Sampling a horizontal slice of the world for salary surveys

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PHOTO BY RUY MARTINEZ

PHOTO BY RUY MARTINEZ

WHAT’S in a name? If you ask Gary McGillicuddy, it certainly means a lot. Names represent people, their work, and their reputation. A lot of times, it also defines who they are.

He should know. McGillicuddy spent a good number of his career working for one of the world’s biggest organizations—the United Nations. His job working with people was also what inspired him to one day branch out on his own and put up a business, along with several partners. His mission was to help companies and organizations in emerging markets find the perfect compensation package for people they employ.

McGillicuddy and his partners put up the Birches Group, LLC in 2005. Birches Group is an Human Resources consulting firm conducting salary surveys in 148 developing markets, providing compensation design, organizational development, job design, and performance evaluation solutions to many organizations all over the world.

The company is based in New York, with branches in Manila, Umea (Sweden) and Riga (Latvia). In addition to its work with private sector employers, Birches Group is a leader with the international development sector, working with many international groups, governments, and non-governmental organizations.


After having worked with the UN for 25 years, McGillicuddy said putting up the Birches Group was the logical thing to do.

“I was chief of compensation for UN field compensation, and we wanted to find a way that we might be able to take a new approach to how we measure the labor market,” he said.

McGillicuddy said the UN wanted to create an offshore center in the Philippines and outsource it, to become a private company. That company he said then became the Birches Group.

He summed up the company’s chronological development: “We did a preliminary study back in 2002, opened a preliminary center in Manila in 2003 with just a staff of five people, we launched as a private company in 2005, and today, we are almost 60 people in Manila alone.”

Birches is, in many ways, a new type of company. “When one sees our business card, they see on the logo some odd locations. We have New York and Manila, but we also have Umea and Riga. It’s because we want to emphasize that we can work from anywhere.”

But he added that they would soon be adding a few more locations like London, Florida, Bangkok, and Nairobi. He cited a unique feature of their firm: “Our survey group is the only survey that takes a horizontal slice of the market, where we look at market leaders from both the private and the public sectors.”

In January 2012, the Birches Group announced its partnership with Aon Hewitt, the global resource consulting and outsourcing business of NYSE-listed Aon Corporation. The partnership means that Aon Hewitt will offer Birches Group compensation surveys to its clients in countries with emerging economies.

This means that through the Birches Group’s expertise, Aon Hewitt will enhance its survey reach in the developing world, including all of Africa, as well as the majority of markets in Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Pacific.

McGillicuddy said the work that they do now becomes more significant, especially as companies expand globally, and face unique talent management challenges. He explained beyond having accurate data on market conditions, understanding the nature of the markets is critical for employer success. Their surveys are designed specifically to capture the unique and diverse practices found in many countries with emerging economies. They are valid with smaller sample sizes and use a specialized methodology focused on market leaders across all sectors.

He attributed their company’s success in part because “we don’t try to create a bricks-mortar type of structure. We move around a lot, we use a lot of collaborative partners, and we picked Manila, which I think is the key to our success.”

Asked why the company chose to focus on developing or emerging markets, McGillicuddy explained: “Economic growth in the world today is mostly occurring in the developing world. If you look at five of the ten fastest-growing economies, they are in Africa. So companies, if they want to keep growing, they have to move into the developing world. That’s also where the big business is.”

These days, McGillicuddy’s schedule is not as busy with travels to a wide range of exotic and far-flung countries, as opposed to when he started, thanks to a very competent and rapidly growing staff.

His base is still New York, where he tries to spend as much quality time with his wife, who is a UN official and two sons in high school. “My wife and I have a lot to talk about everyday . . . we share really similar professional interests.”

In his downtime, McGillicuddy said he likes to de-stress by cooking. “You might have had a stressful day in the office, so coming home and chopping up things, organizing stuff . . . you can say I do more of the cooking at home.”

As a native of Vermont, he said he remembers his mother making ham with maple glaze every Easter, a typical New England dish. Every now and then, he also likes to whip up some of his favorite Cajun dishes.

In the end, he said, making the most out of your life is all about making the right choices, whether it is in choosing your work to be your advocacy too, or simply cooking up a great meal to go with the stories one shares with the family at the dinner table.

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