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WORKSPAN
WORKSPAN DAILY |

Post-Pandemic Developments in Compensation


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Maximusnd / iStock

Editor’s Note: Workspan Daily will be reproducing a monthly Compensation Café blog post for the benefit of our readers and to encourage further discourse on topics vital to compensation professionals.

The past couple of weeks have shown us that compensation in a post-pandemic world may be less predictable than predicted. Mask mandates have loosened. Businesses that have been closed are starting to open. Businesses that have been fully remote are beginning to explore hybrid and return-to-work models.

Companies are addressing talent acquisition challenges with better pay. Equity compensation vesting schedules may finally be changing. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals are getting more than lip service. Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) metrics are becoming what we thought they would be before COVID-19 began. And executives somehow continue to be paid well, despite some less-than-stellar results. Here’s a quick roundup of what we’re seeing and what we aren’t.

  • Businesses are getting back to work. Restaurants, theaters, live music venues and other businesses shut down by social distancing needs are finally starting to reopen in earnest. This will invariably create pay pressure in hourly service positions and might be the first step in a new battle for hourly talent.
  • Employees are going back in to work. Many companies are bringing people back to the office. Some are using a soft touch to entice people back, others — not so much.
  • Pay rates may be starting to reflect the new market. Several clients have told me it is harder than ever to hire key talent. They also argue that survey data is not reflecting the actual talent market. In addition, some banks have raised their minimum wage to $25 per hour. We may finally be seeing the compensatory impact of changing how people work.
  • Equity compensation vesting schedules are changing to correct a well-known problem. I have discussed before that equity compensation vesting schedules have essentially not changed in more than 25 years. Three or four years for restricted stock units (RSUs) and stock options is still the standard, as we are not seeing companies use six and seven-year schedules to align with long-term goals. We are also seeing equity plans with one- and two-year schedules to reflect the “bonus” intent for those companies.
  • ESG goals and being a better company is kind of a thing. ESG goals are the current buzzwords for executive compensation. According to Barclays, sustainability is leading the pack. The goals are growing in popularity nearly everywhere around the world at the same time. It will take several years for companies to figure out the formula to — admittedly cynically speaking — do just enough to get credit and not so much that it actually affects change. Until then, we are likely to see some positive and interesting changes.
  • Treating all employees with the respect they deserve is seeing continued growth. DEI has been on the radar for several years, but we’re seeing more companies actually do something about it. Executive pay is being linked to DEI, and more companies are finally getting their data and processes to see real movement. However, some are questioning the motives of companies like Starbucks that are implementing such incentives.
  • Executives are still somehow being paid a lot, even when performance may not fully justify it. I won’t rehash the following articles, but they are worth a quick read. CEOs are getting big bonuses, even when their entire industries have been basically shut down during the past year. CEOs are getting big bonuses, even after cutting front-line employee pay, or even shutting down stores to avoid paying people.

It’s a lot to absorb. We are seeing changes. Some in the compensation profession are actually driving changes. We will have a lot to discuss as this year progresses and figure out what the new “New Normal” looks like.

About the Author

Dan Walter Bio Image

Dan Walter is a CECP, CEP, and Fellow of Global Equity (FGE). He is a “Compensation Futurist” who works as Managing Consultant for FutureSense.

This article was first published at Compensation Café on May 25, 2021.