From St. Louis, MO — 08/03/2008
At SSM Integrated Health Technologies (SSM's IT division,) the pay is decent. They like to say they are market competitive, however, they're only really market competitive in the mean of a salary range. Their salary caps are ridiculously low. Their HR handles all of the salaries, with management having little to no say. Then, if you get a manager who's a real "company man" sort of person, don't ever try discussing salary with them. The biggest problem comes to mass lumping of groups of IT employees together. Windows, UNIX and SAN admins as well as DBAs are all in the same pay grade. How on earth you can lump those rolls into the same pay scale? A lot of the problem is that job descriptions for FTE's are seriously incomplete. I don't think HR has a clue on how to match some of those positions for salaries in the market.
Their benefits aren't anything special. They try to tell you focus on your overall compensation package, meaning, "don't think about your salary, think about everything else we give you as well." The truth is that their benefits package is nothing different than any other company's. Their health care is self-insured and actually restricts you to their own network. In the St. Louis area, good luck to you if you don't live on the Missouri side of the river. Or, if you have a dependent living out-of-state with their other parent, good luck trying to cover them under your insurance. Even worse, try getting answers out of HR generalists. Half the time, they'll tell you to call the benefits management and the benefits management company will in-turn tell you to call HR. You get 24 days of PTO your first year but that includes the standard six holidays, so, you get about 18 days of vacation and sick time. You also get this EMTO sick bank. However, it's nearly useless. You have be out sick for 3 or 4 of your regular PTO days first, then you can use EMTO, but only with a doctor's note. Unless you're seriously injured it's generally useless. They offer about $4200/year in tuition reimbursement. That's nothing special. I think they offer about $100/year that can be applied to a gym membership, or you can use it once to purchase fitness equipment for your home which is nice, but $100/year doesn't go very far with current gym memberships.
Job security is pretty high. It's unusual to see an IT shop where so many employees are 15+ year veterans. However, you start to understand the culture quickly. The truth is, it takes you a very long time to reach the top-end of your salary. There's little overlapping, so, if you're a senior technical person but want to make more than your current cap, you'll have to enter management. So, that limits your ability to grow in the technical area.
The other problem around the culture is co-worker competency. I find that 40% (at least in my group) of the employees are doing 90% of the work. As a newer higher, I'm continuously providing on-the-job training to people 30 years my senior who are making $25,000 more than me. Outside of the training area, a large problem is that when highly productive employees are identified by their managers, those employees suffer because the manager now realizes that they can give that particular employee a higher workload than others. This is especially prevalent in groups that have impending project deadlines. This would all be alright, would that employee be recognized in compensation. But, that isn't the way SSM works. Under staffing is also an issue. Our team is having a hard time hiring somebody because HR keeps low-balling our candidates. When the candidate asks HR about it, they're given some excuse about not being able to pay you more than somebody with the same years of experience already on the team. When the salary offer gets back to some of us, nobody can understand how HR can offer low $60k to a professional with about 10 years of directly related experience applying for a senior FTE when all of the seniors make far more. So, either HR made a mistake or they're intentionally offering poor salaries which makes it impossible for us to hire anybody.
It wouldn't be fair to give an employee who works so much harder a greater raise than the employee who is either less competent or less motivated. SSM's monetary compensation system fosters mediocrity in its employees. The reason the veteran employees do not work as hard is that they realized that there's no reason to do so. They understand that they've reach the salary cap, their salary will not grow. They'll be cut a check for their 3.5% but lose the cumulative growth of a raise. They also understand that employee reviews are mostly a joke. SSM spends a ridiculous amount of money developing these goal systems with trickle-down structures from your department manager. Ultimately, it means nothing. You get nothing from working hard and nothing happens to the employees who are hardly working.
They take an employee opinion survey every so often through a third party. This year, we were instructed by our manager that the company has decided that groups must have brain storming sessions around the results. So, we sit for a 2 1/2 hour team meeting to discuss the survey. We were first told that we had to discuss the positives. I don't see how that resolves the negative scores, but fine. Oh, but then we were also told that we would not be discussing anything that we can't change, such as salary. Even though salary was either the lowest (or nearly lowest) score on our team's survey. So, basically, the company didn't get the results they wanted, so, now the employees are being punished by sitting in useless meetings. No wonder so many employees didn't even take the survey.
SSM will tell you how competitive they are, but in truth, you're better off (in the St. Louis area) sticking with one of the other large players.