More than three-quarters of companies that froze their pay over the last 18 months have lifted their pay freezes or intend to do so by the end of 2010, according to a survey of some 200 organizations.

A report on the poll, “Compensation Planning for 2011,” conducted by Buck Consultants, a subsidiary of Xerox, showed that 76 percent of those firms surveyed have or will lift pay freezes before the end of the year and that about 80 percent of workers can expect modest pay increases of 2.8 percent in 2011.

However, just 57 percent of executives should expect a pay raise in 2011.

“Employees shouldn’t expect big gains in pay until there is a sustained economic recovery and significant improvement in the unemployment rate,” said Buck Consultants principal Tom Burke. “In fact, employers may revert back to pay freezes if economic stability and sustained growth do not occur.” Bonus payments and bonus participation are also on the rise. Payments for 2010 performance for executives, directors, managers and other exempt employees are expected to exceed bonuses paid for 2009 performance.

Participating companies were also polled on their strategies for retaining top performers. They were, in order: new career development opportunities (34 percent), market pay adjustments (27 percent), increased non-cash recognition (19 percent), larger bonus opportunities (13 percent), additional company stock (12 percent), and retention bonuses (12 percent).

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