In today’s competitive employment landscape, attracting and retaining skilled employees is a challenge. Qualified candidates often receive enticing offers from multiple companies. What’s more, you never know when your top performers are being scouted by recruiters.
According to the research, companies must provide competitive pay if they want to secure job candidates’ employment and long-term loyalty—70% of surveyed employees claim that compensation is their leading motivation for switching jobs.1 However, offering a competitive compensation package isn’t as simple as boosting your employees’ base pay. You also need to strike the right balance between direct compensation vs indirect compensation.
So, what’s the difference between direct vs. indirect compensation? Below, we’ll explore their key differences and explain their impacts on employee satisfaction.
What is Direct Compensation?
Direct compensation is the money you exchange for your employees’ contributions. It includes the following forms of payment:
- Hourly wages – If you pay your workers hourly, their wage is the core component of their direct compensation. Hourly workers are often eager to compare potential employers’ hourly wage offerings before selecting a position.
- Salary – While some workers may earn an hourly wage as their primary form of direct compensation, others may earn a monthly or annual salary instead. A base salary is a fixed amount of money an employee earns, regardless of the number of hours it takes to fulfill their work responsibilities.
- Overtime pay – A worker’s hourly wage applies to their standard work hours. If they work beyond those hours, they may be legally entitled to overtime pay, which is calculated using an elevated hourly rate. Overtime laws vary notably from one country to the next. Many countries provide an overtime rate of one-and-a-half times an employee’s regular rate if they work more than 40 hours a week.2
- Commission – Sales employees often earn a commission in place of an hourly wage or salary. It bases earnings on the number of sales or revenue they generate for the company. This style of compensation can motivate sales employees to contribute their best work.
- Bonuses – Bonuses are extra payments given to employees to reward their exceptional performance, high-quality referrals, or decision to accept a job offer with the company. Many companies may also provide bonuses around the holiday season to demonstrate their gratitude to their employees.
As you can see, direct compensation always involves an exchange of money. Employees can use this money to pay for their living expenses, enhance their lifestyle, and save for the future. In turn, it’s a crucial component of overall employee compensation.
The Value of Direct Compensation
Companies that can provide lucrative direct compensation tend to win over and retain the most qualified job applicants. Additionally, their workers generally exhibit higher levels of engagement, retention, satisfaction, and productivity.
Here are some statistics that display the positive correlation between direct compensation and employee satisfaction:
- Over 80% of surveyed workers report being more productive, satisfied, and loyal when receiving fair pay.3
- 56% of employees say that higher pay is their leading reason for searching for a new job.4
- Nearly half of employees would switch jobs to obtain a 5% pay raise.4
What is Indirect Compensation?
Indirect compensation encompasses a wide variety of non-monetary perks. While some of these employment benefits may have financial value, they don’t involve a direct exchange of money.
Some common examples of indirect compensation are as follows:
- Health insurance – Many countries have nationalized healthcare, but some still rely heavily on private sector health insurance to ensure affordable, out-of-pocket medical care. The United States, South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, and Iran are just a few examples.5
In the U.S., 46% of workers say that health insurance is a highly influential factor when choosing a job.6 By offering your employees comprehensive health insurance, you may catch the attention of more job applicants and assure them that you care about their health and well-being.
- Other types of insurance – In addition to health insurance, many workers appreciate jobs that provide life insurance, liability insurance, accident insurance, disability insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, or dental and vision insurance. In some cases, these insurance policies may be legally required. For example, over 136 countries mandate employers to provide workers’ compensation insurance.7 These policies cover qualified injuries and illnesses that employees incur on the job.
- Childcare assistance – Parents often struggle to find affordable childcare, forcing a portion of them out of the workforce. A British survey of 27,000 parents discovered that childcare costs have led 43% of working moms to consider leaving their jobs and 40% to work fewer hours.8 By offering benefits that ease these financial burdens, such as on-site childcare, paid parental leave, or flexible work arrangements, you can retain more parents and enhance your company’s gender diversity.
- Tuition reimbursements – Many workers want to advance their education and subsequent career prospects. However, expensive tuition costs often stand in their way. You can win these ambitious job seekers' employment and long-lasting loyalty by featuring tuition reimbursement plans or tuition assistance in your indirect compensation packages.
- Retirement plans – Many workers want to save money for a comfortable retirement. Unfortunately, only 27% of retirees feel confident in their ability to live comfortably.9 Employers can put their workers on a path toward a comfortable retirement by offering robust retirement plans. In many countries, pensions are widely available. These retirement plans enable employees to receive payments from their employers throughout their retirement. Employers are responsible for managing the investment of their employees’ pension funds. Some countries have compulsory pension systems, while others leave pension plans up to employers’ discretion. Israel, Australia, Sweden, and Canada are just a few countries known for their robust pension systems.10
- Paid time off (PTO) – The vast majority (94%) of employees believe that a healthy work-life balance is important, and this sentiment has only increased since the pandemic.11 PTO can enhance employees’ work-life balance by giving them time off from work without reducing their earnings. Employees can use PTO to care for family members, recover from illnesses, engage in hobbies, or spend time with loved ones. The more PTO you provide, the more attractive your indirect compensation package will be.
- Equity and stock options – Equity packages give employees partial ownership of their company. This ownership can boost their commitment to their company’s success. Stock options operate similarly—they give employees the right to purchase a set number of stock shares at a pre-set price. Since companies’ value can increase significantly over time, equity and stock options may be an enticing benefit for future-focused employees.
- Flexible schedules – These days, the majority of workers (98%) around the world prefer to work remotely at least some of the time.12 Remote and hybrid employees appreciate the enhanced flexibility of forgoing daily commutes and working from the comfort of their own homes. By improving their work-life balance, these flexible schedules enhance job satisfaction and employee retention.13
- Company technology – Organizations that allow their employees to work from home may want to provide them with company cell phones, tablets, laptops, or computer monitors. Doing so can ensure employees have the tools they need to work efficiently without having to pay for them out of pocket. What’s more, keeping personal and business equipment separate can bolster employees’ work-life balance.
- Wellness programs – From gym memberships to mindfulness workshops to on-site counseling services, wellness programs can enhance your employees’ health, well-being, and job satisfaction. In turn, investing in them can decrease your turnover rate and keep coveted job candidates on your team.
In summary, indirect compensation can take many forms. So, why is indirect compensation important to recruiting and retaining employees? No matter the type, all indirect compensation aims to make employees feel valued, supported, and taken care of. In turn, the right suite of indirect compensation perks can boost employee morale, motivation, and retention.