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Talent Talk: To Hire an A Player, Abandon the Salary Range

Compensation has surged for the elite in our industry. To attract an A player, take a page from the NFL playbook.

Paul Sturgeon

May 22, 2023

2 Min Read
businessman throwing a football
EHStock/iStock via Getty Images

If left to my own devices, all Talent Talk columns would be brimming with sports analogies, but I resist the urge and I have a great editor who keeps me in line. With that disclaimer, you know what’s coming, right?

We just concluded a step-by-step roadmap, in five parts, on why you need to hire the A players in the industry (hint — they’re the only ones making your company money) and an in-depth look at how to approach the hiring process.

But I left out one underlying aspect of this process that is so crucial to adding truly top talent to your team — navigating a new playing field when it comes to compensation for this segment of the market.

Depending on where you live, you may have seen the price of houses in your neighborhood double over the past few years. That is the market — supply and demand — working very efficiently. In a similar way, compensation has surged for the elite in our industry. If you want them on your team, you need to abandon the notion of “salary range.” I know a few HR managers just passed out; hopefully they will be okay.

The latest data available for NFL quarterback salaries lists 80 of them currently on team rosters. The average salary for the top 10 ­— the best of the best — is $45.6 million, with a range of $40 million to $52 million. That is the market right now. If your team’s “salary range” isn’t around that, you probably will not have an elite quarterback.

That is an organizational decision to be made at some point, preferably before the recruiting process begins, as you prepare the position’s scorecard. If you have a C-player budget, it is important to be honest with yourselves and recruit the best C player you can.

If you are a savvy NFL fan, you might be thinking that Joe Burrow (of my hometown Cincinnati Bengals) only makes $9 million. That’s correct, but it’s his first job out of college and he is going to be getting a nice bump soon.


paul-sturgeon-150.jpgAbout the author

Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at [email protected].

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