Progressive Joins Ranks of Employers Abandoning Salary History Questions

Progressive Joins Ranks of Employers Abandoning Salary History Questions

Major US companies are continuing to drop the practice of asking job candidates for their salary histories nationwide in response to the proliferation of state and local laws barring them from doing so. The Progressive Corporation plans to add more than 7,500 new hires to its workforce in 2018, and won’t be asking any of them about their prior salaries as part of the process of setting compensation, the company announced in a press release last week:

Progressive recently decided it would no longer ask applicants about their salary history. “We’ve always based our pay on market research,” [Chief Human Resources Officer Lori] Niederst said. “We hope this change will give candidates who apply for our jobs confidence that they will be paid based on what they bring to Progressive, regardless of whether their previous employers paid them fairly.”

The Ohio-based automobile and homeowner’s insurance provider currently employs more than 33,000 people in almost 400 offices throughout the US. The company plans to hire extensively this year in Austin, Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Phoenix, Sacramento, and Tampa. Only one of these locations (Sacramento, California) is subject to a law prohibiting employers from inquiring about candidates’ salary histories, but Progressive is dropping these inquiries everywhere.

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Survey: Business Optimism Could Translate to Bigger Raises This Year

Survey: Business Optimism Could Translate to Bigger Raises This Year

Previous surveys have predicted that most US employees will receive a small increase in their base pay this year, averaging about 3 percent, though high performers can expect a bit more as organizations shift their compensation strategies toward greater differentiation. That 3 percent raise appears to have become standard in recent years for the average employee, as a 4 or 5 percent annual raise once was.

A new survey of CEOs and CFOs from PwC, however, suggests that raises might be a bit higher than expected this year: The consultancy’s Q4 2017 Trendsetter Barometer report, based on interviews with 300 CEOs and CFOs during the last quarter of 2017, found that these leaders expect to raise wages by an average of 4.27 percent in the coming year, compared to the 3.39 percent figure PwC found in Q3 and just 2 percent a year ago. The last time panelists projected average wages would rise above 4 percent was during the second quarter of 2007, the report notes.

Plans for growth are also on the upswing, with 56 percent of the leaders surveyed saying they intended to hire new employees in the coming year, compared to 49 percent who said so in Q3. PwC attributes these bullish plans for 2018 to higher levels of business confidence and optimism about the future of the US economy, with 79 percent of leaders expressing optimism, a notable increase from 59 percent at the end of 2016.

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Will Corporate Tax Cuts Give American Workers a Raise This Year?

Will Corporate Tax Cuts Give American Workers a Raise This Year?

The “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” passed by the US Congress last month, which lowered taxes on corporate profits and most employees’ salaries, has a number of implications for employers, affecting payroll withholding as well as the tax treatment of executive pay and some employee benefits. One of the arguments the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans advanced for the tax cuts, which were historically unpopular among the American public, was that lowering the corporate tax rate would incentivize companies to use their tax savings to invest in their workforce, giving millions of employees a much-needed raise.

While several large employers announced plans to issue bonuses to employees, raise wages, or make other business investments after the tax reform bill was passed, most companies have indicated in earnings calls and surveys that they plan to parlay most of their tax cuts into debt repayment, dividends, and stock buybacks. Corporate America, Solutionomics founder Chris Macke argued in an op-ed at the Hill in December, was already sitting on large piles of cash and not prioritizing business investment due to insufficient demand. Companies, he wrote, need more customers more than they need more cash.

Whether or not US companies decide to invest more of their tax savings in growing their business (which they may still face public pressure to do), Bloomberg’s Rebecca Greenfield notes that these investments probably won’t come in the form of across-the-board raises. For most workers, the 3 percent annual raise, which has been standard for five years, will likely remain the norm in 2018:

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Closing Tax Loophole May Not Move the Needle on CEO Pay

Closing Tax Loophole May Not Move the Needle on CEO Pay

In the 1993 federal budget, the administration of then-US President Bill Clinton created a rule that capped the tax deductibility of top executives’ compensation at $1 million, unless that compensation was “performance-based.” While Clinton had campaigned on the cap as a means of reducing the growth of CEO pay packages, the policy backfired and caused them to grow as companies shifted executive compensation into stock options and performance bonuses, taking advantage of the loophole.

The question of how to measure CEO performance for the purposes of calculating their paycheck (or whether to do so at all) has become a matter of significant debate, driven by the realization that it has not moderated the growth of pay among CEOs and other top-dollar members of the C-suite. The tax reform bills Republicans are currently trying to push through Congress propose to eliminate this loophole, which would raise $9.3 billion in tax revenue over a decade, but the Washington Post’s Jena McGregor points out that closing the loophole may not rein in the growth of executive pay packages just because creating it helped them grow:

Executive pay experts and activists said in interviews that companies are unlikely to severely limit the size of their CEOs’ compensation just because a big portion of it — the vast majority of those multimillion-dollar packages are paid in incentive-based pay — is no longer deductible. …

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Survey: Fewer Companies Giving Holiday Bonuses This Year

Survey: Fewer Companies Giving Holiday Bonuses This Year

The number of companies handing out holiday bonuses has taken a dive this year, Stephen Miller reports at SHRM, citing a new report:

The latest annual Holiday Bonus and Hiring Survey by Accounting Principals, a nationwide staffing firm for finance professionals, polled more than 500 HR or hiring managers across a range of industries about their holiday rewards. The survey, conducted from Aug. 25 through Sept. 6, showed that for the 2017 holiday season:

  • 63 percent of companies plan to give their employees a monetary holiday bonus—smaller amounts may be put on a gift card—which is down from 75 percent in 2016.
  • Those receiving a holiday bonus will see the average dollar amount rise by 66 percent to $1,797, up from $1,081 in 2016. The average holiday bonus in 2015 was $858.
  • 38 percent of companies are giving donations to charities selected by employees in lieu of an end-of-year bonus.

This is a notable reversal from last year’s trend, when the percentage of companies giving out monetary holiday bonuses grew from 67 to 75 percent and the growth in dollar amount was more modest. Miller interprets this year’s change as reflecting the impact of more companies shifting to variable pay plans, in which bonuses are based on individual as well as organizational performance and are usually paid out in the first quarter of the year rather than in December.

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Big Tech Lures AI Talent With Outsized Salaries

Big Tech Lures AI Talent With Outsized Salaries

At the New York Times on Sunday, Cade Metz, whose work on the AI talent market we’ve looked at before, wrote about what may be the key factor allowing tech giants to corner the market for AI talent—namely, salaries far above what smaller and less wealthy competitors could afford to pay:

Typical A.I. specialists, including both Ph.D.s fresh out of school and people with less education and just a few years of experience, can be paid from $300,000 to $500,000 a year or more in salary and company stock, according to nine people who work for major tech companies or have entertained job offers from them. All of them requested anonymity because they did not want to damage their professional prospects.

Well-known names in the A.I. field have received compensation in salary and shares in a company’s stock that total single- or double-digit millions over a four- or five-year period. And at some point they renew or negotiate a new contract, much like a professional athlete. … Salaries are spiraling so fast that some joke the tech industry needs a National Football League-style salary cap on A.I. specialists. “That would make things easier,” said Christopher Fernandez, one of Microsoft’s hiring managers. “A lot easier.”

The concentration of AI expertise in the hands of a few large, rich companies is a matter of concern because it runs the risk of shutting out not only smaller enterprises and startups, but also universities from hiring these cutting-edge technologists. If the academy is unable to compete for PhD holders in this field, that runs the risk of creating a shortage of professors to teach the next generation of AI specialists and conduct research in the public interest. Recognizing the transformative power of this technology, some tech leaders have talked about making AI innovations open and accessible rather than proprietary, while some AI experts are turning down industry jobs to work at universities or research institutes, but half-million-dollar salaries are hard to resist.

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5 Things Most Companies Don’t Realize About Pay Equity

5 Things Most Companies Don’t Realize About Pay Equity

Pay equity and pay gaps, especially the gender pay gap, have been drawing greater and greater attention in recent years, both among corporate leaders and in the media. As organizations ramp up their diversity and inclusion strategies, they are feeling a need to close these gaps to demonstrate that the organization is serious about not only hiring for diversity, but also ensuring that compensation is fair for women and minority employees.

However, the coverage of pay gaps in the popular press often misses key details about the problem that compensation leaders need to understand to face this challenge effectively. Here are five things you might not know about pay equity that will make a real difference in your ability to achieve it:

1) Pay Equity Actually Refers to Two Things

Pay equity issues in companies can come from two sources: group-to-group gaps and role-to-role gaps. These terms are often used interchangeably in the media, glossing over an important distinction between gaps among different groups of employees, where pay differences are based on something other than gender or race, and role-to-role gaps, where two employees are paid differently for doing the same job. In the first case, you may have women concentrated in lower-paying roles than men (such as female nurses and male doctors, or male principals and female teachers), which may reflect an unfair distribution of expectations and opportunities, but compensation executives can’t directly and immediately control for those factors (although they can collaborate more broadly to influence them). A role-to-role gender pay gap, on the other hand—male nurses earning more than female nurses—is something compensation leaders can and should address.

Both group-to-group and role-to-role gaps contribute to the pay equity problem as a whole, but it is important to recognize that your compensation strategy alone can’t solve them both.

2) The Problem Is Bigger Than It Looks

In the US, the gender pay gap is often reported at around 20 percent, meaning women earn about 80 cents for every dollar men earn (and women of color earn substantially less). At a large-scale global organization, CEB (now Gartner) research has found, the average gap is even wider: 27 percent. However, that doesn’t all reflect pay discrimination: 9 percent is attributable to choice of occupation; 6 percent to organizational factors like size, industry, or geography; and 5 percent to human capital factors like differences in education and experience.

The gap that remains unexplained is 7.4 percent, and that is the discrepancy that can be ascribed to no other factor than gender. This is the role-to-role gap—and that’s the part that rewards professionals can actually fix. HR owns this gap has an obligation to close it before it becomes a serious problem for the organization.

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