COVID-19: 4 Things to Consider as You Re-evaluate Your Compensation Strategy

Written by Katie Stukowski

April 13, 2020

COVID-19: 4 Things to Consider as You Re-evaluate Your Compensation Strategy Hero

Total Rewards is an essential practice in every company. It helps employees understand the overall compensation and benefits strategy that is in place and how that strategy aligns to their work and drives fair pay across the organization.   In the best of times, driving communication and understanding of Total Rewards is ongoing.  In a time of crisis, this becomes even more challenging as companies need to reassess their compensation strategy and benefits.   

Some companies will see an upside.  They may need to hire essential personnel, consider hazard pay premiums, while others may need competitive pay packages to align with the new market demand.   

Others will feel the economic impact, some more deeply than others.  Regardless of your economic situation, in this post we share four things to consider as you reassess your compensation strategy and benefits.  

Employee Benefits: Does your company have your employees covered? 

During a crisis like the one we are in with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to reassess the overall benefits you have in place and how you can help your employees understand the resources available to them.  For example: 

  • Does your medical plan cover the costs of treatment from infection of the COVID-19 virus?  
  • What provisions do you have in place for leave time?   
  • When sheltering in place and with nation-wide school closures, employees will have access to new legislation such as, Families First.  Will such legislation interact well with your current leave policies?   
  • Does your insurance offer tele-health services?  

It is also important to consider the strain COVID-19 and changes in workplace dynamics will have on your employees.  Review your mental health plans and employee assistance programs to ensure it covers assistance for anxiety and depression. 

As a Total Rewards Professional, it is essential that you understand your current benefits and identify the benefits your company should add in response to the pandemic. Also, you need to create a channel of communication with employees so they have a clear understanding of their benefit options. 

Considerations for Employee Classes: What type of compensation will you provide across your workforce? 

As a Total Rewards Professional, you will need to give guidance on how your company should pay different classes of employees as workplace absences grow due to COVID-19.  Now is the time to review collective bargaining agreements for unionized employees and develop a compensation strategy for non-union workforces as well as exempt vs. non-exempt employees. 

Depending on your company’s financial health, recommendations will vary.  For example: 

  • Microsoft announced it will pay all hourly service providers during the COVID-19 pandemic regardless of whether or not their services are needed.   
  • Starbucks has instituted “catastrophe pay.” 

You may have to decide if your organization can offer partial or full pay for different groups of employees.  Or you may be faced with implementing furloughs and/or layoffs to create stability in the market for your company. 

If this is the case, the main issue for Total Rewards Professionals and leadership is to decide who will be impacted and are there measures that can be taken in conjunction with legislation to help employees impacted by a reduction in workforce. 

Market Compensation Data: What data will you use to make workforce decisions?  

Traditionally, Total Rewards Professionals lean on market data to help align compensation with the market and create a sense of fair pay within their organization.  During a time of crisis, though, employees and leadership alike are anxious about outcomes and need additional information to support pay decisions. 

Market compensation data may be affected during this time.  For example, surveys are typically a year old when they are published and won’t reflect the market shifts in base salaries as a result of COVID-19.  Also, total cash and incentives may not be accurately reflected as a result of the crisis 

To help with this, lean on multiple sources where you can.  Think of combining traditional sources of data with other data points such as aggregated or even crowdsourced data points.  They are often updated more frequently, giving the Total Rewards Professional more insight into current pay practices.   

Having access to market data, however, is still essential during this time.  New roles will require Hazard Pay where additional premiums or dollar increases must be added.  You may have new “hot jobs” due to market demand.  Many industries, like manufacturing where they are filling healthcare and hospital demand, will have new roles that are more competitive to maintain.   Or just as importantly, you will need data to help communicate the compensation strategy you implement today and whatever pay philosophy your company adopts in the future.  

Attract, Motivate and Retain Employees: What will be your strategy to keep talent? 

Employee recognition is one of the most important elements of Total Rewards.  Employees value feedback, clear communication and recognition from their employer.  As the COVD-19 pandemic continues to evolve and a new workplace normal unfolds, companies need to develop new and different ways to attract top talent and retain their essential workforce.  Some questions to consider: 

  • What will your hiring plan look like during and after the pandemic?   
  • Will you change compensation offers or freeze hiring altogether?   
  • Most if not all companies are implementing work-from-home strategies out of necessity. Do your employees have the equipmentresources, and support they need to be productive? 
  • Do they feel connected to their peers and the organization? 
  • What steps can you take to maintain your company culture in a virtual environment? 
  • What are some creative ways to recognize employees that go above and beyond? 
  • Is there a clear line of communication between employees and company leadership? 

We know that you are guiding your leadership through this challenging time and the team here at is ready to help as you re-evaluate your compensation strategy. For insight intadditional steps you can take as a Total Rewards Professional, download our recent webinarCOVID-19: Total Rewards in a Time of Crisis  

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about the author
Katie Stukowski is a Senior Solutions Consultant at Katie works closely with current clients, and contributes to the development of’s data and product portfolio.

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