Media Releases

Salary Increases Stay Consistent with Recent Trends, as the Focus Remains on Variable Pay, according to Aon Hewitt

LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill., Sept. 1, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Aon Hewitt, the global human resource consulting and outsourcing business of Aon Corporation (NYSE:AON), today announced findings from its annual U.S. Salary Increase Survey. While there is projected to be a slight uptick in salary increases in 2012 compared to 2011, companies will continue to place the greatest focus on variable pay.

To view the multimedia assets associated with this release, please click

Aon Hewitt surveyed 1,494 large U.S. companies in June and July, which revealed a 2.9 percent base salary increase projection in 2012 for salaried exempt (employees who do not receive overtime pay), executives, salaried nonexempt (employees who receive overtime pay) and non-union hourly workers.  This is up slightly from 2011 for all groups – salaried exempt (2.7 percent), executive (2.8 percent), salaried nonexempt (2.8 percent) and non union hourly (2.7 percent), and more than a percentage point better than the record-low pay raises workers saw in 2009 (1.8 percent).

Historical U.S. Salary Increases




 2009 –
Record Low



2012 –










Salaried exempt








Salaried nonexempt








Nonunion hourly

















"Three percent is the new 4 percent, meaning we are not likely to be back to the 4 percent levels of the late 1990s any time soon," said Ken Abosch, Aon Hewitt's Compensation group leader.  "Employees should also keep in mind that despite employers anticipating increases, if current economic conditions continue, the 2012 projections may come in lower than anticipated."

Salary Freezes to Decrease Again

The number of companies freezing salaries is down for the second year in a row, and this trend is expected to continue into 2012.  In 2011, 5 percent of organizations froze salaries, compared to 21 percent in 2010 and nearly half (48 percent) in 2009. Approximately 4 percent of employers anticipate salary freezes in 2012.

Prevalence of Variable Pay Plans and Expected Increases in 2012

Variable pay plans, or performance-based award programs where the award must be earned each year, reached an all-time high in 2011, with 92 percent of employers implementing this type of program.  This is a significant increase compared to 2005, when just 78 percent of employers offered variable pay.

Economic pressures have had a slight impact on variable pay this year, as organizations had anticipated spending 11.8 percent of payroll on these programs for salaried exempt employees.  Instead, employers have earmarked 11.6 percent of payroll for variable pay this year.  Spending in 2012 is expected to dip slightly to 11.5 percent.

Aon Hewitt's survey also shows the majority (86 percent) of employers will fund variable pay based on company performance, though some are funding it through reduced merit increases and reductions in head count (5 percent each). Just 2 percent of companies are budgeting for variable pay through reduced spending on benefits, while only 1 percent are doing so through pay freezes.

"The growing use of variable pay, along with lower salary increases, represents the new normal in compensation practices for employers nationwide," explained Abosch. "This pay mix creates greater motivation for employees to be productive and greater flexibility for employers to compensate based on individual and company performance.  However, this does create a need for performance discussions throughout the year, so employees know what they are doing well and areas for improvement in order to maximize productivity and potential pay opportunity."

2012 Salary Increases by City and Industry

According to Aon Hewitt's survey, salaried exempt workers in some U.S. cities can expect to see salary increases higher than the national average in 2012. These cities include Detroit (4.0 percent), Dallas (3.4 percent), Chicago (3.0 percent), Houston (3.0 percent) and Milwaukee (3.0 percent). Cities that can expect lower-than-average increases in 2012 include Washington, D.C. (2.8 percent), New York (2.7 percent) and Philadelphia (2.7 percent).

The industries that can expect to see the highest salary increases in 2012 include, energy/oil/gas (3.6 percent), real estate (3.6 percent), construction/engineering (3.5 percent), telecommunications (3.2 percent) and not-for profit (3.2 percent). The lowest increases are projected to be in government (1.7 percent), building materials (2.5 percent), research/development (2.5 percent), rubbers/plastics/glass (2.6 percent) and education (2.6 percent).

For more information on these findings, attend a complimentary Aon Hewitt briefing by registering at

About Aon Hewitt

Aon Hewitt is the global leader in human resource consulting and outsourcing solutions.  The company partners with organizations to solve their most complex benefits, talent and related financial challenges, and improve business performance.  Aon Hewitt designs, implements, communicates and administers a wide range of human capital, retirement, investment management, health care, compensation and talent management strategies.  With more than 29,000 professionals in 90 countries, Aon Hewitt makes the world a better place to work for clients and their employees.  For more information on Aon Hewitt, please visit

About Aon

Aon Corporation (NYSE:AON) is the leading global provider of risk management services, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, and human capital solutions and outsourcing. Through its more than 59,000 colleagues worldwide, Aon unites to deliver distinctive client value via innovative and effective risk management and workforce productivity solutions. Aon's industry-leading global resources and technical expertise are delivered locally in over 120 countries. Named the world's best broker by Euromoney magazine's 2008, 2009 and 2010 Insurance Survey, Aon also ranked highest on Business Insurance's listing of the world's insurance brokers based on commercial retail, wholesale, reinsurance and personal lines brokerage revenues in 2008 and 2009. A.M. Best deemed Aon the number one insurance broker based on revenues in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and Aon was voted best insurance intermediary 2007-2010, best reinsurance intermediary 2006-2010, best captives manager 2009-2010, and best employee benefits consulting firm 2007-2009 by the readers of Business Insurance. Visit for more information on Aon and to learn about Aon's global partnership and shirt sponsorship with Manchester United.

Media Contacts:


Joe Micucci

Sarah Siewert






SOURCE Aon Corporation

Media Resources

Access international media contacts, the full library of Aon media releases, and a media kit with fact sheet and executive bios, via links below.

Media Contacts
Media Releases
Media Kit