Pay transparency is a hot topic for employers navigating how best to meet growing demands to close gender and race-related pay gaps, as well as satisfy loyal employees. It can be a difficult needle to thread. How much pay transparency is too much? Should an organization adopt a pay transparency standard?

A new study by compensation software provider Beqom reveals employee perceptions about pay equality have eroded further in 2020-21 as many businesses adapted to the pandemic with work-from-home strategies, reduced work hours, and even temporary furloughs. In its survey just one year earlier, Beqom reported one-third of employees believed their companies had a pay gap, a view that negatively impacts employee retention.

During the latest economic downturn, many pay equity programs had to be put on hold as companies faced growing financial constraints.

Businesses that embrace pay transparency benefit in a variety of ways, not the least of which is by establishing a higher level of trust with employers and co-workers. Trust promotes respect and improves employee retention and loyalty. Top performers know their accomplishments are being recognized.

Pay transparency also helps employers make meaningful progress toward achieving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) goals. And when employers are more open about pay ranges for roles and job levels within their companies, employees can shift their focus to career growth and how to support organizational success.

Arguments against pay transparency include concerns that employees may have resentments if co-workers make more than they do or that failings in the company’s compensation, hiring and development systems may be exposed. Furthermore, pay communications can make employees vulnerable to being hired away. As a result, many organizations have rules against discussing pay. It is the author’s experience, however, that even with company restrictions, many employees continue to discuss pay among themselves.

Pay Transparency in Focus

When your company decides to proceed with a pay transparency program, organizations have three key decisions to make. The first decision is Why or determining the results to be achieved when communicating compensation. The second decision is What information will be communicated. Finally, the organization must determine the How, which focuses on the ways that pay information will be disseminated to employees.

Why options that define goals of your transparency program range from describing compensation strategy to linking company purpose with employee purpose. Other goals include improving understanding of compensation programs, increasing compensation ROI, enhancing employee engagement, and reducing turnover.

Initially, establish only one or two why goals to make your transparency approach straightforward. Be sure to put specific measures in place to determine if goals are met.

Next, determine What will be communicated, which depends on the degree of pay transparency planned. Some organizations only communicate the salary range and position in range for specific roles. Others seeking complete pay transparency reveal all salaries for every employee in the organization.

Additional choices include pay opportunity relative to market, sources of competitiveness information, how pay is determined, your overall compensation budget, specific groups’ pay relative to company average pay, and employee pay communication restrictions.

Finally, the How depends on the way the organization typically communicates. Options include one-on-one meetings, group presentations, manager training to enhance ability to explain programs, leadership videos, intranet, email, employee handbooks, and the annual total rewards report.

Summary

Although there can be challenges to successfully implementing pay transparency programs, the dangers of standing pat are even greater. Organizations need to have their compensation programs in order and pay transparency is a growing priority. In fact, the Beqom survey finds 51% of employees would consider switching companies with more pay transparency than their current employer.

Contact Us

If you found value in this article, please share it with anyone you think may also find it of interest. For help or information on this topic, you can email me nlappley@lappley.com or call (847) 921-2812.

Compensation Alert periodically features guest articles from thought leaders in their fields. National speaker and trainer Jeff Kortes, founder of Human Asset Management LLC., shares his views on pay raises and promotions to reduce turnover. Jeff helps organizations recruit, engage, develop, and retain talent.

As an employee retention speaker and trainer, I see a lot. I also see a lot that simply amazes me. One of the things I just saw was an article in the Wall Street Journal that stated that 39% of employers hand out promotions with no pay increase. My question is: Why don’t you just slap the employee in the face and tell them to look for a new job?

In the opinion of this employee retention trainer, it is a huge insult. You want to give the person more responsibility, probably more work and not pay them anything more? Organizations that do this are just begging to have the person quit and go somewhere where they are rewarded for what they do.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

You often hear people say it’s not about the money. I do not buy that; not totally. Few employees are independently wealthy and work just for the fun of it. People work to pay the mortgage, make the car payment, send the kids to college, and have a decent life. So, to an extent, it IS about the money. People are told to work hard and get rewarded. Then, when they clearly work hard, are doing something right, and get promoted and DON’T get rewarded for it, the perception of most people is, “That’s not fair.”

Most people expect to be treated fairly. In a fair system, the top performers get paid more!

The most important thing to this employee retention author is that not giving a raise sends the message you do not think enough of the person to pay them what they are worth. This is about respect (or lack of it). That is how most people would view it. They would feel disrespected. When people feel disrespected they get angry. That anger is one of the things that drives a person to action. The action taken may be to go home (or maybe even fire up their computer during lunch to look on Indeed for a new job).

Even in this economy, you might as well count that employee as a turnover statistic. The best people are always in high demand.

MY TAKEAWAY

Rarely does this employee retention speaker advocate throwing money at an employee retention issue. However, in this case, to quote a local Milwaukee attorney, “It IS about the money!” Money is a factor in employee retention and when an organization does promote someone, a pay raise is warranted. Organizations that do not do this risk losing some of their best people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Kortes is a recognized speaker and trainer who helps organizations recruit, engage, develop, and retain talent. Founder of Human Asset Management LLC, he has more than 25 years of experience in human resources working with companies including ConAgra Foods, SPX, Midas International and American Crystal Sugar. He is a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA) and the author of several books including: Give Your Employees C.R.A.P., 7 Other Secrets to Employee Retention, and HR Horror Stories…True Tales from the Trenches. For more information visit http://www.jeffkortes.com

ABOUT LAPPLEY & ASSOCIATES

Lappley & Associates is a management consulting firm that specializes in the development and implementation of compensation programs for clients. We primarily consult with manufacturing, service, utilities, and not-for-profit organizations for medium and small-sized businesses.

CONTACT US

If you would like to discuss this or other compensation related topics, contact Neil Lappley at (847) 921-2812 or nlappley@lappley.com.


What factors will your organization look at when determining 2021 salary budget increases and compensation plans? No doubt pay data will be part of your decision tree. But the volatile economy makes salary predictions challenging. To prove that point, forecasts from compensation surveys provided earlier in 2020 have shifted in recent months. That is why we advise companies to consider many more factors – both internal and external – when making their compensation plans.

We provided a roadmap outlining key actions to take in our September Compensation Alert. Since then and resulting from an extended pandemic, flexibility above all other factors has become priority one for employees, many of whom are working remotely and juggling care for children and parents. Health and financial wellness programs, telemedicine, education incentives and more personalized perks, such as a company library or Lifestyle Spending Account, are also growing in popularity.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

So, where do we go from here?

Creativity and purpose will be essential elements to compensation planning in 2021. In addition to studying salary and compensation trends, benchmarking competitors’ total rewards strategies will be perhaps more important.

Here is our take on recent survey data and how employers can navigate the future to overcome financial pressures and motivate a world-class workforce for shared success:

Companies Reducing 2021 Salary Increase Budgets

According to the North American Compensation Planning Pulse Survey of 705 U.S. employers completed the week of September 21 by Willis Towers Watson, 35% have reduced their projected 2021 salary increase budgets from earlier estimates; 50% kept them intact. All non-executive employee groups are projected to receive salary increases averaging 2.6%, with executives getting slightly smaller increases averaging 2.5%. Willis Towers Watson’s prior survey conducted from May to July had salary increases of 2.8%. And while 84% of employers will deliver pay increases, almost one in six employees will not receive any.

A second study fielded Oct. 4-31, the WorldatWork 2020-21 Salary Update Survey, reveals almost 40% of 694 respondents either have made or are considering making changes to their 2021 salary increase budgets. The survey showed a projected average salary increase for all employee groups of 2.8%, down slightly from June’s forecast of 2.9%.

According to their press release, WorldatWork reports the projected 2021 salary increase budgets showed a slight 0.1 percentage-point drop since June, from 2.9% to 2.8%. Contributing to those declines was an increase in the number of organizations reporting zero or no salary budget increase.

Finally, Korn Ferry now reports about a third of companies are planning 2021 salary budget increases to 50% or fewer of their general employee population, three times the number of organizations reporting this finding last year. The projected increase in North America is expected to be 0.3% percentage points lower than 2020 or about 2.7% in 2021. Korn Ferry used survey data from its annual and periodic pulse surveys to provide these updated insights.

Our analysis: Organizations will plan salary increases that align with business conditions. Industries that are hurting will provide zero salary increases or allocate these selectively. Others doing well will be more generous. But all companies should set money aside to recognize top performers, those in critical roles, and high potential employees. After all, these employees are your most valuable assets and are most vulnerable to being lured away.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Non-Salary Rewards

Though many employees may not be receiving raises, they are increasingly being rewarded in other ways. For instance, WorldatWork reports significant increases in wellness and other employer-sponsored programs designed to promote a positive culture, recruit and develop talent, and retain valued workers. These perks range from telemedicine and counseling programs to tuition discounts, paying off college debt and caregiver leave.

Annual Incentive Programs

Many companies have adopted new business models based on how markets and their supply chain have been altered. Often, product mix, margins, investments, and growth expectations have changed. This requires them to change key performance measures used to determine incentive-based pay.

Setting 2021 performance targets, thresholds and performance ranges will not be easy. There will be questions about setting targets that may be lower than actual performance. Instead of setting specific targets, it may be appropriate for companies to use relative targets based on competitor or industry norms. Uncertainty may also lead to flatter payout curves. Or companies may bet on a rapid recovery and adopt steeper, more aggressive payout rules.

Summary

With more uncertainty ahead, now is the time to consider changes to your compensation strategies. We continue to believe that executives will not follow national market trends, but instead focus on doing what is economically feasible for future growth and sustainability based on local and regional developments. They will decide on what they want to invest in people rather than blindly following the market.

Contact Us

If you would like to discuss 2021 salary increases or other compensation-related topics, please contact Neil Lappley at (847) 921-2812 or nlappley@lappley.com. A discussion carries no charges and perhaps after you get to know me and my capabilities, when an assignment arises you will call me.

What will your HR and compensation priorities be in 2021? Chances are they will look a lot different from where you started in 2020. CEOs have had to make tough choices to survive a recession not of their making. Change has been the norm.

Although flexibility and resilience will still be required heading into next year, CEOs and HR leaders surveyed about the critical issues they face are struggling with how to optimize talent and skills to deliver on their business strategies.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

In its annual CEO benchmarking report, The Predictive Index surveyed 160 CEOs about their top talent concerns. They wanted to find out: How is your organization’s health? How is senior management holding up? Is the team prepared for the work ahead? What kind of guidance are they looking for?

Surveying more than 800 HR leaders, the Gartner 2021 HR Priorities study sought to identify their key priorities to achieve business goals – namely, growth and cost optimization – in a sea of constant change. While the pandemic disrupted traditional ways of working, it also uncovered widespread skills gaps in the talent areas needed most today.

Here are each survey’s findings and their implications for the world of work in 2021:

THE PREDICTIVE INDEX 2021 CEO BENCHMARKING REPORT

  1. Many executives are leading all-new teams, as 69% of companies restructured during the pandemic. It is not surprising then that finding ways for employees to work well together is a priority. Also, new teams mean new people problems to solve. Sixty-six percent of CEOs say productivity is a major concern; this worry is an increase from 36% in 2019.
  2. Remote work is here to stay as 97% of CEOs will allow some degree of remote work going forward. Still, CEOs cite a large challenge in getting remote teams to work well together. This leads to conflict and leaders spending time mediating people issues. More important, CEOs whose operations are mostly remote believe their teams struggle to deliver on short-term and long-term strategic goals.
  3. CEOs have had to navigate entirely new business circumstances due to the pandemic. As a result, 96% overhauled their business strategy in 2020. Currently 53% of CEOS say strategy development continues as their number one priority. Moreover, 80% believe a lack of strategic clarity runs deep within their organizations. Making sure that employees understand the mission and strategy is essential to ensure teams are equipped for the work ahead.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Management of remote teams requires a people-first approach and great amounts of time coordinating and communicating to maintain company culture and to ensure teams are engaged and motivated to meet their goals. Communicate new strategic direction throughout the organization, making sure that each level thoroughly understands and can communicate the strategy to the next level.
  • Do not neglect talent strategy. This means taking inventory of current skills, minimizing those that are becoming less important, and focusing on new competencies required. Help employees learn those new skills and rework the performance management system to reflect those changes.
  • Ensure that each employee function in the organization is directly tied to company function which will anchor employees to the company’s strategic direction. Make sure incentive plan participants understand how program measures support company strategies.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

GARTNER 2021 HR PRIORITIES STUDY

  1. Building critical skills and competencies is the number one HR leader priority, cited by 68% of respondents. Gartner reports that the number of skills per job increases 10% each year and that fully a third of skills present in 2017 will not be needed in 2021. This rapid skills obsolescence cycle makes integrating effective learning into workflows challenging, especially when it may be difficult to determine future skill requirements.
  2. The second highest priority is organizational design and change management, a priority of 46% of HR leaders. Leaders report managers are not equipped to lead change, and employees are fatigued from all the change. A past focus on improving workplace efficiency has left many organizations with rigid structures and current roles that lack flexibility to meet evolving needs.
  3. A priority of 44% of HR leaders is developing current and future leadership bench strength. They comment that current leadership is not diverse, succession processes do not yield the right leaders at the right time, and leaders struggle to effectively develop midlevel leaders. Bottom line: the leadership management pipeline today is not working.
  4. Planning for the future of work is seen as a priority by 32% of HR leaders. Many say their organizations do not have a future of work strategy. They are struggling to adapt to changes in the market, such as how AI and automation will displace workers. The question that HR leaders face most often is where to start.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

Update performance management programs to emphasize responsiveness to customer needs and build organization resilience. Make sure employees are learning the right skills. This may require more frequent and tailored revisions to learning programs throughout the organization.

  • Invest in technology and AI to improve corporate decision making and efficiencies.
  • Ensure that the diversity, equality and inclusion journey is manifested in the organization’s hiring, development, promotion and compensation programs through inclusive hiring, promotion, and compensation processes.

SUMMARY

We recognize that CEO and HR priorities cited do not apply to all organizations. Rather, you should consider your own priorities, using CEO and HR comments as a starting point, and develop solutions to address your priorities.

ABOUT LAPPLEY & ASSOCIATES

Lappley & Associates is a management consulting firm that specializes in the development and implementation of compensation programs for clients. We primarily consult with manufacturing, service, utilities, and not-for-profit organizations for medium and small-sized businesses.

CONTACT US

If you would like to discuss how these 2021 predictions may impact your compensation strategies, contact Neil Lappley at (847) 921-2812 or nlappley@lappley.com.

The year 2020 has brought many changes to the workplace, not the least of which is a rise in remote work arrangements. According to a survey conducted in October by WorldatWork and Salary.com, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic just 13% of employees worked remotely. By April, as lockdowns became the norm, 67% of employees were working remotely. Even now, with more businesses open than not, 62% continue to work from home. About 9 out of 10 of these are working remotely full time.

As employees and companies adapted to remote working, both began to see the considerable benefits. And today’s technology advances made the adjustment easier. Organizations reconfigured company computer access for off-site staff. Zoom became the most popular platform for team meetings, cross-functional collaboration, and webinars.

The remote work relationship proved to be a win-win for employers and employees alike. Workers recaptured commuting time and costs, enjoyed more flexibility to attend to childcare and other family needs, and this translated into increased productivity. Employers maintained business operations while accommodating remote work.

Once the business disruptions from the pandemic fade, many are predicting remote work will be here to stay.

In fact, a new survey from U.S.-based Enterprise Technology Research (ETR) finds the number of employees permanently working remotely is set to double in 2021 to nearly 35%.

Businesses have many good reasons to support the remote working trend including:

  • Lower costs for commercial office space, utilities, and ancillary expenses
  • Increased diversity in hiring
  • Better employee retention
  • A reduced carbon footprint with fewer people commuting
  • Expansion of the available talent pool

On this last point, remote work allows companies to recruit from a much larger pool of candidates than they currently do, as most medium and small-sized organizations recruit talent locally. Now organizations can expand their recruiting base to the entire U.S.

One impact of the pandemic has been a reported flight from big cities as professionals seek less crowded urban environments and a significantly lower cost of living (COL). According to a new study by freelancing platform Upwork, 14 million to 23 million Americans intend to relocate to a different city or region because of telework.

If these trends do indeed become reality, employers have a strategic opportunity to reframe their basis for compensation decisions.

Even so, the current question that many employers are asking is this: Should I pay someone who is working remotely in a lower COL city the same as an employee working at our more expensive central business location? The traditional thinking goes like this: built into the corporate salary structure is recognition that larger population areas generally pay more. So, will I be overpaying if I do not reduce remote salaries to reflect these COL differences?

We believe that reducing salary simply based on COL is wrong for several reasons. First, employees will not like having their salaries reduced. How they spend their money is their own business. After all, employers do not care if an employee drives a 10-year-old Chevy or a Mercedes. So, why should they care what street the employee lives on? Second, paying less than the broader market rate increases the risk employees will be recruited away. Finally, administering and communicating separate pay programs for remote employees with multiple pay arrangements can be an organizational burden.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

A better approach is to define a larger geographic area and set compensation competitiveness targets for that area, then administer pay to one set of parameters. So, instead of using competitiveness survey information for the company’s immediate surrounding geography, expand the territory that is used to determine competitiveness.

For example, if you are recruiting from a Midwest talent pool, you may want to examine salary data for Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana. Both state-level data and regional data can be used to determine pay ranges for each position or job level. If you are recruiting from coast-to-coast, you can use a national median. This can offer a great advantage to organizations with a highly distributed workforce.

In any case, it is important to weigh the benefits and risks for your remote workforce and to consider how pay may vary depending on the industry, occupation and skillset required. Using a broad geographic approach for your competitive salary information is easy to administer and avoids confronting employees with a pay reduction.

About Lappley & Associates

Lappley & Associates is a management consulting firm that specializes in the development and implementation of compensation programs for clients. We primarily consult with manufacturing, service, utilities, and not-for-profit organizations for medium and small-sized businesses.

Contact Us

If you would like to discuss pay of remote employees, contact Neil Lappley at (847) 921-2812 or nlappley@lappley.com.

Changes to executive pay packages during the COVID-19 pandemic have been swift, revealing stark differences in how boards approach compensation for public and privately held companies. Many executives at public companies reliant on annual and long-term incentives (LTIs) are facing significant pay cuts in the wake of dwindling profits with more economic uncertainty ahead. For stable or growing privately held companies, this presents a buying opportunity to attract and capitalize on executive talent with the right compensation strategy.

Executive Pay Practices

Media coverage based on filings and disclosures required for public companies along with say on pay votes ensures most people are familiar with executive pay practices at public companies. This publicity and the large role played by proxy advisors has resulted in a standardization of executive compensation in public companies as no one seems to want to stand out. To play it safe, public companies typically target the market median with stock performance the largest component of pay results.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Private companies, on the other hand, without the limitations of public exposure can implement more creative pay programs that are crafted to each organization’s unique circumstances. With stock performance a non-factor, other innovative measures including non-financial metrics can play a more meaningful role.

Although pay practices for both public and private companies vary significantly depending upon the industry and type of ownership, all are designed to attract and retain top-notch talent. For private companies, this means making pay sufficient for the quality of executive they are seeking and aligned with the values and goals the organization has established.

However, in our current, challenging business climate, private companies have the distinct advantage of being more flexible, agile, and inclusive than their publicly traded counterparts. In that sense, it may be a golden opportunity to seek where the grass may be greener to upgrade or expand executive ranks.

The Elements of Executive Pay

Public company executive compensation is comprised of three components: base salary, annual or short-term incentives (STIs) and long-term incentives (LTIs). In public companies, incentives dominate executive pay, including annual incentives and long-term, equity-based incentives. Further, in public companies LTIs are the largest component of compensation.

In contrast, private company pay centers on cash compensation, emphasizing base salary and annual incentives. Cash pay is often positioned above the market median, with low or no LTI opportunity. However, this trend is changing as more private companies offer more incentive-based compensation as reported in the Compensation Advisory Board (CAP) and WorldatWork 2019 survey of Incentive Pay Practices.

Executive Pay Components

  Base Salary Annual or Short-Term Incentives Long-Term Incentives
Public Companies 1) 20% of compensation package
2) Some are temporarily reducing base salaries
1) Financial incentives tied to key performance metrics
2) Sustainable Impact measures: Environmental, social and governance
3) Seeing reductions of 25% to 50% of the current plan target opportunity
1) Some adjusting targets on a year-by-year approach
2) Others extending the performance period
Private Companies 1) Stressed
2) One-third to half of compensation
1) Financial measures: profitability and revenue
2) Individual performance common
3) Threshold payment about 50%; maximum payout is 150% to 200% of target opportunity
1) 60% offer LTIs
2) Cash-based plans most common
3) Phantom stock, or real stock vehicles added by minority of companies

Add LTIs to the Pay Mix

Long-term incentives are fast becoming a growing element of executive compensation for private companies. They are essential to attract talent in competition with public companies where LTIs are common. In addition, LTIs play a major role in company retention strategies and to motivate executives to achieve long-term objectives.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

For owners at private companies, they must thoughtfully consider if and how they are willing to share ownership in the enterprise with other executives. In addition, they should consider succession plans and future liquidation or merger opportunities depending on their long-term plans for the business.

A typical sharing percentage range is between 5% -10%. Phantom stock is another vehicle often used, although these programs require sophisticated valuing studies and strong communications support. A final option is a long-term cash plan. This requires solid financial planning and transparency of key financials.

Benchmark for Success

Executive pay has come under increased scrutiny in the current business climate. New attitudes about work and pay practices are being shaped by the pandemic, as well as social and cultural trends in an election year like no other. Executives seeking to make meaningful contributions may find even greater opportunity at private companies embracing innovative strategies and pay practices. Private companies recruiting new talent can cast a wider net and utilize benchmarks for non-traditional sources and their market competitors.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Still, benchmarking in a rapidly changing business environment can be challenging, making salary projections more obscure. Regardless, the quality of survey data obtained for an executive search must meet high standards. Survey sources should be carefully examined to ensure data cuts are available based on industry and size, which are closely related to the level of executive compensation.

Summary

With less public scrutiny and fewer regulatory hurdles, private companies have more freedom to make proposed changes in creative ways that balance stakeholder interests, improve employee morale and boost the bottom line. Executives at public companies may be ready for a change if an opportunity promises a promotion or broader role or one with more autonomy and more responsibility.

Yes, pay will certainly be an important piece of the equation. However, at a time when job losses in the top ranks may be considerable, enterprising private companies should view this as a recruiting opportunity to build on for the future.

Contact Us

For help or information on this topic, you can email me at nlappley@lappley.com or call (847) 921-2812.

When we look back, 2020 will long be remembered as a year of massive change for business and industry on a scale not seen before.

The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged our economy into a global recession and put health and wellness at the center of workplace conversations. Worldwide protests supporting the #BlackLivesMatter movement have joined #MeToo voices urging meaningful community action on discrimination, pay equity, and inclusion.

In response, organizations are making significant changes to their business models and accelerating the adoption of Environmental, Social and Governess (ESG) criteria to guide business investment and decision-making. They recognize that their organizations’ stakeholders are motivated by more than a goal for increased revenues and profits; other success metrics include environmental, social responsibility, gender, and racial diversity measures to track progress on social and economic purpose. Some are calling this new integrated approach to corporate governance stakeholder capitalism.

In tandem with these changes, proactive CEOs and HR professionals are taking a step back to reassess their compensation programs, so they align with a more purpose-driven business model. This is an opportunity to transform massive challenges into meaningful change, but it will require a thoughtful and strategic compensation approach that looks at the following:

1) Assess critical job skills. Quite likely, as the result of an updated business model, critical skill jobs have changed. They should be identified and monitored for pay competitiveness. These employees are most susceptible to being recruited away.

For instance, purchasing professionals are dealing with disruptions in their supply chains, especially in manufacturing. Sourcing from India and China has become problematic during the pandemic. Employees that can fill supply chain gaps are highly valued and in great demand. Employers may need to prioritize their investments in these job skills even when resources are scarce.

2) Revisit your compensation strategy. This flows from the company’s purpose and business strategy and is part of the organization’s overall HR strategy. To the extent that your business model has changed, compensation strategy must also follow the organization’s purpose or why it exists. A recent Compensation Alert here takes you through the elements of establishing your strategy. A critical part of your updated strategy will be to reestablish your benchmark of competitive and comparable organizations, update your current competitiveness levels and determine your targeted level of competitiveness.

3) Take a fresh look at pay equity. Many employers have implemented pay equity analyses to identify whether they have gender or race-based compensation gaps. They have done this to promote fairness, retain talent, and mitigate risk. If you have not done a pay equity analysis already, you should begin the effort soon. If you have, dig deep into the data to determine what is driving pay disparity: the actions of certain managers or decision-makers; out-of-date policies or business practices; or unconscious biases within a division or department. You can learn more about Pay Equity and The Rules of Engagement here.

4) Review base salary and incentive plans. Many companies have taken salary actions in the wake of the COVID-19 health crisis. These include pay cuts, cancelled salary increases or freezes, delayed or deferred annual salary increases, and adjusted planned average salary increases. In addition, organizations have suspended promotional increases or added additional pay for essential work (often called hazard or hero pay), while others have reduced or suspended benefit programs. As the economy improves, business leaders must determine when and under what conditions salary actions taken during the health crisis will be lifted or withdrawn.

It is too early to forecast levels of average merit increases for 2021. It is more likely, however, that more companies will not be giving salary increases next year. Even more, this will vary by industry and region, so it is prudent to develop a good idea of what your competitors will be targeting.

Incentive plans have also taken a hit from the pandemic, as organizations have modified their short-term and annual incentive programs by reducing opportunity, deferring or delaying payments, and adjusting performance targets. Changes to long-term plans have been less prevalent. Consider the following actions:

  • Short-term plans: As you plan for the second half of the year and revenue and profit expectations crystalize, consider: increasing the use of management discretion in determining 2020 incentive/bonuses; changing performance measures consistent with repurposing of the company; and lowering performance targets, maximums and thresholds. Additionally, revisit base payouts on second half performance against second half goals.
  • Long-term plans: Take no actions for the next several months. Consider adjusting performance targets if goals become unattainable.

5) Do not overlook your sales force. The COVID-19 pandemic had a great effect on sales organizations. Orders for commercial and industrial goods were curtailed. Falling orders meant less revenue for sellers for sales compensation credit. Our work with clients indicates that most companies have implemented pay protection methods to replace some or all lost sales incentives for sellers. The most popular methods include pay guarantees, quota reductions and formula changes.

It is time to reset for the balance of the year. Sellers need to be reengaged to reactivate suspended opportunities and find new revenue. A good time to start fresh is July 1st, the start of the last half of the fiscal year for many organizations. But at the same time, discontinue pay protection programs. The sooner you are beyond pay protection programs the better. Consider the following actions to fast-track sales revenue:

  1. Redo quotas: Continued uncertainty will make it difficult to project expected revenue for the second half of the year. However, take into account new avenues for revenue based on your adapted business model as well as revenue purchasing customer patterns. Develop stretch goals.
  2. Review payout formulas: Thresholds, incentive rates, accelerators and caps should be reviewed.
  3. Jump start incentives: As an add on, use a combination of contests and spiffs to add excitement, and motivation. Provide both cash and non-cash awards. Keep the jump start short – a maximum of three months.

In Conclusion

Uncertainty and change will be the hallmarks for organizations during the remainder of 2020 and into 2021. Short of a crystal ball, prudent planning to address the workplace issues of our time is your best bet to make your culture stronger and better equipped for future growth.

Despite current economic hardships, visionary business leaders who understand where and how to prioritize investments in talent will seize the opportunity to recruit the best and the brightest for the road ahead.

Contact Us

To discuss how to adjust your organization’s compensation strategy and develop more meaningful benchmarks and metrics to make your workplace stronger, please contact Neil Lappley at (847) 921-2812 or nlappley@lappleiy.com.

In today’s whiplash economic climate, short- and long-term strategic plans for many businesses have been disrupted as executives shift priorities. No doubt, the inconstancy we are seeing in market dynamics will challenge executive decision-making in the months ahead. Despite these risks — or perhaps because of them — now is the time to reassess your organization’s future HR investment optimization approach.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

To address important health and financial interests, organizations have rightly taken short-term steps to ensure their employees’ well-being, adjust spending to keep the business intact, respond to community concerns, and take care of their customers. These approaches should have a positive short-term impact as businesses seek to find the right balance in the current health crisis.

Over the long-term, forward-thinking organizations will focus on more than just getting back to business. They must also adapt to changing customer needs and consumer behaviors that will remain even after a recovery is well underway. And so, in manufacturing, for example, we may see an acceleration to AI and robotics for safety and economic reasons.

Under these circumstances, it may be tempting for CHROs to use traditional justifications for their HR investments: improving program costs, productivity gains and revenue increases. But such an approach is short-sighted. There is another way.

Systematic HR Investment Optimization

Gartner, Inc. has developed a Systematic Decision Framework designed to evaluate a full range of criteria to influence HR investment optimization strategies. For each option considered, Gartner uses eight criteria so that managers can weigh potential outcomes and prioritize each one. This tool provides a richer approach to decision-making.

In the example following we look at how the framework can be applied to a family owned consumer goods company based in the Midwest.

Background: As part of the company’s four-year strategic plan, the management team intends to launch several new products and shift its focus from restaurant services to the ecommerce consumer marketplace. This shift is based on a market research study finding that 70% of consumers in their product category prefer shopping online, while demand for their restaurant services is falling off. The company’s goal is to increase revenues 60% and EBITA 80% in the four-year span.

In addition, to jump-start its new business plan, the company will acquire a battery manufacturer and invest significantly in product engineering, new manufacturing capabilities and equipment, and a new consumer-oriented salesforce. Investments will also be made in new warehouse and shipping space. Manufacturing will also build on its prior robotics experience, a three-year investment.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

This will be a major transformation requiring strong leadership and new hires in product development, manufacturing, marketing, and sales. HR will be the pivot point for maintaining harmonious relations with labor, salaried and hourly employees.

An advisory board has approved the four-year strategic plan including business targets and financial requirements. Management now wants to gain board approval for implementing the executive long-term incentive plan.

Key Activities: The company has identified three objectives for its long-term incentive program:

  • Align long-term incentives with long-term company objectives.
  • Share financial success of the company with key employees.
  • Reward employees for their contributions to achieving the company’s strategic goals.

Analysis: To align with its new direction, we are using the Gartner Systematic Decision Framework to arrive at a sound strategy. The strategic analysis looks not only at cost savings and productivity gains, but also at the required investment, implementation time, associated risks, and the impact your choices may have on employee experience.

For our case study, an evaluation of one alternative HR investing optimization approach might look like this:

Benefit & Impact
Strategic RelevanceHigh. Initiative is critical for achieving strategic organizational objectives.
Cost Savings & Productivity GainsMedium. Strategic goals can be achieved without the long-term plan. However, incentives and communicating measures reinforce goal achievement.
Business ImpactPositive: Supports achieving long-term strategic initiatives.
Impact on Employee ExperiencePositive. For executives; likely none for other employees.
Investment, Time, & Risk
Investment RequirementLow/None. The program pays for itself when strategic goals are reached.
Time RequirementLong-term. Objectives will be realized upon full implementation.
HR Service Delivery RiskModerate. HR will be expected to communicate the plan and provide periodic updates. HR will be instrumental in supporting four-year plan achievement.
Stakeholder Buy-InLow/None. The initiative is initiated by HR with strong senior management buy-in. Board approval is encouraged and expected.

Takeaways: Much like a classic risk analysis, managers using this systematic approach for each alternative considered can carefully evaluate and prioritize each investment opportunity. This applies big-picture, three-dimensional thinking to a traditional analysis and sets the stage for a sustainable optimization roadmap that delivers on expectations. In fact, this approach is applicable to any HR initiative and a useful tool throughout.

Summary

During times of economic uncertainty, a top priority is to get your financial house in order. Still, it is important to assess cost optimization initiatives and their long-term ramifications in a smart, strategic way. Different cost measures carry different risks.

Taking a systematic approach that factors in both the positive and negative consequences of potential initiatives will help CHROs develop HR programs that maximize business outcomes while minimizing risks.

Gartner

To help business leaders and managers with advice, insights and tools, Gartner developed the Systematic Decision Framework to balance value creation with cost-cutting measures. You can learn more about the topic here.

Let’s Connect

If you have questions about this or another HR compensation topic, please contact Neil Lappley at (847) 921-2812 or nlappley@lappley.com. In addition, please share or pass this article along to anyone you think may find it of interest.

Sometimes great advice comes from our peers and respected colleagues. This is why networking, panel discussions and webinars are such powerful business education tools.

With that in mind, this issue of Compensation Alert shares expert insights from a diverse group of human resource (HR), management consulting, compensation and employee retention leaders. We asked them for feedback on three key questions impacting hiring and compensation management decisions in 2020. Our experts include:

  • David Gilmartin, managing director at Patina Solutions, a management consulting firm that partners with organizations to fill a key expertise or resource gap.
  • Jeff Kortes, an employee retention consultant, author and speaker. Jeff is founder of Human Asset Management.
  • Aaron Schneider, managing director of the Petenwell Group, an executive search and employee retention firm.
  • Rena Somersan, president of the Milwaukee Area Compensation Association (MACA). Rena also is the Newport Group’s managing principal, compensation consulting services.

Of course, HR compensation consultant Neil Lappley, founder of Lappley & Associates and publisher of this newsletter, also weighs in.

Here are Your Three Questions and Answers From our Top Experts:

1) What do you think will happen with wages, salaries and benefits this year?

Salaries will continue to increase; part of that is driven by what everyone is calling the “labor shortage.” Benefits will remain the same. Aaron Schneider

Wages and benefits will (increase) at a higher rate; lowest-worker wages will finally start to push the next tier of worker wages up. Middle-level managers will see wages go up at a rate lower than the lowest tier because (they) tend not to leave and (so) are subject to the “salary pool budget.” Jeff Kortes

Photo courtesy Pixabay

Wages will remain flat this year. With the state (of Wisconsin) not making changes to minimum wage, that alleviates the short-term risk.

Still, (there is) concern changes (will be) made for 2021 and beyond or at the federal level. David Gilmartin

Our market intelligence suggests that 2020 wage growth for production, professional (non-management), management, and executive job classifications will remain largely unchanged from the prior year, hovering between 2.8% and 2.9%. While we do not anticipate sweeping changes in benefit plan offerings for 2020, employers are modifying their benefit plans to entice younger workers. (Offerings include) tuition forgiveness, flexible schedules, and richer parental leaves of absence. Rena Somersan

Median salary increases will be flat at median 3.0% and average at 3.2%. Assuming the Consumer Price Index increases by 2.3% as projected by the International Monetary Fund, real salary increases will be .7%, the lowest level in 40 years. Neil Lappley

2) What are the biggest HR challenges facing your clients? What have you been hearing from them?

Recruiting and retention (are) the biggest challenge(s) and will be for the next decade at least. My manufacturing clients are still afraid to raise prices, but when they have gotten past that they have been making (prices) stick by telling clients they (can’t) keep talent if they are not competitive with compensation. When the argument is presented in this way, customers accept the increases. Jeff Kortes

No question the two biggest challenges facing management are retention and recruiting. Companies are expanding their sources for new workers and are paying more attention to taking care of current employees. For HR and compensation professionals, emphasis is being placed on pay equity and pay transparency. Neil Lappley

Photo courtesy Pixabay

Employee retention and hiring are my clients’ biggest challenges. The availability of skilled laborers is a significant risk in Wisconsin and beyond, especially with our strong manufacturing base. There is also concern for finding leadership and technology skilled resources. One example: Milwaukee Tool needs to find almost 800 (new) employees as they continue to expand in SE Wisconsin. David Gilmartin

Our clients and members of MACA are concerned about executive talent flight. The job market is hot for skilled executives who possess the managerial fortitude to lead organizations through major transformations in today’s increasingly competitive global economy. Rena Somersan

The pressure is on to review systems and processes. Many HR managers are under increased pressure to increase benefits, find candidates for job openings, and (improve) employee engagement. These managers are noticing that some of the same systems that worked for the last several years are changing. Aaron Schneider

3) What would you advise your clients – especially small and mid-sized businesses – who are having trouble hiring and retaining top talent in the current business climate?

As companies struggle to differentiate rewards and recognize excellent employee performance, they are increasingly turning to incentive compensation, both in number of programs and numbers of eligible participants. At the same time, employers are relying on gig workers to fill employment gaps in the tight labor market.

In addition, to capture and retain talent, employers are personalizing employee benefits – not necessarily high-cost perks – that align with their culture, offer greater flexibility and work-life balance. Neil Lappley

My advice it to take advantage of firms like (ours) who (can provide) experienced professionals who are willing to work in interim and project-based roles with clients. Businesses need to look beyond the Wisconsin state border; (Patina Solutions) has access to those resources and the ability to expedite the hiring process for our clients. David Gilmartin

Increasingly, executives at SMBs are being hired by larger companies. These larger companies likely have long-term incentive (LTI) programs in place to attract, retain, and reward executives for their contributions to the business. LTI programs provide actual or pseudo “ownership” in the firm and typically comprise a large portion of the executive’s total direct compensation package.

Photo courtesy Pixabay

To maintain a competitive edge, SMBs should determine whether their executive compensation programs provide a long-term incentive opportunity for key executives. The LTI opportunity should be aligned with the company’s strategic plan and future growth goals, and it should provide monetary rewards commensurate with performance and appropriate levels of risk taking. Even if SMBs cannot provide “ownership” in the traditional sense (i.e., equity), several cash-based program types might be considered. Rena Somersan

Hire where you are at. Meaning, in small and mid-sized organizations, it is important to hire people that fit your current organization, but maybe can take you where you’re going. (This also means not hiring) someone outside of your current capabilities. If you are focused on the ideal candidate and not getting jobs filled, shift to hiring candidates that fit the culture and be ready to train them up on the needed skills. Aaron Schneider

Focus on retention. In my case, I tell them to pay competitively and “Give their Employees C.R.A.P.”  (Caring, Respect, Appreciation, and Praise). Develop a strategy to retain people (versus) trying to recruit people. Jeff Kortes

Do you have more questions about where wages, compensation and benefits are heading in the current economic climate? Or would you like to connect with any of our Q&A contributors? If so, please contact Neil Lappley at (847) 921-2812 or nlappley@lappley.com.