Employers Still Hesitant To Put Compensation Info Online

July 8, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Corporate Web sites are no stranger to organizational mission statements and commercial history books, but employee compensation and benefit information represents the brave new world of electronic communication largely unexplored.

Publicly accessible Web sites have become almost universal, offered by 95% of companies, with another 84% responding to having an intranet for employees. Further, nearly half (46%) of firms offer internet access on the job to employees and an additional 30% say more than three-quarters of their employees have Internet/intranet access at the workplace – including through publicly available kiosks or community-access computers, according to the study of 676 WorldatWork members, conducted by WorldatWork and Buck Consultants.

But what are employees and the outside public, using the entrée to access? The most common content among public Web sites is corporate history (91%), followed closely by corporate vision/mission (88%). However, after that, the pickings are slim, with:

  • 55% – annual & quarterly reports; shareholder information
  • 52% – general employee benefits information
  • 48% – business goals, progress reports
  • 18% – compensation philosophy
  • 16% – organization charts
  • 14% – general base/incentive pay information.

Not surprisingly, the respondents overwhelmingly said they do not have plans to put those tidbits least represented on their site. Overall, 82% have no plans to make general base/incentive pay information available, followed by similar responses for organization charts (80%), and compensation philosophy (76%).

Much of this lack of content appears deeply rooted in the collective psyche of the corporate compensation department. “According to our members who work in the compensation, benefits and HR departments of some of America’s largest companies, organizations today seem to be using their Web sites and employee intranets only as a clearinghouse for information that is already publicly available,” said Anne Ruddy, CPCU, executive director of WorldatWork. “They’re not looking at these new electronic mediums of communication as opportunities to attract prospective employees and retain current employees by providing fundamental information about compensation and benefits.”

Also turning to the outside, 85%post job openings electronically, a number that accounts for 41% of all job postings. Organizations use commercial job boards (such as Monster, Hot Jobs or other local listing services), their own public web site, and the internal intranet almost interchangeably. However, in a trend becoming more evident, the vast majority (70%) post jobs internally before going external.

This is not surprising when the goals of the public Web sites and intranet are delved into. Respondents said the most important objectives of an organization’s online HR communication are to foster a better understanding of the organization, improve administrative efficiency, and reduce cost. Therefore, many organizations are turning first to their intranets before looking outside the organization.

By and large, employees have a better chance of finding more detailed information through their organization's intranet. Eighty percent of companies use their intranet to post general benefits information and 401(k) information. This is followed by other large showings for such information as:

  • 76% - links to benefits vendors
  • 70% - ability to make 401(k) plan changes
  • 69% - retirement planning information
  • 55% - links to other resources
  • 55% - employee online training
  • 48% - organizational performance goals.

Yet, even on the intranet, information regarding base pay, incentives or their compensation philosophy is scant. In fact, less than half (47%) provide personal benefits information, and even less communicate personal pay information, such as:

  • 40% - general base/incentive information
  • 39% - compensation philosophy
  • 31% - personal pay stub data
  • 22% - detailed base/incentive information.

Overall, the survey found that total rewards is simply still not total access. Only 16% of those polled currently offer statements electronically. Of those that do, the most common elements were base pay information and health and wellness information. However, change may be in the air, with 11% saying there are plans to them these statements available in the next 12 months and another 15% have plans further into the future for the electronic total rewards statement.

Further among those that do, eight in 10 provide base pay information and health and welfare benefits information on these statements. Slightly more than 60% provide information on other aspects of benefits including:

  • 69% - Flexible spending accounts
  • 69% - Paid time off
  • 67% - Retirement benefit to date
  • 66% - Retirement account match
  • 63% - Employee Assistance Program information.

Incentive pay also is included in 60% of responding organizations' total rewards statements. Offered much less frequently on total reward statements is information about stock/equity plans, retiree medical and employer-sponsored professional development.

Sixty-one percent of responding organizations provide an electronic means for managers to calculate merit pay increases and 43% provide electronic means for bonus pay calculations. Among those who do not currently have these tools, most are not planning to develop them.

More information can be obtained by contacting either Jeffrey Kros with WorldatWork at jkros@worldatwork.org or Ed Gadowski with Buck Consultants at egadowski@buckconsultants.com.