July 22, 2020

Compensation during COVID-19


Conversations about compensation can often be uncomfortable, and even tense.

However, it’s an important discussion to have with employees, especially during turbulent times. Now that the working world has entered Q3, some employees may be expecting bonuses, raises or other types of compensation they’ve enjoyed over the last few years.

But if the current pandemic has hurt your company’s revenue and has made those compensation numbers less than usual —or eliminated them altogether – what do you do?

Apex Compensation Consultant Katherine Bryant discusses this very topic in a recent episode of Casually Caffeinated: HR Conversations Unscripted.

Transparency is everything

Being open and informative with your employees is the only way to have beneficial discussions about compensation. It may not be received warmly by every individual in your organization, but the transparency and honesty will be appreciated.

Doing the opposite by saying nothing at all is unlikely to be productive and will damage employee morale and perhaps even confidence in your company.

When deciding what kinds of decisions to make, keep in mind what would be the most well-received and even what employees would expect. It’s no surprise that COVID-19 has slowed down the economy, and it’s highly likely your company took a dip in revenue during the first half of the year.

Also, be sure that whatever message you send to your employees still aligns with any other communications about the status of your company.

Be human

Having these conversations with employees is likely to raise questions. If an employee is no longer receiving that expected annual raise, it could throw off plans they had for themselves or their family.

That’s why it is vital to be empathetic when discussing compensation. Express to your employees that management understands this isn’t what the company has done in the past, but decisions are being made with everyone’s best interest at heart.

That openness and candidness can be beneficial to your organization because if everyone is on the same page, it reduces the likelihood of having to make even tougher decisions like pay cuts or layoffs.

Tailor the message

Information is better received in different ways, and that rings true with compensation discussions.

Designing messages and sharing them in different ways will help make sure the message is well received.

Here are a couple ideas:

  • Recorded video from a leadership team member
  • Personalized letter or email from leadership
  • Personal conversation or conference call from leadership
  • Combination of the above

How you decide which method can be determined by department, teams or the overall atmosphere of your employee base. Remember, having personalized messages is another way to ensure a sense of humility in these discussions.

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