the impact of salary on employee retention: what should you be paying?

the impact of salary on employee retention: what should you be paying?

share this article:

In today's job market, where there are more open roles than there are people to fill them, it's no surprise that more people are moving on from their employers than ever before. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2019 quit rate for employees is 2.3 percent — the highest it's been in 15 years. And although there are a number of reasons why anyone leaves an employer, employee salary almost always plays some part in the decision-making process. 

For workers, there's a clear advantage to leaving, since they gain, on average, a 10 to 20 percent raise in base salary with each new role — but 73 percent of the time they need to leave their current employer in order to capture that increased employee salary. Such high employee turnover is acutely felt on the employer side as well, since the cost of voluntary turnover can become exorbitant depending on the seniority of the role that needs to be filled:

entry-level
30-50 percent of the worker's annual salary

mid-level
150 percent of the worker's annual salary
senior-level
up to 400 percent of the worker's annual salary
30to50 circle 150percent circle 400percent circle

In total, research estimates that voluntary turnover costs U.S. companies $1 trillion a year. Add in the fact that employee disengagement adds another $960 billion to $1.2 trillion in lost productivity per year, and you'll see why this is definite cause for concern.

hourglass the 2019 quit rate for employees is 2.3 percent — the highest it’s been in 15 years.

So what should your employee compensation program look like in order to keep employee retention high? Let's dig in.

make sure base salary is competitive

Thanks to a candidate-friendly job market and the advent of data transparency tools like salary calculators, workers know the value of the work they provide more than ever before. So if your employees' compensation levels are not competitive for the industry and marketplace you're in, don't expect them to stick around for long.

And for those employees who've been promoted recently, it's even more important that compensation is increased commensurately. Research from 2017 found that just a 10 percent increase in base salary equates to a 1.5 percent increase in the likelihood that a worker will stay with their current employer — a metric that becomes more significant the larger your organization is. If you factor that one percent improvement in the odds of an employee staying at a company of 10,000 people, that turns into hundreds of retained employees per year.

increase_illustration 10 percent increase in base salary equates to a 1.5 percent increase in the likelihood that a worker will stay with their current employer.

Ensure that you offer promotions that are meaningful — in both responsibilities and salary. And know that with higher compensation comes higher expectations: Paying employees top-notch salaries means that your standards can be equally high. Rest assured, as well, that workers who are paid well will also expect more from themselves.

tailor your salary to the employee's market

Any good salary calculator will take into regard the specific marketplace where the employee lives (and, if in-house, operates). We all know that $50,000 won't get your employees nearly as far in New York City as it will in Cleveland or Atlanta, so adjust your salary budgets to reflect specific cost-of-living data for the cities in which you operate.

And if you transfer someone from one market to another, be sure salary is adjusted accordingly. Employees who work on the front lines for you in more expensive cities shouldn't have to shoulder the additional financial burden for you.

go beyond base salary

variable pay benefits

To really retain your top talent, you're going to need to think beyond base salary, and variable pay benefits is a great place to start. Think of salary as employee compensation for regularly performing the tasks required of them, day in and day out. On the other side of the coin are variable pay benefits — financial incentives that motivate your workers to exceed established goals and capture additional achievements. 

Many organizations have found variable pay benefits to be a proven, powerful tool for driving engagement and retention. These can include:

  • end-of-year or holiday bonuses

  • sales commissions

  • referral bonuses

  • ash spiffs

  • profit sharing

cloud_illustration many organizations have found variable pay benefits to be a proven, powerful tool for driving engagement and retention.

No matter the benefits you choose, the most important thing to remember is to keep the incentives simple. Each of your employees should understand them and know exactly how to achieve them, so clearly communicate every goal, the amount of productivity required, and the end results they need to deliver.

"quality of work life" rewards

In addition to base pay and variable rewards, you can strengthen your compensation arsenal by providing "quality of work life" rewards. Like variable pay benefits, these are incentives that reward workers for going above and beyond, but instead of cash are focused more on improving work life and skill development. These can include:

  • educational assistance, such as tuition reimbursement or paid professional development and certification programs

  • an annual retreat for top performers, with workshops and other events that inspire engaging, creative thinking

  • increased opportunities for telecommuting or schedule flexibility

  • equipment upgrades, such as laptops for performing remote work or tablets to use during sales presentations 

The most important consideration here is to develop a rewards program that is applied fairly and consistently across the entire organization, so everyone can reap the benefits no matter their contribution level.

hand_world_illustration develop a rewards program that is applied fairly and consistently across the entire organization, so everyone can reap the benefits.

know that salary alone may not be enough

Even when you're checking all the boxes for salary and additional compensation, it may not be enough to halt employee turnover — especially as employees begin to prize positive workplace culture as highly as salary. In fact, a recent Virgin Pulse survey concluded that even though salary and other financial compensation plays a critical part in employee retention, knowing that an employer is committed to helping their employees maintain their physical and mental health and a strong work-life balance was just as important a driver in employee retention and happiness.

So while you'll want to make sure each employee is paid competitively, you'll also need to keep your overall workplace culture top of mind.

partner with a staffing firm

Developing a strong and competitive employee compensation program is no easy task. And that's where working with a staffing firm with deep expertise in compensation and its impact on employee retention can place you on the fast track to strengthening your organization. If you need a staffing partner that knows the ins and outs of compensation and benefits (have you checked out our salary calculator and 2019 salary guide?), or you're just looking for extra assistance in finding the best talent for your culture, contact us to start working together today.

looking to solve a hiring problem? let us help you

the impact of salary on employee retention: what should you be paying?

Posted by Alyssa Rocco on Oct 30, 2019, 1:43:21 PM

In today's job market, where there are more open roles than there are people to fill them, it's no surprise that more people are moving on from their employers than ever before. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2019 quit rate for employees is 2.3 percent — the highest it's been in 15 years. And although there are a number of reasons why anyone leaves an employer, employee salary almost always plays some part in the decision-making process. 

For workers, there's a clear advantage to leaving, since they gain, on average, a 10 to 20 percent raise in base salary with each new role — but 73 percent of the time they need to leave their current employer in order to capture that increased employee salary. Such high employee turnover is acutely felt on the employer side as well, since the cost of voluntary turnover can become exorbitant depending on the seniority of the role that needs to be filled:

entry-level
30-50 percent of the worker's annual salary

mid-level
150 percent of the worker's annual salary
senior-level
up to 400 percent of the worker's annual salary
30to50 circle 150percent circle 400percent circle

In total, research estimates that voluntary turnover costs U.S. companies $1 trillion a year. Add in the fact that employee disengagement adds another $960 billion to $1.2 trillion in lost productivity per year, and you'll see why this is definite cause for concern.

hourglass the 2019 quit rate for employees is 2.3 percent — the highest it’s been in 15 years.

So what should your employee compensation program look like in order to keep employee retention high? Let's dig in.

make sure base salary is competitive

Thanks to a candidate-friendly job market and the advent of data transparency tools like salary calculators, workers know the value of the work they provide more than ever before. So if your employees' compensation levels are not competitive for the industry and marketplace you're in, don't expect them to stick around for long.

And for those employees who've been promoted recently, it's even more important that compensation is increased commensurately. Research from 2017 found that just a 10 percent increase in base salary equates to a 1.5 percent increase in the likelihood that a worker will stay with their current employer — a metric that becomes more significant the larger your organization is. If you factor that one percent improvement in the odds of an employee staying at a company of 10,000 people, that turns into hundreds of retained employees per year.

increase_illustration 10 percent increase in base salary equates to a 1.5 percent increase in the likelihood that a worker will stay with their current employer.

Ensure that you offer promotions that are meaningful — in both responsibilities and salary. And know that with higher compensation comes higher expectations: Paying employees top-notch salaries means that your standards can be equally high. Rest assured, as well, that workers who are paid well will also expect more from themselves.

tailor your salary to the employee's market

Any good salary calculator will take into regard the specific marketplace where the employee lives (and, if in-house, operates). We all know that $50,000 won't get your employees nearly as far in New York City as it will in Cleveland or Atlanta, so adjust your salary budgets to reflect specific cost-of-living data for the cities in which you operate.

And if you transfer someone from one market to another, be sure salary is adjusted accordingly. Employees who work on the front lines for you in more expensive cities shouldn't have to shoulder the additional financial burden for you.

go beyond base salary

variable pay benefits

To really retain your top talent, you're going to need to think beyond base salary, and variable pay benefits is a great place to start. Think of salary as employee compensation for regularly performing the tasks required of them, day in and day out. On the other side of the coin are variable pay benefits — financial incentives that motivate your workers to exceed established goals and capture additional achievements. 

Many organizations have found variable pay benefits to be a proven, powerful tool for driving engagement and retention. These can include:

  • end-of-year or holiday bonuses

  • sales commissions

  • referral bonuses

  • ash spiffs

  • profit sharing

cloud_illustration many organizations have found variable pay benefits to be a proven, powerful tool for driving engagement and retention.

No matter the benefits you choose, the most important thing to remember is to keep the incentives simple. Each of your employees should understand them and know exactly how to achieve them, so clearly communicate every goal, the amount of productivity required, and the end results they need to deliver.

"quality of work life" rewards

In addition to base pay and variable rewards, you can strengthen your compensation arsenal by providing "quality of work life" rewards. Like variable pay benefits, these are incentives that reward workers for going above and beyond, but instead of cash are focused more on improving work life and skill development. These can include:

  • educational assistance, such as tuition reimbursement or paid professional development and certification programs

  • an annual retreat for top performers, with workshops and other events that inspire engaging, creative thinking

  • increased opportunities for telecommuting or schedule flexibility

  • equipment upgrades, such as laptops for performing remote work or tablets to use during sales presentations 

The most important consideration here is to develop a rewards program that is applied fairly and consistently across the entire organization, so everyone can reap the benefits no matter their contribution level.

hand_world_illustration develop a rewards program that is applied fairly and consistently across the entire organization, so everyone can reap the benefits.

know that salary alone may not be enough

Even when you're checking all the boxes for salary and additional compensation, it may not be enough to halt employee turnover — especially as employees begin to prize positive workplace culture as highly as salary. In fact, a recent Virgin Pulse survey concluded that even though salary and other financial compensation plays a critical part in employee retention, knowing that an employer is committed to helping their employees maintain their physical and mental health and a strong work-life balance was just as important a driver in employee retention and happiness.

So while you'll want to make sure each employee is paid competitively, you'll also need to keep your overall workplace culture top of mind.

partner with a staffing firm

Developing a strong and competitive employee compensation program is no easy task. And that's where working with a staffing firm with deep expertise in compensation and its impact on employee retention can place you on the fast track to strengthening your organization. If you need a staffing partner that knows the ins and outs of compensation and benefits (have you checked out our salary calculator and 2019 salary guide?), or you're just looking for extra assistance in finding the best talent for your culture, contact us to start working together today.

Topics: phase:awareness, industry:all, topic:problems, cat:employee retention