Compensation Practices Started Returning to Normal in 2021

Worldatwork Survey Shows Market-Based Adjustments and Bonuses Were Prominent Last Year

WorldatWork’s “2021 Total Rewards Inventory Programs & Practices” survey reveals compensation practices are starting to return to normal at most organizations. Market-based adjustments (not COLA) are rising to pre-pandemic levels and, similarly, hazard/call-in pay are beginning to level back down.

The survey of 1,008 U.S. organizations representing different sizes and industries found that market-based adjustments rose to 82% in 2021 from 69% the year prior while hazard pay fell to 19% from 23% the year prior. Perhaps a sign of the tight labor market and rampant employee movement during the year, sign-on bonuses increased to 84% from 71% in 2021, spot bonuses increased to 73% from 64% and retention bonuses increased to 65% from 55%.

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Additionally, the survey revealed that changes in how work is done remained in place in 2021. There is continued growth with organizations purposely designing full-time remote roles, rising to 72% this year from 55% in 2019. Telemedicine services, which emerged greatly during the pandemic, stayed commonplace with 97% of organizations offering these programs as part of their health care plan or as a standalone program.

“The survey results emphasize how organizations continue to be agile in adjusting their compensation and HR practices to the new world of work and the shifting expectations of the labor market,” said Deirdre Macbeth, content director, regulatory at WorldatWork.

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Sample Findings:

  • 86% of organizations made pay equity adjustments in 2021, which was up from 80% in 2020.
  • 75% of organizations offered unpaid, job-protected time off to care for or bond with a new child (beyond legal requirements, if applicable, and beyond any paid parental leave an organization may offer), which was up significantly from 56% in 2020.
  • 46% of organizations offered identify theft insurance to their employees in 2021, up from 34% in 2020.
  • Emerging leadership programs were less common in 2021, as 52% of organizations offered them compared to 59% in 2020.
  • 70% of organizations offer relocation upon employer request while 19% of organizations offer relocation upon employee request.
  • 74% of organizations offer civic duty pay (e.g., voting, jury duty beyond any legal requirements) while 47% of organizations offer unpaid civic duty leave (e.g., voting, jury duty).

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