Cannabis: Beware the Fake Compensation Survey Data

Fred WhittleseyCannabis Compensation Consultants, Conscious Compensation: The Impact Compensation Blog, Pay and Performance: The Compensation Blog

The current President of the US has popularized the term “fake news” – and many believe that his claims of fake news are fake.

The cannabis industry is new and entrepreneurial, and companies are constantly looking for information and data to guide their business strategies and operations. The current regulatory climate does not make that an easy task.

As a compensation expert, I help clients understand the market norms and dollar amounts for jobs. I have done that for 35 years. I have worked on intricate compensation survey databases in the leading compensation survey firms and consulted with hundreds of clients, helping them interpret compensation survey data.

In the cannabis industry, we’re all eager for good compensation market data. But it does not yet exist. Most important at this stage is to avoid a belief in bad survey data. False survey data. Bogus survey data. Impossible-to-believe survey data.

Without naming names, here are some tips for evaluating whether compensation survey data is real. Does the survey data have…

  • Median compensation figures that almost always ends in “000” – this position pays $60,000 and this one $85,000. Fake.
  • A preponderance of round numbers, like the above point, and then seems to have other jobs that pay $47,367 or $89,221? Fake.
  • Counter-intuitive data – like the CEO earns less than the COO? Probably fake, but maybe possible if the CEO is a founder and the COO is a non-founder hire in a given company, but not overall.
  • Job titles with no job description. Then it is just title-matching. What is an Accounting Director vs. Accounting Manager vs. Accounting Supervisor? Fake.
  • Mixed job titles. Extending the above point, Accounting Director/Manager/Supervisor as a single job. Fake.
  • No list of participants. Is the data real? Large companies? Small companies? Assume fake.
  • No “N” – the count of companies and incumbents for each job reported. Is the median a single data point? The average of two data points? Questionable.
  • No categorization by company size, the dominant factor in compensation for executive and management jobs. Irrelevant.
  • Inconsistent data organization, for example having the job of “Receptionist” and also “Front Desk Receptionist” – is there a Back Desk Receptionist? This displays a lack of knowledge and survey competence.
  • No fee? You get what you pay for.

Cannabis is a rapidly evolving sector composed of a complex set of jobs from industries ranging from agriculture to biopharma to retail, and more. We all would love to have detailed compensation market data to help us determine the best compensation structure for our company.

But watch out for fake data. It could destroy your business. This is not fake news; this is very real news.