The new frontier for pay

Posted by Robin Powell on April 20, 2021

The new frontier for pay



It’s not only where we work in the post-pandemic environment that is changing. It is also how we are paid. And just as with the remote-vs-office debate, the questions around remuneration are not so simple to answer.

In a survey of more than 2,200 people from the US, Canada and the UK this year, the employer services group Elements Global Services found marked trends in post-pandemic compensation, including the introduction of bitcoin as a remuneration option.


Trans-Atlantic split

Of the Americans surveyed, as many as 65% said their income had either stayed the same or fallen in 2020. And about 55% of those who took a pay cut said it had still not returned to normal levels. The proportion in Canada was 59%, while it was 52% in the UK.

The difference between the Britons and the North Americans were that the former were more likely to experience a pay cut than to lose their job completely. For instance, the UK respondents led in suffering bonus freezes at 53%, compared with 46% in North America.

But hope springs eternal. Across all three countries surveyed, 50% of respondents expected to make more money in 2021, while just 30% expected to earn the same amount and only 20% expected to earn less this year than last.


Payment in bitcoin

Perhaps the most noteworthy trend in the survey is an increasing willingness to consider payment in bitcoin. In the US, 37% of the sample said they were open to the idea, while in the UK and Canada, there was even more enthusiasm at 50% and 40% respectively.

Elsewhere, the post-pandemic interest in companies that embrace environmental, social and governance issues is also leading to interesting trends in remuneration incentives.

Mastercard recently has announced it will link bonuses for its senior executives to ESG-related initiatives. So alongside meeting the firm’s financial and strategic goals, compensation for executive vice presidents and above will be tied to the firm’s carbon emissions.


Firms urged to “future-proof”

In a review of compensation trends, the consultancy firm Willis Towers Watson suggests firms should be “future-proofing” their compensation strategies. The report identifies five specific areas for HR managers to consider this year.

The first is restructuring pay for remote working. With reductions in real estate and transportation costs expected, some firms have the flexibility to vary compensation for remote versus office workers depending on the objectives of the business.

An additional area for focus is differentiating rewards for critical digital talent, an increasing priority for managing a more diverse workforce. Again, as with Mastercard, doing the right thing by the planet may increasingly enter compensation schemes. 

Remote working also requires a focus on protecting employee and company data. And finally, companies will have to pay greater attention to return-on-investment when evaluating their compensation structures.

In short, the industry surveys since COVID-19 all point to a greater need for flexibility and agility on the part of employers in assessing compensation needs and incentives.



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Picture: Sharon McCutcheon via Unsplash


© The Evidence-Based Investor MMXXI


Robin Powell

Robin is a journalist and campaigner for positive change in global investing. He runs Regis Media, a niche provider of content marketing for financial advice firms with an evidence-based investment philosophy. He also works as a consultant to other disruptive firms in the investing sector.


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