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Compensation trends spotlight: General Industry 

COVID-19 significantly impacted how people work, where they work and what they value. 

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Beyond Data

By Hugues Munaut | December 21, 2020

Industries saw various forms of growth and changes, largely depending on the type of organization and sectors they are operating in. Some have seen significant rises in business and market valuation, others have seen their business fall dramatically.

COVID-19 significantly impacted how people work, where they work and what they value. Industries saw various forms of growth and changes, largely depending on the type of organization and sectors they are operating in. Some have seen significant rises in business and market valuation, others have seen their business fall dramatically.

Based on our 2020 compensation surveys and research, we observed a few key trends in 2020 for the General Industry.

Base salary movements

After a challenging 2020, many companies are looking at 2021 cautiously. There was a slight decrease in the year-over-year salary increase rate from 2019 to 2020. Approximately a third of respondents from our recent salary budget survey indicated they had implemented a pay freeze in 2020 or decided to postpone salary review. Projected salary increases for 2021 appear optimistic with 80% expecting to conduct a regular salary review. The overall salary increase rate for 2021 is forecasted to grow globally by 0.5% compared to 2020.

One of the most prevalent actions we observed in the effort to manage labor costs was to freeze or reduce hiring. Most organizations have been cautious with taking pay-related adjustments. Among these organizations, 12% have reduced or delayed merit increases while another 22% plan to do the same (Figure 3). A pay freeze is the next most prevalent action. 30% had frozen salaries or were planning to do so. The timing of the pandemic response may have played a role in this decision, as many organizations may have already allocated their merit increases in the first half of 2020.

Close to 20% of organizations are planning or considering salary reductions. Among those that are, they may target these reductions at board or executive levels only.

Other actions being considered include reducing annual bonus accruals for 30% and adjusting pay at risk for 15%.

Industry hot jobs

Our survey data shows a greater than average increase in market demand for jobs clustered in these main functions: engineering, legal, IT and IT development, and talent management.

Figure 4 shows the highest paid roles at the professional career level (P3) for major markets. In the U.S., these include roles in technology product development, IT development, data science and legal. For other countries, technology roles are also in demand, but certain non-technology roles have become hot jobs as well such as generalists in engineering, legal and organization development.

Figure 4 - Hot jobs in major selected markets
Country Job Title Highest paid
United States Legal Generalist/Multidiscipline 1
United States Machine Learning 2
United States Data Engineering 3
United States Engineering Project Management 4
Brazil Electronic Engineering 1
Brazil Electrical Equipment Engineering 2
Brazil Application Engineering 3
Brazil Quality Assurance Engineering 4
France Merger and Acquisition Law 1
France Investor Relations 2
France Government Relations 3
France Product Development Project/Program Management 4
China (Shanghai) Machine Learning 1
China (Shanghai) Pre-Sales Technical Support/Systems Engineering 2
China (Shanghai) Information Technology Generalist 3
China (Shanghai) IS Audit 4
Germany Organization Development 1
Germany Information Technology Generalist/Multidiscipline 2
Germany Government Relations 3
Germany Six Sigma Process 4
United Kingdom Agile/Scrum Master Project/Program Management 1
United Kingdom Machine Learning 2
United Kingdom Legal Generalist 3
United Kingdom Developmental Operations (DevOps) 4

Bonus payout and short-term incentives

Actual bonus payouts are trending close to or just below targets in 2020 (Figure 5). A small percentage of organizations are offsetting the financial impact of COVID-related disruptions by restructuring their total compensation program for executives, such as delaying goal setting for annual incentive plans.

Bonus funding for 2021 vary by industries and the persisting market forces that could affect the global economy, including the pandemic and geo-political shifts, may have a downward effect on bonuses next year for some industries.

Long-term incentives (LTI)

Looking at the LTI eligibility in certain major markets (Figure 6), there is a higher prevalence for executive roles with a trending practice in some industries to provide to senior professionals and managers.

The pandemic’s unprecedented impact on employee wellbeing and business created a continuously evolving and uncertain environment, forcing organizations to reevaluate their rewards priorities. The challenge of recruiting, retaining and engaging employees has never been greater. That, in turn, demands reliable, relevant and timely data to determine the right pay levels and mix for a workforce that spans regions and countries. Our General Industry compensation surveys offer timely and lasting support. Join us.

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