3% Salary Increases Put Greater Focus on Variable Pay

Image Source: http://www.careerglider.com/blog/does-salary-increase-with-additional-college-degrees/

With salary increase budgets expected to remain at 3 percent for both 2017 and 2018,
employers are continuing to leverage variable pay to differentiate rewards for

“With a tight job market and reported financial gains,
we might have expected to see more growth in salaries,” said Kerry Chou,
WorldatWork senior practice leader. “In the United States in particular,
there are factors that might explain this plateau in growth, including the
increased use of variable pay or noncash-based rewards.”


As companies hold down base pay increases to maintain a
handle on fixed costs, “employees are still seeing increases in pay
through improved variable pay plan payouts,” Chou said.

The percentage of organizations using variable pay
vehicles—such as annual or quarterly bonuses based on individual, team and
organizational goal achievement—rose 1 percentage point for the third straight
year, to 85 percent in 2017, according to research from WorldatWork, an
organization of total rewards professionals, in its new 2017-2018 Salary Budget

Variable Pay Programs (U.S.)

 pay awards, representing a percentage of base pay, are differentiated by
 employee classifications. Results are shown for the median* percentage.

Salary Increase Awards

Base salary increases are being awarded to 89 percent of
employees in 2017, on average. For high-performers, the anticipated 2017 median
merit increase award remains at 4.0 percent, the same as last year. 

Regional Differences

As in recent years, a comparison of salary budget increases
among employers in different states for 2017 showed little variance. The
average (mean) increases ranged slightly from 2.9 percent to 3.1 percent, with
the median at 3.0 percent for every state.

Metropolitan areas showed a bit more average salary budget
variance this year, ranging from 3.0 percent to 3.3 percent.

“The metropolitan areas that show the highest
percentages, such as the Pacific Northwest, Los Angeles, Dallas or Atlanta,
tend to be in regions of the U.S. that are driven by high-tech or minimum-wage
increases,” Chou noted.

No city came in below the 3 percent number. The highest
average salary budget increases this year were in:

  • Atlanta: 3.3 percent.
  • Dallas: 3.2 percent.
  • Los Angeles: 3.2 percent.
  • Portland, Ore.: 3.3 percent.
  • San Francisco: 3.2 percent.
  • San Jose, Calif. 3.2 percent.
  • Seattle: 3.2 percent.

These findings also may in part reflect local and state
government increases to minimum-wage rates, Chou said.

View of Merit Pay

Separately, New York City-based compensation firm Empsight
shared preliminary results from its 2017 Policies
Practices and Merit Report
 during a webcast at the end of
July. The findings are based on mostly multinational and Fortune 500
companies in the firm’s client database (70 percent with revenues above $5

“Overall, merit budgets remained the same from 2016
levels across all industries,” said Susan Bell, principal consultant at
Empsight. While slightly higher budgets were found in the professional service,
pharmaceutical, energy and consumer product sectors, “overall, merit
budgets remained the same from 2016 levels across all industries,” she

“The forecast appears slightly higher in 2018 merit
projections versus 2017, but not by much,” she noted. “Expectations
are that spending will remain the same.”

Total compensation increase budgets, which include merit
increases, promotions and special adjustments, ranged between one-quarter to
one-third percent on top of merit increases, Empsight found.

“The 2018 forecast expects about the same spending
across job levels, which is up only slightly from 2017,” she noted.
Overall total compensation budget increases are forecast to increase 3.25
percent (mean) and 3.00 percent (median) for 2018, compared with 3.21 percent
(mean) and 3.00 percent (median) for 2017.

“Companies tend to target the median of the marketplace
for both base and total cash compensation,” added Jeremy Feinstein,
Empsight managing director.

“For almost the last eight years, it’s been a 3-percent
merit world,” limiting employers’ ability to use pay to foster employee
retention, he noted.

Star Performers Reap Rewards

Despite U.S. employers holding the line on base pay raises
 in 2018, employers continue to find ways to reward their best performers, a
 new survey by consultancy Willis Towers Watson shows, revealing
 a consensus with other recent pay forecasts.

The survey of a cross-section of 819 companies, conducted
 between April and July 2017, found that.

  • Virtually all respondents (99 percent) are planning to give employees raises in 2018.

  • For exempt, non-management employees, salaries are expected to increase  3 percent on average—the same increase they received in each of the past three years.      


  • For management and nonexempt employees, employers are also planning 3 percent average salary increases.
  • Executives can expect slightly larger base pay raises—3.1 percent in 2018, which is, however, slightly less than executives received this year and in 2016. 

“Most companies are not under any significant
 pressure to increase their salary budgets in the near term,” said Laura
 Sejen, managing director for human capital and benefits at Willis Towers
 Watson. “Companies are relying more on variable pay, such as annual
 incentives and discretionary bonuses, to recognize and reward their best
 performers. At the same time, they are rewarding star performers with
 significantly larger increases while granting minimal increases to their
 weakest performers.”

The survey, for instance, showed that.

  • Exempt employees who received the highest performance
          ratings were granted an average salary increase of 4.5 percent this year.   


  • Employees receiving an average rating received salary increases of 2.6 percent.


  • Workers with below-average performance ratings received salary increases of 1.0 percent.

 Variable Pay Trends

Annual performance bonuses, generally tied to company and
 employee performance goals, are projected to hold steady in 2018 for most
 employee groups.

  • Exempt employees are projected to receive bonuses that average 10.5 percent of  salary, roughly the same amount companies budgeted for this year.
  • Discretionary bonuses, generally paid for special projects or one-time  achievements, are projected to hold relatively steady compared with bonuses awarded last year and budgeted for this year. 

“Employers are rethinking how to administer limited
 salary budgets,” said Sandra McLellan, rewards practice leader, North
 America, at Willis Towers Watson. “Some organizations are moving away
 from differentiating increases based on an employee’s previous year’s
 performance altogether while others are focusing on rewarding employees for
 skills development.

Here at Converge HR
Solutions, we can handle all of your HR needs. With the new increase, it is
important to keep up with the market and industry to make sure you are
compensating your employees correctly. For more information on our services,
visit our website at https://convergehrsolutions.com/ or email us directly at info@convergehrsolutions.com or give us a call at 610-296-8550.

Article Source: https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/compensation/Pages/salary-raises-variable-pay.aspx?utm_source=SHRM%20PublishThis_CompensationAndBenefits_7.18.16%20(56)&utm_medium=email&utm_content=August%2010,%202017&SPMID=&SPJD=&SPED=&SPSEG=&spMailingID=30126331&spUserID=OTI1NTk1MDUyNzMS1&spJobID=1101156541&spReportId=MTEwMTE1NjU0MQS2


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign Up for Our Monthly Newsletter

white converge hr logo

Reducing time spent on HR operations

Allowing you to focus on growing your business



1055 Westlakes DR, Suite 300, Berwyn, PA 19312

Skip to content