I intending to write an article on the salary/commissions system of IBM during the 20th Century. I believe it was pretty logical and the lack of visibility to the "why's and wherefores'" of the salary system eventually created a lot of hard feelings in the company. Individuals would bump their heads against the salary ceilings in their tier and not know or understand why.
Nope, the 20th Century IBM wasn't perfect but in 90% of the cases it was striving to be. Back then at least, first-line managers had a lot of power to "fix" things (if you had a great one) and I came across a lot of great ones in my career.
Pretty soon I will have my website back online and focused on writing again about IBM history. This will by my skeleton for the article.
In the '80s IBM had a three-tier system for paying individuals in the sales branch offices. I started at $12K per year in 1980 in administration. This was $2K over what the first-line manager should have paid me. ... He called Atlanta to get approval. He was a good man and back then you trusted the word of a manager ... besides eventually he became one of my closest friends among a team of close friends. (The story of the team and the manager is in my book "A View from Beneath the Dancing Elephant.")
But I digress.
These were actual salary "tiers" and they rarely overlapped. High performance in administration would "never" get you into even the bottom salary tier of an S.E. or sales rep. The only way to make significantly more money was to change jobs ... move between the tiers, not within them.
So in 1980 a starting administrative salary was 10K. Back then one of the known caveats was to discuss salaries. A few years later I felt blindsided as a young college graduate was hired as a Systems Engineer. I was on the commission desk and saw her starting salary was 22K. I lost it because I was a top performer and she was starting at twice what I was paid--not considering commissions. After I calmed down and after open dooring my first line manager (which only means I walked into his office and closed the door behind me). Here is what I came to see, observe and can support after working with the salary system as a first-line manager in Austin, Texas.
The salary system was three tier: Administrative, Systems Engineer, and Sales Representative. Administrative salaries were set on a local basis with data from the local job market. (competitive necessity since administrators rarely moved - Austin, because of UT and the State had very, very suppressed salary levels). We fought it constantly.
SE and Rep salaries were set at the national level because eventually they were possibly going to move up and around the country. This caused the first disparity in wages: local vs. nationwide salary grids. Although I did not like this as a first-line manager, I also understood its "competitive" necessity. The problem was that it wasn't made known so that people could change jobs if salary was important to them (as it became to me eventually).
After this local/nationwide fact (and performance evaluations to move within the tier level) the overall salary was based, as I see it, upon two factors: the closeness of the job description to the customer (driving revenue), and the "risk" that an individual took by putting up a portion of their salary that was dependent on making quota for the year (a commissions system). I seem to remember S.E.'s put up 10 to 20% of their salary, sales reps up to 40% of their salary.
So as far as yearly pay, Administration was the bottom tier. Systems Engineers were the mid-tier and Sales Reps were the top tier. To ask what the top two were paid would require also require adding the question "if you made quota?" To be clear, IBM back then never paid like a "Tivoli." That was not the philosophy, but it paid well, consistently, and -- until the Opel and Akers' years -- set manageable quotas.
Once I figured this out, as a first line manager, I moved first to be a Systems Engineer which eventually doubled my take home pay. I then moved to the local engineering lab as a brand manager which eventually doubled my pay with the help of some really great managers who again saw the disparity between what I had started with (Administrative salary) and could never make up with small % raises.
To them I will be forever grateful and the old IBM that back then gave first-line/second-line managers the power to "fix things."
Rather long essay, but one of these days I will write the story. Overall, I think IBM had a good system that rewarded performance within each tier, and the less-than-high salary for administrators' pay was rewarded with top-notch personal and family benefits, awards that flowed with good performance . . . and most of all with employment security (not to be confused with job security which would also start another lengthy note.) The employment security broke down after Akers and has been a problem at IBM ever since, getting worse with each decade.
Thanks for asking this question.
Now I have a basis to start the article! :)
I do miss the old "Official IBM LinkedIn Forum" these were great topics to get my facts straight with feedback from folks you knew were former IBMers.