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The talent war is raging, and CEOs want their human resource heads (CHROs) to spend more time finding, retaining, and upskilling great employees. That is according to a recent poll by Chief Executive and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

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Many companies are gearing up for significant growth as the pandemic eases, but the speed of the economic recovery has unleashed a talent shortage. Few organizations have all the talent they currently need. Further, poaching may rob companies of talent needed to grow. In fact, the more successful a company is, the more likely it is to become a recruiting target.

To acquire and retain talent, organizations must be preemptive by developing a competitive and fair compensation program. Worker shortages, the improving economy, and inflation are putting increased pressure on wages and salaries. Making sure compensation comparisons are up to date is essential (and more challenging). Survey data may be less reliable in this rapidly growing economy. To update the comparison, we also recommend getting a pulse on the market through colleagues as we continually assess through out contacts.

With an equitable compensation plan as a starting point, HR teams hiring and retention initiatives will go further.

HIRING TOP TALENT

The U.S. Labor Department reported more than 7.5 million unfilled job openings in June 2021, a slight improvement over March of this year. Nonetheless, employers continue to struggle with hiring and finding employees whose skills match their hiring needs. To close the gap, we advise organizations to:

1) Shift the hiring focus from a work history to a skills or competency-based approach. This will open a new pool of potential workers and demonstrate that there is no best route to a role. For example, significant numbers of food service employees have lost their jobs. Many have the skills to be successful in customer service roles, currently a high-demand function.

Refocusing on skills will mean recasting job descriptions to skills needed versus work history requirements. Managers will need to change their mindsets and expand training programs to prepare employees for new roles. And an adapted evaluation process may be needed as the newly hired learn on the job.

2) Do not overlook internal candidates. Emphasis on skills is the future of training and development. Companies are realizing the need to reskill or upskill their employees. Exposing employees to different areas of the company will help to identify business areas that they are interested in. Start by including them in cross-functional teams and meetings. Most important, encourage employees to keep to a continuous learning cycle.

3) Get creative to recruit women back to the workforce. In March of this year, almost 1.5 million fewer mothers of school age children were working compared to February 2020. As schools return to in-person instruction, more women will be available to fill recruiting needs.

However, some creativity is required. Consider flexibility to address childcare responsibilities, work-from-home arrangements, access to EAP or mental health programs, and reintegration training for women who have been off long-term.

RETAINING KEY EMPLOYEES

Surveys show that anywhere from a quarter to more than half of employees are planning to look for a new job post-pandemic. To avoid losing key employees, companies need to offer competitive compensation. After all, these employees are among your most valuable assets. Losing them is expensive and replacing them may not be possible.

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There are three employee groups that bear special consideration: top performers, those in positions of high demand, and high-potential employees. About 10% to 15% of salaried employees are top performers. Look at employees that performed consistently for at least two years; last year can be considered an anomaly.

High-demand positions are those that came into prominence last year. An example is supply chain workers dealing with product shortages, shipping delays and general vendor delivery uncertainty. These jobs are netting higher wages and salaries as demand outpaces supply. Employers may have no choice but to invest more heavily in these positions.

The final group is high-potential employees who have been identified to receive special developmental opportunities. These are your future leaders. Continue to invest in cross-functional training and educational experiences.

SUMMARY

Moving forward, businesses relying on a pre-pandemic pay equity analysis must adjust to changing market conditions. Some will be forced to wait until profits return to fund pay equity adjustments. A thoughtful analysis will help companies get from here to there.

HR hiring and retention programs will be challenged for months to come. However, there are compensation planning steps employers can take now to improve program outcomes and make the most of the current job market.

LET’S CONNECT

To discuss how to recruit and retain key employees, please contact Neil Lappley at (847) 921-2812 or nlappley@lappley.com.

How will your organization meet employee demands in a post-pandemic economy? Despite an expanding jobs market and growing optimism about the recovery, employers are finding that in many ways employees are in the driver’s seat as competition for workers tightens. This seeming paradox comes as unemployment levels remain high.

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Agile companies are responding with compensation and benefits programs that address employees’ shifting priorities. Yes, making a fair and competitive wage or salary is important. But so is workplace flexibility and a focus on employee health, wealth, and well-being.

Here are four of the most relevant post-pandemic workforce challenges and opportunities to consider when revising your compensation plan in 2021:

1) Hiring & Retaining Key Employees

The biggest human resource challenge facing companies as the economy recovers is hiring and retaining employees. In the latest jobs report for March 2021, openings in the U.S. rose to 8.123 million, the highest on record. This is 5 million above pre-pandemic levels, based on data tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While many of these job opportunities are in industries virtually shut down during the pandemic, other sectors including manufacturing are expanding. Unlike prior recessions, the laws of supply and demand are not the only trends impacting hiring and employee turnover. Concerns about workplace safety, issues with childcare, and other factors such as generous unemployment benefits may be keeping some workers on the sidelines.

Still, paying a competitive salary is key to bringing on new talent and rewarding key employees, especially your top performers and those in positions in high demand.

Finding real-time wage and salary information will help you determine how competitive your current compensation plan is and whether adjustments should be made.

2) Targeting Pay Equity

Organizations are targeting pay equity to ensure employees doing similar work under similar working conditions are paid fairly. Employees are demanding it; laws require it; and employers must address it to recruit and retain top talent.

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The current federal administration will likely apply more stringent enforcement of equal pay regulations. Already employers who run afoul of the Equal Pay Act (EPA) can face penalties from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, the reputation damage can be much worse, affecting the ability to attract and retain talent.

3) Enhancing Benefit Programs

As workers’ needs evolved during the pandemic, the value of benefits to all employees has become increasingly apparent.

Flexible work arrangements have been evolving and have been accelerated during the pandemic as employees had to care for children being schooled at home or for other family members. Accommodating flexible employment arrangements has become central to being an employer of choice. This means working outside of the historic 8 am to 5 pm workday and balancing employer and employee needs.

Some employees are subsidizing childcare, recognizing that difficulties finding reliable care during working hours may affect productivity. Others provide care on-site.

In any case, taking a fresh look at benefit strategies goes together with pay to support a competitive total compensation package.

4) Compensating Remote Work

During the pandemic, most organizations implemented employee work-from-home programs. Many employees would prefer to continue working remotely, at least part of the time. In exchange for reduced commuting time and more flexibility, many found these new arrangements to be more productive and family friendly.

Employers also found remote work arrangements helped them save on real estate and other overhead, such as travel and meeting expenses. Making these types of arrangements permanent or long-term will require changes to management style to integrate remote and in-office workers.

In addition, companies who can hire from any location must decide how they will pay their remote workforce. On the one hand this is a desirable workplace perk, while on the other salaries vary drastically depending on competitive practice cost of living and other factors from region to region.

We believe that most companies will approach the issue by referencing cost of labor and not cost of living data. Whether they use specific location or broad geographic information to determine a compensation structure has yet to be determined. But companies will most likely base remote compensation on competitive practice to avoid paying under market and allowing employees to be poached away because of pay.

Summary

Shifting attitudes about work and the workplace developed during the pandemic will carry over longer term and will impact compensation, hiring and retention in 2021 and beyond. What you pay employees and how you reward them with benefits and services will either help or hinder employee management plans in an increasingly competitive job market. Be sure to make the right choices based on what’s competitive for your industry and market.

Contact Us

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

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Despite uncertainty about where the U.S. economy is heading, recent salary surveys from compensation consulting firms reveal that salaries are expected to either increase slightly or hold steady versus 2019 salaries. In this issue of Compensation Alert, we look at how companies are planning to deal with 2020 salary budgets to remain competitive and retain top talent.

Survey information was gathered from human resource professionals facing an extremely tight labor market, increased investment in pay equity adjustments and climbing minimum wage rates. What’s more, many economists are predicting slower economic growth and greater risk for a possible recession within the next two years.

Under these conditions, participating organizations in this year’s salary surveys provide crucial insights into how companies are budgeting for salary increases in 2020.

WorldatWork

WorldatWork survey participants report that in 2019 salary budgets grew slightly to 3.2% average (median 3.0%) meeting last year’s projections. They expect salary budgets overall to increase to 3.3% in 2020. Specific pay increases are expected to be:

  • 3.2% for exempt salaried workers,
  • 3.3% for officers and executives,
  • 3.1% for nonexempt employees, and
  • 3.2% for nonexempt hourly.

In addition, pay equity continues to be a significant issue to organizations. The WorldatWork survey finds that 42% of participants plan to budget for pay equity increases in 2020, up from 37% in 2019. When pay equity adjustments are not budgeted, 46% of respondents report that company savings will be used for adjustments in 2020.

Promotional increases in 2020 are projected to average 8.9%, up slightly from 2019. The portion of salary increase budgets attributed to merit are projected at 3.0%. Not surprisingly, the largest increases in salary budgets are from the East Coast (Washington DC and Boston) and the West Coast (Denver, Portland, San Diego and San Jose). In 2019, the reported average salary structure increase was 2.2%.

Willis Towers Watson

According to the 2019 Willis Towers Watson General Industry Salary Budget Survey, salary increases are expected to hold steady in 2020. The survey reveals increases of:

  • 3.1% for exempt and non-management employees,
  • 3.1% for management employees,
  • 3.0% for nonexempt hourly workers,
  • 2.9% for nonexempt salaried employees, and
  • 3.1% for executives.

The survey finds that employers will continue to reward star performers larger increases than average performing employees. According to the survey, the highest performing employees were granted an average increase of 4.6% in 2019, about 70% higher than the 2.7% increase given to those receiving an average increase.

To retain your best workers, as compensation consultants we have long advanced a minimum increase for star performers should be at least two times the increase to average performers. Although the differential has crept up over the past few years, it still has not reached a minimum ideal level.

Mercer

Mercer’s findings are consistent with WorldatWork’s 2019-2020 Salary Budget Survey. While overall salary increases were 3.5% in 2019, they are projected to be 3.6% in 2020. Survey results show that merit increases for 2019 were at 2.9%, while mean and median merit increases are expected to be 3.0% for 2020.

Additionally, the Mercer survey found that there was no change in the number of employees receiving promotional increases in 2019. The average promotional increase was 9.3%, slightly more than the 8.9% increase recorded by WorldatWork.

Further findings reveal organizations continue to use performance ratings to differentiate salary increases, although a small portion do not use performance ratings (14%). Among this small group, the majority distribute merit pay based on manager discretion with oversight by business leader or HR/compensation.

The survey also finds that high performers received 1.6 times the salary increase of average performers.

Payfactors

The Payfactors salary survey provides detailed responses for U.S. and Canadian employers, with data broken out by industry, revenue, organization size, region and state.

According to the Payfactors survey, average salary increases in 2020 are expected to be:

  • 3.2% for exempt employees,
  • 3.2% for exempt (non-management) employees,
  • 3.2% for managers, and
  • 3.1% for officers and executives.

Industries reporting higher expected increases include professional services, pharmaceuticals, software, technology, metals, and oil and gas. Industries expecting lower increases include retail, not-for-profit, hotels and restaurants, banks and aerospace. The survey shows little difference in average increases by region.

Salary.com

According to its annual Salary.com Salary Budget Survey, median annual salary increases are expected to remain flat at 3.0% for 2020. The salary.com survey average salary increase is significantly lower than the salary increases predicted in prior cited surveys. Although different survey methodology may be present, also likely at play are different survey populations.

Variable Pay Programs Becoming More Important

After reviewing the results of these top-rated surveys, it is apparent that many organizations are struggling to remain competitive on salaries to attract and retain top talent. That’s why many are moving towards variable pay programs. Rather than investing in long-term, fixed salary programs, companies are focused on rewarding and retaining top talent via pay-for-performance incentive programs. Along with improving employee engagement and reducing turnover, another benefit to these programs is stronger market competitiveness.

How Do You Determine Your Salary Increase Budget?

Clearly, predicted market increase budgets are only one input to weigh when deciding on your salary increase budget for 2020. To begin with, it is important to distinguish between your competitiveness goal and your overall compensation strategy. Next, examine how far above or below that goal your current salaries are. Finally, evaluate how close your company can come to meeting your 2020 salary goal based on available funding.

One final point to consider: recessions are inevitable. Organizations that take strategic compensation and human resources actions in advance of these downturns will be better positioned when the economy turns around.

In Summary

Please contact me at (847) 921-2812 or nlappley@lappley.com if you would like to discuss this topic further. In addition, you can read more on this topic at lappley.com. Please share this article with anyone who think may be interested.