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Compensation Survey Participation was Down in 2020: What it Means for 2021

Topics: Comp Strategy

2020 wasn’t a great year for survey participation. In the wake of COVID-19, participating in compensation surveys ended up low on many HR and compensation teams’ priority lists. As a result, many publishers extended their deadlines, streamlined requirements, and 2020 survey result releases and match migrations ended up a bit delayed.  

In many ways, 2020 illuminated vulnerabilities in the annual survey cycle, that begins with survey participation. Not only, a global pandemic has erupted during an annual event but rapidly changing dynamics across organizations and industries can’t be understood with an annual approach. Over the course of 2020, HR and comp professionals across the globe looked to one another to understand how organizations were handling every aspect of compensation — from market data and participation to merit increases and bonus distributionsas well as percolating geographic pricing trendsIn fact, some compensation and HR teams shifted from relying solely on compensation survey results to also consider pay practices and trends found from other sources.  

While the year ahead is still uncertain, everyone is ready for a smoother compensation survey participation season. For organizations that didn’t participate in 2020, participation this year will be a priority. Beyond traditional surveysorganizations are looking to alternate compensation data approaches whether that means more configured to their region or industry, or more real-time. Mercer’s pulse survey approach to their typically annual compensation survey is just one indication of HR and compensation leaders’ need for more real-time data in today’s rapidly changing world 

Whether you plan to expand your data sources or stick with traditional approaches, here is PayScale’s take on survey participation this spring and what might come to light in the fall

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Looking Ahead to 2021 

  • In the world of major publishers, the Aon-Willis Towers Watson merger is expected to close in the first half of 2021. 
  • Publishers will continue their efforts to streamline participation. As the desire for configured and customized data sets continues to grow among organizations, publishers will be looking to recover data not gathered in 2020 and expand participation in order to fulfill custom survey data demands in the fall. On the flip side, publishers may begin capturing hazard pay or creating new reporting standards for furloughed employees as a result of COVID-19 to understand differences in how organizations responded to the global pandemic of 2020. Organizations should be prepared to address publisher requests for more in-depth participation data.  
  • Many organizations were nearly done with annual merit increases by the time the true scope of the pandemic came to light. As a result, we could see 2020-2021 wages stay flat year-over-year when survey results are released this fallIn the meantimeThe PayScale Index for Q4 2020 showed growth in nominal wages by 0.5 percent quarter over quarter (Q/Q) and 2.6 percent year over year (YOY). While real wages saw 0.2 percent growth quarter over quarter (Q/Q) and 1.2 percent growth year over year (YOY)This dip in real wage growth compared to growth in preceding quarters may come from a continued rise in inflation. 
  • 2021 will likely be a year of budgetary prudence. Financial planning is still underway at many organizations and — like it or not — there is still uncertainty ahead.  

In addition to continuously analyzing PayScale data for real-time insights, we’ll be looking to brands like Mercer and others for ongoing perspectives from their compensation planning pulse surveys and predictions for the year ahead — Magic 8 Ball or otherwise.  

We all hope 2021 fulfills the promise of recoveryand while survey participation is a very small aspect of understanding what that recovery looks like, it’s a useful one. If you haven’t started preparing your employee data to participate, join our upcoming webinar February 19th at 11am Pacific to learn more. 

Register today!

Image credit: Pexels

Heather Kruger
at PayScale
Read more from Heather

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