MRA’s CompTrends 2020 Focuses on Successful Compensations Strategies in Uncertain Times

September 30, 2020
Press Release
Compensation Planning
Read time: 4 mins


Media Contact: Kathryn Klopfer, Marketing Communications & PR Manager | 262.696.3426

MRA’s CompTrends 2020 Focuses on Successful Compensations Strategies in Uncertain Times

MILWAUKEE, WI (September 30, 2020) – MRA has released its CompTrends 2020 Survey Report. This survey is conducted each year to provide critical data to help companies with their strategic business planning. COVID has presented increased challenges, forcing organizations to make difficult decisions around salaries, pay practices, and total rewards strategies in 2020. With the changing landscape of compensation in the workplace, it has become more important than ever for businesses to find innovative ways to sustain their current workforce.

“Given all that has changed in our world because of the pandemic, I think most of us expect that drastic shifts are happening everywhere. It was, however, surprising to see that this year’s survey showed similar results as years past, which more than anything emphasizes the uncertainty of how this pandemic is affecting compensation strategies,” said Zach Day, MRA’s director, Surveys, Custom Research & Analytics.

This year’s compensation survey results show some optimism, with 57 percent responding that they anticipate a significant to slight increase in sales/revenue for 2021. While “uncertainty” was the common theme throughout survey responses, uncertainty often drives necessity. MRA recommends organizations use reliable employer-reported data to develop their strategies around compensation planning and total rewards best practices.

Key takeaways from MRA’s Compensation Trends 2020 survey:

  1. Despite business disruption due to the pandemic, the reality of 2020 is also reflected in the top three pay strategies organizations are implementing in an economic downtown. By and large many organizations had either implemented or remained committed to 2020 pay increases prior to COVID. Yet we still see quite a few companies that have and will delay pay increases into 2021.

Pay Strategies

Last 12 months

Next 12 Months
(% Yes)


Offered a variable pay program







No change is expected as focus on foundational compensation takes precedence to attract and retain talent.

Delayed pay increase





Good news is that nearly ¾ of organizations are planning to give rather than delay increases.

Reduced pay





2021 appears more positive, with 97% of organizations not planning to reduce pay.


  1. Future compensation strategies predict shifts toward financial conservation rather than a focus on recruitment and retention, like previous years. Organizations indicated that doing business in a pandemic has shifted priorities.

Employers are doing more of:

Employers are doing less of:

+9% Keeping an eye on the economic climate

-21% Adjusting individual pay or wage/salary structure

+6% Budget/expense control

-14% Attracting talent

Shows increase (+) or decrease (-) 2020 vs. 2019

  1. MRA’s latest Compensation Trends Survey shows projected pay increases remain relatively the same as years past at 2.2–3.0 percent pay increase, across all industry types. This shows a slight shift downward (0.3 percent) from 2019.

Deidre Garrett, MRA’s director of Total Rewards, suggested the annual pay increase will continue to evolve because of the pandemic. “The primary future focus for organizations will be to adjust their overall total rewards strategy to retain high-performing talent—this will be the new reality.”

One way MRA recommends to retain current talent is to continue to reward or recognize high-performing or high-potential employees. Of those surveyed, 66 percent reward these high performers with a larger base pay increase.


In these unprecedented times, uncertainty is the new normal, so organizations need to be flexible. Building a strong, equitable, and adaptable compensation program provides companies with agility and a competitive advantage. MRA recommends that the focus remain on leveraging the existing workforce in creative ways to fill gaps, recognizing individual performance, and ensuring fairness in pay decisions to drive business success.

For more information or to receive a copy of MRA’s Compensation Trends 2020 Survey contact Deidre Garrett, director of HR Services & Total Rewards, at MRA 262-696-3677.

About MRA—The Management Association: MRA is one of the largest nonprofit employer associations in the nation, providing resources to 4,000 businesses covering more than 1 million employees worldwide. MRA helps its members thrive by offering comprehensive HR services, talent management, learning and organization development opportunities, and total rewards planning. Headquartered in Waukesha, WI, MRA has regional offices in Palatine, IL; Moline, IL; and Plymouth, MN. To learn more about MRA, visit