What Is Salary Compression? What Can You Do About It?

“If you don’t address salary compression, you will have disengaged employees who may not be performing at their best.” – Jeff Weiner, former CEO of LinkedIn

What is salary compression?

Salary compression, often referred to as wage compression, is a phenomenon that happens when there is little distinction in pay between employees at various levels within an organisation.

This circumstance can occur when the beginning pay for new hires is substantially raised but the pay for current employees is not adjusted. Salary compression results as a result of the narrowing of the wage difference between inexperienced and experienced workers.

Wage compression is a problem that is becoming more and more prevalent in businesses all over the world, and it can have major repercussions for both employers and employees. Experienced workers’ motivation and morale may suffer when a business pays new hires more than it pays existing employees without making comparable salary adjustments. High turnover rates, decreased production, and a detrimental effect on the general effectiveness of the company can follow from this.

The failure of businesses to adapt compensation for inflation or cost of living rises is one of the main causes of salary compression. Organisations may find it difficult to maintain competitive compensation for their employees when the cost of living continues to climb. Because new hires are frequently given salaries that are higher than those of existing employees, resulting in a narrowing of the pay range, this can result in compensation compression.

Organisations should examine their compensation data to see whether there is a notable pay gap between employees at various organisational levels in order to identify wage compression. Salary compression may be a problem if the pay differential is small or if new hires are being paid much more than existing workers.

Salary compression calls for a multifaceted strategy to be addressed. To make sure that remuneration is in line with industry norms and cost of living increases, organisations should perform regular salary evaluations. Organizations can also think about creating merit-based pay systems, in which workers are compensated for their accomplishments and experience. Ensuring that seasoned workers are adequately compensated for their services to the company, can help minimise salary compression. In general, addressing salary compression can contribute to the development of a more motivated and equal workforce, which can enhance organisational performance.

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What causes wage compression?

Employers should monitor market changes, implement fair and transparent compensation plans, and conduct regular salary reviews to ensure that current employee salaries remain competitive. Dealing with pay cuts is critical if you want to keep a motivated and productive team, as it can negatively impact employee morale and retention. Salaries depend on many factors, such as

Tight labor market:

Employers might raise starting pay to entice new talent in a competitive labor market with a high demand for competent workers. Because they might not see the same amount of compensation increase, experienced workers may experience income compression as a result.

Economic downturns:

Companies may have to cut expenses during economic downturns, freeze salaries, or reduce bonuses. Salary compression may result if existing employees’ pay stays flat while new hires continue to get competitive market rates.

Salary inversion:

When new hires are paid more than more seasoned workers performing similar duties, this is known as salary inversion. This may occur if market rates change as a result of changes in industry demand, which would result in a pay gap between new hires and current workers.

Market rates:

Salary compression may also be influenced by changes in market rates. For instance, new hires might be given greater salaries if market rates for particular abilities or jobs rise, but old employees might not get pay increases.

How to identify salary compression

Employers must identify salary compression inside their organisations and take action to maintain a competitive compensation policy. Salary compression can be detected in a number of ways, including:

  1. Monitoring market rates: If there is a pay gap between what new workers are offered and what current employees are paid, keeping track of market rates for comparable roles within the industry might help.
  2. Economic downturns: Employers may be forced to freeze salaries or cut bonuses during economic downturns. If existing employees’ compensation remains unchanged while new hires continue to receive competitive market rates, this may result in salary compression.
  3. Reviewing compensation strategy: If there are any discrepancies or unfairnesses in the organisation’s pay structure, reviewing the compensation strategy can help.
  4. Underpaid employees: When wages fall short of industry norms, workers may feel underappreciated and lose motivation. Regular compensation surveys can help reveal whether employees receive pay below market values.

To keep an engaged and effective workforce, employers must confront compensation compression. This can be accomplished by periodically assessing compensation and making changes to keep them in line with industry norms. Furthermore, putting in place a fair and open compensation plan can assist in avoiding salary constriction and fostering a healthy workplace environment.

What to do about salary compression?

Addressing pay compression is a crucial component of maintaining an engaged and retained workforce. It can lead to resentment and irritation when experienced staff are paid less than newly hired employees, which can lower productivity and increase turnover rates. Businesses can handle compensation compression in a number of ways, including by creating a clear salary structure with pay gradations based on experience and job duties. By doing this, employers may guarantee that employees are paid consistently and fairly in line with their qualifications and job obligations.

Regular compensation reviews and adjustments are also essential for addressing salary compression. Employers should monitor market rates and adjust employee compensation to reflect productivity, skill advancement, and performance. Making the best wage increment decisions might also benefit from taking into consideration each employee’s distinctive contributions. Employers should take an employee’s skills, experience, and performance into account when determining their worth to the organisation and how much they should be paid.

The elimination of salary disparities is a vital component of the fight against income compression. Companies can aid low-skilled workers in advancing in their careers by providing opportunities for training and development. Employers may also offer hourly wage increases based on productivity or skill development in order to promote a fair and competitive compensation structure.

To create a fair and competitive workforce, employers should adopt clear pay structures, regular pay increases, and proactive measures to close pay gaps to promote a healthy work culture and employee morale. It should promote satisfaction. You can create a reward system. The result is greater representation, engagement, and inspiration, which increases efficiency and overall organizational performance.

How Do You Handle Pay Compression?

How to deal with Pay Compression?

Identify Pay Compression

  • Perform a pay evaluation
  • Determine which employees have had their salary compressed.
  • Analyse the organisation’s impact of pay compression.

Establish a Compensation Plan

  • Create a thorough compensation strategy
  • Determine fair pay scales for various employment levels.
  • Employ consistent, unbiased standards to determine salary.

Address Individual Cases of Pay Compression

  • Analyse jobs in the impacted positions.
  • Rephrase the demands and obligations of the position.
  • Pay must be adjusted for each instance of pay compression.

Promote Employee Development

  • Provide opportunities for training and growth
  • Motivate your staff to further their education
  • Offer chances for career progression

Communicate Effectively

  • Employees should be informed about the pay structure.
  • Address the issue of pay compression with the workforce
  • Inform staff members of any salary adjustments.

Monitor and Evaluate the Compensation Plan

  • Keep an eye on the compensation plan’s effectiveness.
  • Test the level of employee satisfaction with their wages and benefits.
  • As necessary, modify the compensation strategy

Salary compression is a big problem for companies, but it can be solved with the help of a thorough compensation strategy, individual case changes, employee development, good communication and continuous monitoring and review. These actions help companies increase employee satisfaction and retention while remaining competitive in the job market.

Insights You Need to Get It Right

Wage compression is a problem that can interfere with a company’s capacity to recruit, keep, and inspire workers. This problem appears when there is little to no compensation disparity among employees with various levels of education, training, and experience. When workers believe their efforts and accomplishments are not being appropriately recognised, it can be demotivating.

Addressing the issue of salary compression is crucial for HR professionals. The reasons why include the following:

  1. Employee Retention: If high-performing employees feel unappreciated or underpaid, they may look for work elsewhere. Salary compression needs to be addressed in order to keep talented workers and cut the expense of hiring and training new ones.
  2. Morale and Commitment: Employees who feel that their efforts and achievements are not recognised can become unmotivated and apathetic. Dealing with pay cuts improves employee morale and engagement, resulting in increased productivity and performance.
  3. Market Competitiveness: Organizations that do not address salary cuts may struggle to attract new talent. By implementing comprehensive compensation plans and addressing wage compression, companies can be competitive in the job market.
  4.  Legal compliance: Failure to comply with pay compression can lead to legal issues as it can be considered a form of discrimination. Human Resources personnel are responsible for ensuring that their organisation’s payroll practices comply with relevant laws and regulations.
  5. Reputation: Organisations known for fair and equitable wage practices may attract positive attention from potential employees, customers and investors. Dealing with pay cuts can help improve an organisation’s reputation and brand.


In conclusion, if businesses want to keep their workers happy and devoted, they must address salary compression. Businesses must have a clear compensation strategy that considers factors including productivity levels, skill demand, and higher-skilled workers, as well as a fair and open remuneration Compensation philosophy. In order to preserve salary competitiveness, salary ranges must be frequently reviewed as per current market rates and modified in light of signals of salary compression and external market developments.

Companies can combat salary compression by providing a combination of base pay and equity adjustments, as well as by establishing broad pay gradations that promote upward mobility and equal pay for all workers. Employee motivation, morale, and retention may all suffer from a lack of a pay strategy. If salary compression issues are not resolved, it may be difficult to recruit and keep qualified candidates.

Employers should foster an environment that encourages fair remuneration and a content workforce by being proactive in identifying and resolving compression salary issues. In the end, organisations must address salary compression if they are to meet their business goals and maintain their competitiveness.

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