HR & Employee Management Articles

CompensationXL Review: A Flexible and Affordable Alternative to Painful Compensation Processes

by Michele Nachum
Published on 29 April 2011

Before I became a technical writer, I used to work for large PR firms with such powerhouse clients as Microsoft, Intuit, and others. Part of my role was to manage a team and recommend raises and bonuses for my colleagues. I liked the people I worked with and wanted to reward them, but I hated the whole arduous review/compensation process. So when I met up with Jamie Davis of HCR Software, I was pleased to learn that his company has developed a compensation software program called CompensationXL that helps small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) manage and streamline their compensation processes in a less complicated manner.

During my demo meeting with Davis, he told me this: "Seventy-percent of companies that have over 500 employees are still using Excel to manage their compensation processes." Now Excel is a good program but to use Excel by itself without any other software to streamline the compensation process, can be unwieldy. Davis says that some companies have saddled themselves with hundreds of different Excel spreadsheets that are often passed around the company via emails to various management personnel. Emailing large compensation spreadsheets with confidential information is never a safe bet. For example, what happens if there are two John Smiths in a company and an Excel spreadsheet containing people's salaries and other super private information goes to the wrong John Smith?


That said, there are some excellent compensation applications on the market - but they can be expensive for some SMBs and many of these solutions will raise their fees to customize the software to align with a company's current compensation practices.

That is where CompensationXL (CXL) comes in. Davis says their motto is about flexibility and affordability.

Please note, this review is based on the demo I received from Davis.


CXL is a product best used by companies with more than 200 employees.

The software will effectively automate the compensation process and help the compensation and HR team with the following:

- Ensure all compensation programs are administered in a secure online environment

- Set and enforce merit pay budgetary guidelines

- Train a company's compensation and HR team to become power users of the software so they can implement recommendations, approvals, and reporting processes

- Enable more streamlined compensation communications

- Ensure a business is compliant with various federal regulations

- Produce reports that meet a company's specifications

- Allow a business to continue working in Excel like they are used to but with additional decision support tools

- Anytime and anywhere access to CXL as long as the compensation/HR team has access to the internet, they can print total comp statements, review compensation information and run select reports.

Carolyn Donaldson, of Noven Pharmaceuticals, stated on the CXL website: "…Our (compensation) cycles are faster, more accurate, and user-friendly. Now the process offers constant visibility and required minimal training to completely transition our management team. And the cherry on top was the low cost for such a timesaving, stress alleviating solution. I never thought it was possible, but HCR (the company developing CXL) has saved us from our salary planning spreadsheet nightmare."

Importing and Configuring Data from Excel and Other Compensation Software Programs:

If a company has all of its compensation information on 300 different Excel sheets for instance, CXL will configure the headings and templates of the Excel spreadsheets into the system. This allows a business to effectively work in Excel, but with additional support tools. In addition, if a company is currently using ADP or another compensation product, CXL will import all of the compensation information into CXL. That way, there is no starting from scratch.

Managing Hierarchy:

CXL enables a company to create rules and permissions so that confidential information is accessible only to the appropriate personnel. This prevents the "wrong John Smith" from accidently taking a gander at his boss's bonus and raise.

How does that work? CXL supports a matrix reporting relationship. This allows, for example, the head of sales to review all of her sales team's compensation reports and recommendations - but no one else's. However, a member of her sales team may also work with the engineering team. In that case, rules can be set up to allow the engineering lead to have access to that sales team member's compensation recommendations as well.

In addition, the compensation team may dictate that certain managers may only can view their team's compensation reports, but that members of the upper management team, like the CFO , can have access to everyone's reports.

Review Cycles:

CXL will simplify the compensation process so that processes that once took months to compete can be done in a week or two. That said, if a company needs several review cycles in order to manage the compensation cycles, CXL will support that.


CXL allows a company to customize its own compensation reports - so an SMB does not have to only use the report templates that the software dictates, but has the option to design reports that best fits their company's needs.

Is it for you?

For HR and compensation teams of companies with 200 or more employees, CXL offers a lot of perks. The one I found most appealing was the personal service that comes with the software solution. For example, Davis says that when a company signs on, an HRC/CXL team member is assigned to them and will handle all of their needs. A company does not have to deal with multiple people - as might be the case with bigger compensation solution providers.

In addition, I was impressed with the fact that CXL will comport to the processes of the company rather than the other way around. Davis and his team ensure that a business is working with a familiar interface that aligns with their compensation process.


Apps mentioned in this article