It looks like all the public pressure about executive compensation is actually making a difference. A compensation survey by Mercer, the employee benefits consulting company, indicates that 44 percent plan to freeze base pay in 2009. However, the 56 percent planning a base pay increase in 2009 will give executives a bigger raise than they give to other employees (3.5 percent vs. 3.2 percent). Also, interestingly, executives, as a group, are facing a 4.9 percent loss in compensation this year -- the only major employee group to see that size of a decline.

This is a one-year scenario, making me wonder if it is just window-dressing given the political climate. Probably. But I interviewed some executive headhunters for a story I'm writing for an Inquirer special section coming out later this month. Headhunters said that the declining compensation of executives is a factor discouraging seasoned pros from stepping in to lead public companies. However, it is not the main factor. Face it, these folks have plenty of money. They are more motivated by the opportunity to make a positive and significant impact -- something that is not as easy to do as it once was.