How do I incentivize my US workforce?

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How do I incentivize my US workforce?

  • benefits, Employees, incentives, salary, US

incentivesAt our September 21 2016 “Incentivizing your US Workforce” event, kindly hosted by Mercer, we learned more about the differences between Denmark and US when it comes to setting up incentive programs. Speakers Claus Henriksen from Mercer, Graham Kavanagh from Maersk Line, and Jennifer Reilly from Radiometer gave us good advice on what think about when you employ staff in the US!

Firstly, Principal and Country Leader Talent Denmark in Mercer, Claus Henriksen, made some well-illustrated points about the differences between Danish and US incentive programs as well as remuneration mix as a function of job level and industry:

  • It’s quite different which value proposition elements are important to US employees and Danish employees! While employees from both countries value the base pay, US employees prioritize retirement savings or pension plans over the type of work – which is very importantto the Danish employees. Likewise, health care costs play a significantly larger role for US employees than for Danish employees, but when it comes to a flexible work schedule, it’s the other way around!
  • Therefore, when it comes to setting up a permanent US staff, it’s crucial to think from a birds-eye perspective. How do you want to position yourself as an employer? What’s most relevant for your company in terms of type of employees and their motivations? What benefits might you want to be known for?

  • Once established in US, another important factor is that the most valued elements of the “deal” differ according to the age of the employees. For example, opportunities for career advancement and a flexible work schedule are more important to workers under age 34.


Our second speaker, Maersk Line’s Global Head of Performance and Rewards, Graham Kavanagh, talked about his experiences and about what has worked for Maersk in the US market. When Maersk set up a permanent US staff, their approach was to conceptualize how potential employees see them vs other employers in each market, followed by these three steps:

  • Industry and Market Reviews: What is our talent market in each of our businesses? How do pay structures and levels differ in these markets? Does this vary significantly by geography? The conclusion was that some key differences do exist in both structures and levels of pay in Maersk’s talent markets.
  • Business Strategy and Workforce Planning: Are we able to attract, retain and motivate the people we need? Are these requirements going to change in the next 3-5 years? How does our pay approach support our business strategy? The conclusion was that the Maersk approach was generally successful, however with some more challenging areas.
  • Understanding Maersk’s culture and values: What is Maersk’s overall value proposition (by industry)? What values and mindset do we expect in our people? What is the performance culture in Maersk? The conclusion was that Maersk competes on total compensation and believes in pay for performance (to a point) as well as global alignment over local alignment. This works for Maersk, although it is different for some of their markets, and they need to strongly communicate why! 

Finally, VP Human Resources and Communications in Radiometer, Jennifer Reilly, shared her learnings on US executive compensation themes to be aware of:

  • Increased shareholder interest: Today, the main drivers for standardization in executive compensation are regulatory pressures and an increased shareholder interest in the topic. This has led to a much higher visibility and transparency of executive compensation, and the need to account for why you set rewards the way you do.
  • Changes in equity: The US is experiencing a movement away from option-based equity compensation towards restricted stock, although the split appears to be stabilizing.
  • closPay for performance: There’s also an increased focus on “pay for performance” with stronger links to company – and even individual – performance (including performance shares).
  • STI clarity: Furthermore, the demand for more line of sight in Short Term Incentive (STI) compensation design is increasing. The STI design should ideally tie back to your actual performance!
  • Internet (mis)information: A final theme is the challenges and opportunities that arise with the access to (sometimes questionable) online salary data. You should carefully consider how you navigate and whether you can really trust these numbers.

The final advice from our speakers at the event is to “button up and prepare to explain your terms before you send someone to the US!”

Participants have received the full presentations from the session. If you are a DABF member and would like this information, just let us know at!

See link to the event agenda here.