills and knowledge in their area of work. By prioritizing expertise and proficiency, companies encourage their employees to pursue continuous learning and self-development, leading to a more skilled and productive workforce. Methods for measuring an employee's expertise and skill sets may include skills assessments, certifications, qualifications, or years of experience. Skills assessments evaluate an employee's skills and knowledge in specific areas related to their job. These assessments may be conducted through tests, interviews, or performance evaluations, and the results are used to determine an employee's skill level and set an appropriate pay rate. Employees who have obtained certifications or qualifications in specific areas related to their job are often considered to have a higher level of expertise and may be eligible for higher pay rates. In some cases, pay rates may also be based on an employee's years of experience, but this approach is less common in a skill-based pay workplace.

Tips for Offering Skill-Based Pay

Employers need to be strategic and thoughtful in implementing a skill-based pay model. In this section, we'll explore three key tips for offering skill-based pay: researching specific positions, providing opportunities for training and development, and communicating clearly with employees.

Tip 1: Research Specific Positions

Before implementing a skill-based pay model, it's important to identify the specific skills and expertise required for each job or position. This involves analyzing the job requirements and responsibilities. For example, say you were looking to hire a software developer. In your research, you review job descriptions and consult industry standards. From your research, you determine that the level of experience and understanding of programming languages, development methodologies, and software architecture would serve as an excellent basis for determining the appropriate pay rate of a skill-based pay model.

Tip 2: Provide Opportunities for Training and Development

Skill-based pay encourages employees to continuously improve their skills and knowledge in order to make more money. It’s one thing to incentivize this sort of self-improvement growth mindset through pay, but providing such opportunities in-house proves that this is prioritized and engrained in the company’s culture. This can be done through the implementation of an employee education program. Such programs offer things such as on-the-job training (upon employee request), employer-sponsored workshops, online training courses, or tuition reimbursement on schooling or certifications. Having educational resources available to employees who understand the effect such training has on their overall pay incentivizes and empowers employees to acquire new skills that benefit the company and advance their careers.

Tip 3: Communicate Clearly and Regularly

Clear communication is crucial when implementing a skill-based pay model. Employees need to understand how their compensation is determined and what they can do to increase their pay. Providing excellent betterment opportunities amounts to nothing if the employees do not know about or adequately understand what is being offered to them. Employers should be transparent about the criteria for compensation and provide regular feedback on performance and opportunities for growth. This transparency should be apparent throughout the organization’s policies and procedures, communication, and performance evaluation system.
  • Policies and procedures. In order to avoid accusations of favoritism and potential legal ramifications, there must be clear policies and procedures in place for determining compensation based on skill sets and performance. This includes developing specific job descriptions and performance metrics that clearly outline the skills and knowledge required for each role, as well as the specific performance expectations for employees.
  • Communication techniques and requirements. Communication is so important in implementing a skill-based pay model. Who communicates what, how often, and what details need to be explained should all be specified. Employers must ensure the details of the compensation model are communicated to employees clearly and regularly to ensure that they understand how their compensation is determined and how active their role is in how much they get paid. Effective communication can involve training sessions, providing easily accessible written materials that explain the model, and using feedback mechanisms to allow employees to ask questions and provide input.
  • Performance evaluations. Employee assessment is the lifeblood of an effective skill-based pay model and must consist of unambiguous and consistent evaluation criteria. In performance evaluations, employees are given one-on-one opportunities to ask questions about what specifically impacts their pay, employer expectations, skill development opportunities, and more. Moreover, regular feedback from performance evaluations helps employees understand what they are doing well and where they need to improve, enabling them to take corrective action and improve their performance, thus increasing their wages.
Kayla Farber

Kayla Farber

Kayla is the Chief Innovation Officer at Hero Culture, where the passion is to create company cultures of retention using the power of personality.
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Frequently asked questions
Other Related Terms
Compensable Factors
Compensation Philosophy
Compensation Strategy
Executive Compensation
Health Insurance Benefits
Internal Equity
Job Classification
Lag-the-Market Compensation Strategy
Lead-the-Market Compensation Strategy
Meet-the-Market Compensation Strategy
On-Target Earnings
Pay Differentials
Pay Mix
Pay Transparency
Salary Range
Salary Survey
Sales Compensation
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