Human Capital & Careers

Raises? Get Out The Microscope

Yet another survey confirms that pay raises won't be much next next year -- but should outpace inflation. Plus: Miracle Gro for profits?
Lisa YoonDecember 11, 2002

In case you missed the news from the other two salary surveys released this week, The Conference Board wants you to hear it from them, too: Raises are going to stink next year.

In yet another report on salary-increase budgets for 2003, planned pay increases for next year are getting trimmed from earlier projections, according to a survey of 75 companies from the business-information group. (See yesterday’s Today in Finance for a summary of similar salary surveys from Buck Consultants and Deloitte & Touche)

While the outlook for hourly workers is unchanged, 2003 pay plans will be lower than planned for all levels of salaried employees. Latest survey results put most salary increases next year in the range of 3.6 to 3.8 percent. Earlier this year, the same group of employers said they planned to raise salaries in 2003 by 4 percent.

In a statement, Conference Board compensation specialist Charles Peck attributed the lowered raises to the threat of war, stock market volatility, and profit worries.

For non-salary pay plans, 30 companies anticipated higher bonuses at 2002 year end than were paid in the prior year. Twenty-three said bonuses would be lower than 200l, and 15 foresaw no substantial change.

In addition, stock options have become less attractive to some companies. For 2002, 19 companies said grants were smaller than the previous year. Twelve said they were larger than in 2001, and 32 indicated no change. Several companies reported shifting to restricted stock grants instead of options or moving away stock plans generally in favor of cash incentives.

Some companies have gone even further on the pay-and-benefits front in reaction to the economy: delayed merit increases and elimination of vacation carryovers. One company in the survey instituted a voluntary unpaid time-off program.

It seems the one good thing The Conference Board has to report is that despite lower raises, most workers will still come out ahead of inflation by less than one percent: The group currently projects inflation to rise by three percent in 2003.

Balm for the Economy: Bush or Bush?

OK, so President Bush insists his soon-to-be-announced fiscal policy is the tonic for what currently ails U.S. corporates, particularly the severe lack of capital spending. But according to one group, it may be a better idea to buy plants than build them.

Indeed, Plants at Work, an information campaign dedicated to spreading the word on the benefits of plants in the workplace, insists that plants help boost corporate America’s financial efficiency.

For instance, an adequate installation of interior plants in a modern, sealed office structure could save U.S. companies billions just by improving indoor air quality (IAQ). The group cites a study by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that found that companies could save, in total, as much as $58 billion annually by preventing sick-building illnesses, and an additional $200 billion in improved worker performance by improving IAQ in offices.

Further, 40 percent of all sick days are IAQ-related, according to the Berkeley study. Others have also shown that interior plants can reduce airborne molds in sealed office environments by as much as 50 percent, improving IAQ substantially.

Moreover, says Plants at Work, exposure plants has been shown to mitigate stress, improve productivity (by 12 percent), and decrease aggressive behavior in the workplace.

Other ways plants are corporate Americaís friends: they improve tenant occupancy and retention (by 17 percent, according to one study PaW cited) and lower heating and cooling costs by as much as 20 percent. They also look nice.