Companies in North America and Europe plan to give more employees an equity stake in their businesses to help retain talent amid a pandemic-induced "Great Resignation", a survey showed on Wednesday.
Global Equity Organization (GEO), a not-for-profit body tracking global share plans and executive compensation, said 25% of North American companies and 22% of European firms surveyed said they would make more share grants in the future as part of their long-term incentive programmes (LTIs).
The global survey of 181 companies across 10 industries - including in technology, industrial and financial services - comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted more employees to quit their jobs and rethink their work-life balance.
As concerns about wealth inequality grow amid an energy crunch and cost of living crisis, sharing profits could also have a positive impact on wider society. "By granting condition-linked shares to more employees as part of an LTI, companies are... supporting potential wealth creation for the longer term and helping to stop some workers living from paycheck to paycheck," said Danyle Anderson, chief executive at GEO.
"If this trend continues beyond the immediate future, the pandemic will have helped to lay the foundations of a more sustainable and equitable compensation system than during the whole of the last forty years," Anderson said. Of the companies surveyed, 50 shared their budget for long-term incentive plans, worth a combined $6.6 billion.
Despite the increased largesse, many companies said they were also paying close attention to where staff carried out their work and could use the information to change worker pay. Of the 119 companies that responded to a question about whether they had electronically tracked employees' work locations during the pandemic, 42% said they had done so, mostly to ensure tax compliance, as many staff left the city for the countryside or to move closer to their families.
Of the companies to track workers' locations, 9% also said they had adjusted staff pay accordingly, particularly in cases where they were working from another state or country. "The message for workers is: by all means temporarily leave the place you work, but don't necessarily expect to take your original compensation package with you if you are planning to permanently live outside your region or area," said Sheila Frierson, president employee share plans for North America at Computershare and one of the survey’s sponsors.