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Aon Hewitt Survey Shows 2014 Salary Increases to Reach Highest Levels Since 2008

Despite Limited Budgets and Pressure to Contain Costs, Most Employers Continue Focus on Rewarding Top Talent

Aug 29, 2013

LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill., Aug. 29, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Research from Aon Hewitt, the global talent, retirement and health solutions business of Aon plc (NYSE: AON), reveals salary increases for U.S. workers in 2014 are expected to reach their highest levels in six years. Still, average increases are projected to remain modest, as employers strive to reserve the majority of their compensation budgets for merit increases and performance-based awards for high-performing workers.

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According to Aon Hewitt, salary increases have inched upwards year-over-year after reaching an all-time low of 1.8 percent in 2009. Aon Hewitt's 2013 U.S. Salary Increase Survey of 1,147 companies found that salaried exempt workers are projected to see base pay rise 3.0 percent in 2014, up slightly from 2.9 percent in 2013. This is the highest level since 2008, when salary increases were at 3.7 percent for salaried exempt employees.

"While it appears that pay levels are slowly rebounding, we're still far below pre-recessionary levels of compensation spending as companies continue to hold the line on fixed costs," said Ken Abosch, compensation, strategy and market development leader at Aon Hewitt. "Salaries represent the largest portion of employer costs today. With a sizable talent pool available and increasing global competition for goods and services, companies aren't feeling tremendous pressures to increase base pay to attract top talent. Instead, they are executing on a pay-for-performance vision that rewards employees based on a mix of business and individual results." 

Aon Hewitt Salary Increase Survey: Historical U.S. Salary Increases 


2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014 (projected)

Executive

3.9%

1.4%

2.4%

2.8%

2.9%

2.9%

3.0%

Salaried Exempt

3.7%

1.8%

2.4%

2.7%

2.8%

2.9%

3.0%

Salaried Nonexempt

3.7%

1.9%

2.4%

2.8%

2.7%

2.8%

3.0%

Nonunion Hourly

3.6%

2.0%

2.4%

2.7%

2.7%

2.7%

2.9%

Union

3.4%

2.2%

2.5%

2.6%

2.5%

2.6%

2.6%

Rewarding Top Performers
Aon Hewitt's survey shows employers would like to allocate a majority of their salary increase budgets towards high-performing workers. In 2013, top performing workers saw average increases of 4.7 percent, almost two times the amount the average worker (those who met expectations) received at 2.6 percent. Employees who did not meet expectations received average increases between 0.2 percent and 0.9 percent.

"With conservative budgets and increasing pressure to attract and retain the best talent, companies are still being overly generous towards workers who are underperforming," noted Abosch. "We think this often undermines the effectiveness of their pay-for-performance messaging by watering everyone's increases down. Instead of rewarding low-performers, organizations should reallocate that money towards those who have helped achieve strong results." 

Performance-Based Awards
According to Aon Hewitt's survey, an increasing number of companies continue to use broad-based variable pay programs— or performance-based awards that must be re-earned each year— as a way to reward top-performing workers.

Ninety percent of companies offer a broad-based variable play plan and expect to spend 12.0 percent of payroll on variable pay for salaried exempt employees in 2014. This is up significantly from a decade ago, when just 78 percent of companies offered a variable pay program, with an average increase of 9.5 percent of payroll.

"We've seen a dramatic shift in the mix of compensation over the past decade, with variable pay assuming the largest component of compensation growth," added Abosch. "Performance-based awards are attractive to employers because they tie employee compensation to business results and help give them more control over their costs. There is also a tremendous upside for employees—particularly those who are high-performing workers — because they have the opportunity to be rewarded for exceeding their goals. Regardless of economic conditions, variable pay programs will continue to be the primary way employers differentiate rewards in the future."

Aon Hewitt Salary Increase Survey: Spending on Variable Pay as a Percent of Payroll


2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014 (projected)

Salaried Exempt

10.8%

12.0%

11.3%

11.6%

12.0%

12.0%

12.0%

Salaried Nonexempt

5.7%

6.5%

6.0%

6.3%

6.2%

6.0%

6.0%

Nonunion Hourly

5.0%

5.8%

5.3%

5.2%

6.0%

5.4%

5.5%

Union

5.9%

6.6%

4.6%

5.0%

4.9%

4.8%

4.1%

Salary Increases by City
According to Aon Hewitt's survey, workers in some U.S. cities can expect to see salary increases higher than the national average in 2014. These cities include Kansas City (3.2 percent) and Denver (3.2 percent). Cities that can expect lower-than-average increases in 2014 include Boston (2.8 percent) and New York (2.8 percent).

Salary Increases by Industry
The industries that can expect to see the highest salary increases in 2014 include energy/oil/gas (3.9 percent); construction/engineering (3.5 percent); and mining/milling/smelting (3.3 percent). The lowest increases are projected to be in education (2.6 percent); health care/medical services (2.5 percent); and government (2.2 percent).

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About Aon Hewitt
Aon Hewitt empowers organizations and individuals to secure a better future through innovative talent, retirement and health solutions. We advise, design and execute a wide range of solutions that enable clients to cultivate talent to drive organizational and personal performance and growth, navigate retirement risk while providing new levels of financial security, and redefine health solutions for greater choice, affordability and wellness.  Aon Hewitt is the global leader in human resource solutions, with over 30,000 professionals in 90 countries serving more than 20,000 clients worldwide.  For more information on Aon Hewitt, please visit www.aonhewitt.com.

About Aon
Aon plc (NYSE: AON) is the leading global provider of risk management, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, and human resources solutions and outsourcing services. Through its more than 65,000 colleagues worldwide, Aon unites to empower results for clients in over 120 countries via innovative and effective risk and people solutions and through industry-leading global resources and technical expertise. Aon has been named repeatedly as the world's best broker, best insurance intermediary, reinsurance intermediary, captives manager and best employee benefits consulting firm by multiple industry sources. Visit www.aon.com for more information on Aon and www.aon.com/manchesterunited to learn about Aon's global partnership and shirt sponsorship with Manchester United.

Media Contacts:
Amy Ochalski, 847-771-4225, amy.ochalski@aonhewitt.com
Maurissa Kanter, 847-442-0952, maurissa.kanter@aonhewitt.com

SOURCE Aon plc



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