What is Employee Compensation Structure
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What is the Compensation Structure?

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A compensation structure refers to the framework or plan that outlines how employees are paid for their work. It covers multiple components such as base salary, variable pay, and benefits, which together form an employee’s overall compensation package. The structure is designed to ensure fairness, consistency, and alignment between an organization’s goals and its employees’ performance and rewards. 

The structure takes into account factors such as industry standards, job roles and levels, geographic location, and individual performance to determine the appropriate combination of salary, bonuses, incentives, and benefits for each employee. 

A well-designed compensation structure not only helps attract and retain top talent but also motivates employees to perform at their best, thus contributing to the overall success of the organization.

What are the Main Components of a Compensation Structure?

Explore the main components of a holistic compensation structure and understand the significance of each element in the following sections.

Base Salary

The base salary is the consistent amount of money given to an employee for fulfilling their job responsibilities. It is usually determined by considering industry norms, job roles, qualifications, experience, and location. The base salary provides employees with financial stability and forms the foundation of their overall compensation package.

Variable Pay

Variable pay, also known as performance-based or incentive pay, is additional compensation that depends on individual or team performance. It can come in the form of bonuses, commissions, profit-sharing, or stock options. 

Variable pay not only motivates employees to excel but also connects their interests with the success of the company. It also rewards high achievers and fosters a culture of accomplishment and goal attainment.


Benefits are non-monetary advantages offered to employees in addition to their base pay. These can include health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off, educational assistance, wellness programs, employee discounts, and more. 

Benefits are designed to support employees’ overall well-being, improve work-life balance, and enhance job satisfaction. They are a crucial component of the total compensation package that adds value to the employees’ experience.

Equity Compensation

Equity compensation involves granting employees company ownership or stock options. This element is often used to align employees’ interests with the long-term success of the organization. This compensation serves as a valuable tool to attract and retain talented individuals since it allows employees to partake in the company’s growth and profitability.

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Factors Influencing Compensation Structure

A compensation structure is influenced by a multitude of factors as discussed below.

1. Job Roles and Responsibilities

In order to determine relevant compensation, the first thing to consider is the specific job role and responsibilities. Organizations categorize positions based on factors like experience, education, required skills, supervisory duties, and industry standards. Roles that require specialized skills or expertise often come with higher salaries, while entry-level positions may have more modest pay structures.

2. Market Conditions

Compensation structures are significantly influenced by market conditions. Companies consider factors such as the supply and demand for specific roles, industry trends, and geographic location when setting salaries. In a competitive job market where skilled professionals are in high demand, organizations may offer more attractive compensation packages to attract top talent.

3. Education and Experience

Education and experience are the most vital factors in determining compensation. Generally, employees with advanced degrees or certifications and relevant experience are more likely to receive higher salaries. These qualifications indicate a higher level of expertise, which organizations value and reward accordingly.

4. Internal Equity

Maintaining internal equity is a priority for organizations when it comes to compensation structures. This means that employees in similar roles with similar qualifications should receive comparable compensation. Internal equity promotes fairness, reduces the potential for grievances, and fosters a sense of equality among employees.

5. Performance and Merit

Performance and merit-based factors have a significant impact on compensation structures. Employees who consistently exceed expectations, achieve goals, and make significant contributions to the organization are often rewarded with bonuses, incentives, or pay raises. 

This link between individual performance and compensation motivates employees to strive for excellence.

6. Company’s Financial Health

The financial health of the organization also plays a role in determining compensation. When a company is financially stable and experiencing growth, it has more resources available to invest in employee compensation. 

On the other hand, during recessions or periods of financial instability, organizations may need to adjust their compensation structures to align with their financial situation.

7. Employee Retention

Retaining top talent is vital for organizational success, and compensation is a key factor in achieving this. 

To retain high-performing employees, organizations may offer bonuses, incentives, or salary increases as a way to recognize and appreciate their contributions. Compensation strategies focused on retention help reduce turnover, retain valuable knowledge, and maintain a skilled workforce.

Enabling On-point Execution of Compensation Plans

Tarmack understands the critical role that effective compensation structures play in attracting and retaining talented candidates. As an international recruitment and payroll management company, we help businesses implement compensation plans that align with their business goals and industry standards. 

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