Compensation Strategy Checklist

As part of a strong retention strategy, every organization must have a compensation philosophy and aligned strategy. The below checklist is a starting point to help you gauge your current plan within the framework I use with clients. No strategy checks every box, but if you have spent time thoughtfully building your compensation strategy, you should hit at least 80% of these both overall and within each section. 

Feeling overwhelmed? If your organization has very few of these things, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are my First Three – the first three things you need to ensure compensation is equitable, strategic, and sustainable.


1. Jobs are aligned to specific compensation bands. Your bands may be wide, or even overlap, but job titles are categorized into bands. You’ve clearly articulated criteria for how an individual role is classified and separately, how an individual’s compensation is set within each band.


2. Key stakeholders have aligned on a compensation philosophy. As a leadership team, you’ve discussed where you plan to target your comp compared to market rates. You’ve debated whether you value performance or experience more and how you’ll reflect that in your pay structure. You’ve had the tough conversations and come out the other side. 


3. The organization can financially sustain its compensation structure for the foreseeable future. Your CFO isn’t sweating bullets over your current comp plan. We don’t like to stress our CFOs :). 

Ideal State

Vision, Goals & Strategy

  • Goals are aligned to overall talent philosophy and vision statement.
  • Both market comp data and historical comp data was utilized to set realistic yet ambitious goals that meet the organization’s needs.
  • Leadership and relevant teams buy-in to goals and played a role in developing goals (if relevant for their role).
  • Compensation philosophy has been established and comp bands align with what the org most values (e.g. pay for performance vs. experience; total benefits and rewards offered, etc.).
  • Clear strategy is in place to achieve goals; includes specific tactics, milestones, metrics, and owners.

enabling Structures & mindsets

  • Leadership believes people should be fairly compensated for their work; there is not an attitude of “paying in mission fulfillment”.
  • There is an individual or team responsible for compensation strategy design, reviews, and administration.

Process, Systems & Tools

  • Systems are in place and effectively used to set compensation for new roles, award bonuses, and give raises.
  • Compensation for all roles/departments is regularly reviewed.
  • Finance has financially modeled projected compensation for the next five years.
  • Clear process in place for employees who want to request a review of their pay.

Manager Training & Execution

  • Managers receive training and coaching on how to: 
            • negotiate salary with new hires
            • use org-specific processes and tools
            • lead compensation conversations with their team
            • ensure equity in pay across their team and understand the role they play in pay equity across the org

Staff Training & communication

  • Staff have access to view pay bands and understand which types of jobs fall into which band and why.
  • Staff know and understand how pay is set across the organization, including initial compensation, perks, stipends, raises, and bonuses.
  • Staff know how to initiate a review if they believe their pay is unfair or inequitable.


  • Compensation data is analyzed for trends across lines of race, gender, age/tenure, disability, and any other demographic collected by the org.
  • Discrepancies discovered through the above data review are addressed.
  • Raises are given through a clear process and not just to those who ask.
  • Salary ranges are posted on job postings.
  • Staff asked to do additional work (e.g. train or mentor others) are compensated for the added responsibilities.
  • Benefits and perks are reviewed annually with a lens towards DEI and accommodate as diverse a staff as possible (e.g. healthcare benefits that include gender-affirming treatment, mental health benefits, parental leaves, etc.).
  • Bonuses and pay-for-performance programs do not disadvantage individuals who take leave.

Impact & results

  • >X% of staff report they are compensated fairly for their work.
  • >X% of staff report they are satisfied with the org’s benefits and perks.
  • <X% of staff report leaving due to salary and benefits.

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