If you're still wondering why Microsoft is handing over $26.2 billion to acquire LinkedIn, you're not paying attention. Yes, LinkedIn is the home for your digital resume, a place where recruiters can look you up and businesspeople can get in contact. But in more recent times, the platform has evolved far beyond those basic roots. And now, through the application of their vast, and unique, professional data set, LinkedIn is setting itself on a course to change HR and recruiting as we know it, with the platform's latest announcement advancing them further along these lines.
It's a straight-forward process - you enter in your position and location and LinkedIn will tell you what the average wage is for your role, adding greater transparency to the process and giving you a better understanding of where you fit. But the real strength of the new feature lies in the detail.
There are already a heap of salary comparison tools available on the web - Glassdoor, Comparably, and PayScale are probably the three best known options. In this respect, LinkedIn isn't adding anything new, they're merely enhancing their career resources and making their platform a more expansive offering. But LinkedIn has a significant advantage over these other providers, and one that will grow over time as more people use the new tool.
To use LinkedIn's new tool, members will need to enter their own salary data, which is then anonymized and encrypted to protect your privacy (Premium members are exempted from this requirement). Straight away you'd assume that such a system will inevitably be flawed, as people will inflate their incomes or enter in a random number to bypass this element, but LinkedIn's thought of that too - they've added in tools to detect anomalies and filter them out.
"Some of the different approaches we consider for improving accuracy are outlier detection (people submitting invalid salaries which would interfere with the system), training/validation with additional public and private sources such as Bureau of Labor Statistics, statistical inference for low inventory cohorts, similar company groupings, cost of living adjustments (COLA), title standardization and synonyms, and a whole lot more."
Basically, LinkedIn's not simply taking people at their word - they have a range of additional data comparison tools available to reinforce the accuracy of any details entered.
As we've noted previously, data accuracy is crucial to the success of LinkedIn's products, not just in this application, but in how they contribute to every other element - ad targeting, search, business and consumer analytics, etc. As such, it makes sense for them to reinforce such measurements. And as they do, that'll give LinkedIn a much wider, real-world pool for comparison, which could make their tool more accurate, while LinkedIn can also provide additional contextual markers, like the influence of education and related career choices, as well as current openings to consider.
Using the new tool is simple - as highlighted in the above video, you head over to LinkedIn Salary and enter your info.
The locations are restricted to the U.S., Canada and he U.K. initially - you can't enter a location outside of these areas.
Once you press 'Search' with your title and location, you're taken to this screen which asks you to enter your current salary for free access.
If you choose to enter your information (once again, LinkedIn has gone to great lengths to explain that any details you enter are not connected to your identity and the data is protected to ensure you're not disclosing anything you feel uncomfortable with), you're then taken through the process and given access to the full data relating to your role.
And the insights available are pretty great - apart from the basic overview above, which you can also filter by industry and years of experience, you can also see the differences in pay rates by location (including how many salaries have been reported for each region as a reference point) and how an individual's level of education impacts on their pay.
At present, LinkedIn's data is somewhat limited - they've been gathering salary data on an invitation basis throughout the year, and have had more than a million users submit their info, but with more than 467 million members in total on the platform, that's still only a fraction of the total possible data pool. In checking through a few examples, the more in-depth detail, like the above stats on education and industry, is only available on roles where they've had more than a few hundred respondents - which makes sense, as without a reasonable comparison pool, the data is probably not an accurate reflection.
The system, and it's advanced data cross-checking, is impressive, and will no doubt help everyday employees get a better understanding of where they fit in a comparative pay scale. But more than that, the tool may also help the rising number of freelancer workers get a better understanding of what they should be charging for their services. Working in a defined company role for a specified salary takes any guess work out of this process on the employees behalf, but once you go it alone, it can be difficult to know what you're actually worth and what you should charge for your services. And with the number of freelancers on LinkedIn growing by nearly 50% in the past five years, the salary comparison tool could become an increasingly valuable resource for the growing independent workforce.
But more than any of this, the tool once again underlines LinkedIn's commitment to advancing their data collection and accuracy, which will have major implications in their future expansion and vision. As we've noted previously, through the utilization of their expanding professional social graph, LinkedIn is in a unique position to change recruitment and HR as we know it.
For example - imagine if, one day, you could enter your details into LinkedIn - your interests, hobbies, personal traits (based on psychological tests or similar) - and the platform could utilize its vast dataset to point you towards the career that would not only be of most interest to you, but would lead you to your most fulfilling life?
It sounds a little far-fetched, but it's not - LinkedIn's already working on such tools, utilizing comparative employee data and machine learning to find better candidates for any given function. On top of this, tests have already shown that computer algorithms can actually make better hiring decisions than people. When you consider these elements, and the vast amount of insights LinkedIn can access into all aspects of people's professional development - education history, how long people stay in each position (job satisfaction), what courses they've taken to develop their careers, etc. - such a reality is not only possible, it's logical.
In future, LinkedIn may become more than just a professional social network - it could actually become the platform that all students need to refer to in order make more informed choices for their future career.
Why do I mention students in this respect? Because according to LinkedIn:
"Students are our fastest growing demographic on LinkedIn and remain a very important audience to LinkedIn."
Hook in students as a key resource early on and you can become a critical tool throughout their career development.
And consider this - via the new salary checker tool, LinkedIn will be able to show you not only what other people are getting paid, but what courses they undertook in order to boost their earnings, based on actual, real life profiles. LinkedIn will then also be able to link you to those course direct, which they can provide through LinkedIn Learning.
No other provider has the data resources to match LinkedIn on this front - as more people sign up and enter their data, more people also add to LinkedIn's understanding of such elements, further enhancing their position. And people are still signing up - LinkedIn's added 34 million new members since the start of this year alone.
When you see this on balance, it's not hard to understand why Microsoft is so keen on LinkedIn. Its potential is huge, and it remains unmatched in what it does and can do. And as LinkedIn continues to refine their data accuracy, those possibilities will only become more clear.
LinkedIn Salary is available to all users from today, but only includes data from the U.S., Canada and the U.K to start with. LinkedIn plans to expand this in 2017.