Future of pay and compensation: speaking the same language, paying in real time, making sense

We cannot talk about the future of work as it is today without mentioning the elephant in the room, an elephant that the current economic context is making bigger and bigger and that is essential in the pact that a company and the employee who joins it sign: the salary and pay.

And as with this entire series of articles, we’re going to sift through the various factors that are driving the future of work right now.

The pandemic

If there had only been the pandemic, it is not certain that this subject would have emerged with as much force, at least in countries like France where, even if everything has not been easy for everyone, short-time working has ensured that for most employees there has not been any financial distress.

The evolution of society and the economy

We keep hearing that society is evolving and that employees are looking for sense. Corporate rhetoric in the direction of greater social and environmental responsibility is now the norm, but from the outside, things are not changing. Employees themselves sometimes admit that they act against their convictions, and for a good reason: they are only going along with the way they are evaluated.

This is not new, but it is getting worse. At some point, we have to understand that the employee is a rational being whose behavior is dictated by the way he or she is evaluated, especially when this has an impact on his or her compensation. Compensation is a vector of meaning when it is used wisely.

But there is another subject that cannot be ignored.

Before the pandemic, even before the war in Ukraine, 25% of French people were unable to face an unexpected expense of 500 euros. With the impact, even moderate, of the pandemic and the infinitely stronger impact of the war, the situation will only get worse, even if it means becoming dramatic for some people.

I am quoting French figures here, but let us not forget that the French have a strong propensity to save. In other Western countries, the easy recourse to consumer credit has served to hide misery, but this will not last forever. The subprime crisis was a violent reminder of this, even if everyone seems to have forgotten it by now.

For the employee, two things must be taken into account.

The first is the gap that grows over time between their salary and the cost of living. Perhaps a part of the population does not realize it, which benefits from regular increases and sees its career advancing, but for many their purchasing power erodes every year by the amount of inflation.

In a very simple way there is an implicit misunderstanding on the subject. For the company, salary is a cost and costs must be kept under control. There are plenty of good reasons why you can’t give everyone a raise every year and I’m the first to aknowledge them. There are also bad ones.

However, when the employee signs, he does not buy a salary but a purchasing power. So if the salary does not evolve as fast as the cost of living, he loses out and the initial “contract” is in a way broken.

And as long as some talk about purchasing power and others about salaries, it will be difficult to have calm discussions on the subject.

The second issue is how the employee copes with these unexpected expenses, these end-of-month problems (which most often occur in the middle of the month) if the answer is not salary.

This is where the next factor comes in.


In everyday life, the digitalization of uses has made it easier than ever to use consumer credit to make ends meet. Less in France and in some countries where it is very regulated but the trend is still there.

Here we are talking about money that the employee has not yet earned, is loaned, and will have to pay back.

If one were to draw the line, one could, even if this is largely unrealistic, say that it would perhaps be healthier if the employee could just as easily ask for salary advances. A point of view that is only theoretical, a company is not a bank, would have great difficulty in financing this on a large scale, let alone bearing the risk. It is not its role.

However, there is another way: the deposit on salary. Unlike the advance, which is a loan that the employee must repay, the deposit is an anticipated payment of a salary due. For example, an employee who is paid 2000€ per month and who should receive his pay on the 31st of the month, is perfectly legitimate to ask for a 1000€ deposit on the 15th and the rest on the 31st. Unlike the advance, the company is obliged to pay up to 50% of the salary because it is a money that it owes to its employee because he has already provided the work for which the remuneration is the counterpart (the critics will say that it makes cash at the expense of its employees by paying at the end of the month). I am surprised that so few employees and companies are unaware of this mandatory nature.

So you see where I’m going with this: when the economic context is tense and the lack of a salary response means that cash flow is tense, the deposit on salary can be the lifeline for many employees. And if the economic context continues to deteriorate and inflation to gallop, I would not be surprised to see employees appropriating this mechanism at great speed.

With no way to say no, the goal for the company will be to manage this as efficiently as possible.

The technology

This is of course where technology comes in. You can imagine the administrative burden that comes with large-scale deposit management

You can blame the tech world all you want, it is unparalleled in providing a quick solution to an existing or future problem.

Today, the fintech world already offers companies and employees solutions to simplify the management of deposits on wages. Examples include Rosaly and Stairwage.

Others like Bling offer employees to advance them up to 100€ to deal with an unexpected event.

The transformation of service activities and knowledge work

This factor is totally inoperative here, especially since the services mentioned were initially created more for blue collar workers and other “frontline workers”.

Bottom line

Talking about pay and remuneration when talking about the future of work often makes people cringe because the subject is so sensitive, political, even taboo. In fact, there are two taboo subjects: pay and the content of work, the way it is conceived, organized and carried out.

This is a pity because one is central in the pact that binds the employee to the company and the second in the way the employee creates value.


There are four issues that companies will face.

The first is the adoption of a decent compensation policy, and I won’t go any further on this subject. Everyone has their own definition of “decent” in this respect, and there are a lot of factors specific to each company, to each country, which make it impossible to talk about the subject in general terms.

The second is a compensation policy in line with the new expectations of employees and, above all, with the rhetoric that has flourished since the pandemic.

The third is to finally be able to have a bias-free conversation with their employees and therefore speak the same language. The company speaks in terms of costs, the employee in terms of purchasing power and therefore it is difficult to get along. In an ideal world, it is up to each party to understand the other’s situation. In the real world, between the tensions on the labor market and what employees face and will face in their daily lives, it will be up to companies to make the transition. They boast about becoming “people centric”? This is an excellent way to prove it. Or else we accept to remain in a dialogue of the deaf which we know will lead to nothing. This does not mean that all problems will be solved, that would be too simple, just that both parties talk about the same thing. This is an essential prerequisite.

The fourth is to provide their employees with a means of coping with unforeseen events, which we imagine will become more and more numerous in the near future.

1Forces shaping the future of work in 2022
2The future of work is about…work and its future
3The future of work is not a promise or a dream
4The future of work is not a place or a time of day
5Future of pay and compensation: speaking the same language, paying in real time, making sense.
6The future of work: simple by nature, simple by obligation(coming soon)
7The future of work only the result is watched
8The future of work will rely on data and continuous improvement
9The future of work will be “agile by design”
10Management in the future of work: digital leadership and systemic approach to management
11In the future of work, engagement is measured in relation to the work, not the companny or the people
12Career management in the future of work: the art of adapting to the unpredictable
13In the future of work the employee experience is a background task, not a program
14The future of “care” at work: useful and productive
15The work of the future will be designed for humans
16The work of the future will be designed according to the “job to be done”
17The future of work will be automated with relevance
18In the future of work the mental load is the new workload
19The social link in the future of work: weaker, stronger
20The future of work will be digitally responsible
21But who is in charge of the future of work?

Image : future of compensation by HJBC via Shuttertock

Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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