Variable Pay: Improving Performance with Variable Pay (C12/GR6)

Master Variable Pay Plans that Support Your Organization’s Business Objectives

Variable pay compensation can improve employee motivation and performance along with positively impacting your organization’s goals for profitability and productivity. This course will teach you the fundamentals of variable pay with a focus on compensation strategy. 

In this course you will cover: 

  • Identifying common business strategies and objectives for achieving them.
  • Aligning variable pay programs with business strategy.
  • The three categories of variable pay.
  • Examining internal and external factors affecting variable pay plans.
  • The activities for designing variable pay compensation strategy, including funding and distributing plan earnings.
  • How to implement, communicate and evaluate the success of variable pay compensation and benefits plans. 

This course is ideal for the human resources professional responsible for designing, assessing and maintaining variable pay plans.

In the course, you’ll learn the fundamentals of variable pay programs, including: 

  • Supporting the Business Objective through Variable Pay
    Learn about the elements of compensation, business strategy and how that drives business objectives, the business lifecycle and how variable pay helps achieve business objectives.

  • Types of Variable Pay
    Dive into the three categories of variable pay programs, including Incentive plans, bonus plans and recognition plans:
    • Incentive plans covers short-term incentive plans, including profit-sharing, performance-sharing and individual performance-based plans.
    • Long-term incentive plans covers equity- and non-equity based plans.
    • For bonus plans, learn about referral bonus, hiring (sign-on) bonus, retention (stay) bonus and project completion bonus.
    • For recognition plans, understand spot awards, managerial recognition, nominations and organization-wide recognition.
  • Developing a Variable Pay Plan: Phases 1 and 2
    In Phase 1, discover internal and external factors impacting variable pay plans, how to obtain management support and identify a variable pay design team. In Phase 2, learn about plan objectives and plan types, how to define eligibility and select performance measures.

  • Developing a Variable Pay Plan: Phases 3
    In Phase 3, you’ll learn about funding and distribution by determining performance targets and payouts, funding the variable pay plan, distributing plan earnings and obtaining final approval.

  • Implementation and Evaluation
    Bring your learning together with this final unit on how to implement the variable pay program including selecting the implementation team, developing the communication plan, introducing the plan and coordinating the plans administration. You will also learn how to evaluate the plan’s effectiveness, why variable pay plans fail and potential evaluation outcomes.

Variable pay plans support and impact your organization’s business goals and objectives. Understanding this form of compensation strategy is an essential skill for today’s HR compensation professional. This course will empower you with the knowledge you need to design, implement and evaluate variable pay plans. 

Ready to get started? 

This course is available in a variety of formats, including online, self-study and in-person. 

Find a class format that works for you and register today.

Learning Options


On-site instructor-led delivery of course materials with the added value of face-to-face interaction with a subject-matter expert and peers.

Course and Certification Exam

Members: $1,495 USD

$2,200 USD

Course Only

Members: $1,390 USD

$2,085 USD

Virtual Classroom

Live online instructor-led delivery of course materials including real-time interaction with a subject-matter expert and peers — no travel required!

Course and Certification Exam

Members: $1,450 USD

$2,150 USD

Course Only

Members: $1,230 USD

$1,830 USD


Self-paced online learning with access to pre-recorded course modules delivered by an instructor.

Print Option
60-Day Access
(course materials shipped within 7 business days)

Member: $1,350 USD

$1,880 USD

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Green Option
60-Day Access
(e-course materials available online immediately)

Member: $1,285 USD

$1,780 USD

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Please note: 60-day access to e-course material starts immediately on the day of purchase. Purchase includes course materials and exam.

Self Study

Independent learning with access to printed course materials and exam option.

Course Materials and Certification Exam

Members: $1,275 USD

$1,780 USD

Add to Cart
Certification Exam Only

Members: $875 USD

$1,130 USD

Add to Cart

Course Credits & Certifications

  • Recertification

    Course: 2 credits

    Exam: 0.5 credits

  • CEUs

    Course: 1.5 credits

    Exam: 0.3 credits

  • HRCI Recertification

    16 classroom hours

  • SHRM Recertification
    16 classroom hours

More Information

Who Should Register

This course is designed for HR professionals responsible for designing, assessing or maintaining variable pay programs.

How to Register

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