We describe and use two theoretical frameworks, the resource-based view of the firm and institutional theory, as lenses for examining three promising areas of compensation research. First, we examine the nature of the relationship between pay and effectiveness. Does pay typically have a main effect or, instead, does the relationship depend on other human resource activities and organization characteristics? If the latter is true, then there are synergies between pay and these other factors and thus, conclusions drawn from main effects models may be misleading. Second, we discuss a relatively neglected issue in pay research, the concept of risk as it applies to investments in pay programs. Although firms and researchers tend to focus on expected returns from compensation interventions, analysis of the risk, or variability, associated with these returns may be essential for effective decision-making. Finally ,pay program survival, which has been virtually ignored in systematic pay research, is investigated. Survival appears to have important consequences for estimating pay plan risk and returns, and is also integral to the discussion of pay synergies. Based upon our two theoretical frameworks, we suggest specific research directions for pay program synergies, risk, and survival.