Salaries soar as firms battle to recruit top candidates

recruit2Marketing salaries are surging across the board as the economy starts to recover and companies engage in the hiring rush that has continued to gain momentum, with the Great Resignation also forcing employers to offer more flexible working.

While the UK is still bracing itself for the full effects of Omicron, the release of the 2020 salary guide from recruitment firm Aquent at least paints a very different picture to last year’s job market, where stagnating wages and looming redundancies were seen throughout most of the advertising and creative industries.

Instead, the recent boom in wages is down to a number of factors, including a skills shortage which has resulted in midweight roles pushing for higher salaries. This has created a domino effect, with senior roles following suit, demanding higher rates of pay in turn.

Companies that have weathered the storm of the pandemic are now keen to find top talent to further growth. However, candidates are finding themselves with multiple job offers on the table and so are asking for higher wages to sweeten the deal.

Aquent also found that in order to make a move, two-fifths (42%) of workers wanted a 16% to 30% salary increase before jumping ship. This is in sharp contrast to last year, where applicants were willing to accept lower rates and a wider range of responsibilities in order to bag themselves a job.

In a similar vein to last year, those working in user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX) design still hold the ‘golden ticket’ in terms of the most sought-after roles.

As hypergrowth is being seen in these sectors, candidates are no longer having to look for jobs, as roles are coming to them. Aquent found that only a fifth (20%) of UX, CX and service design professionals are looking for a new role yet two-thirds (65%) would still be willing to leave for the right offer.

In terms of wage increases, both junior UX designers and midweight UX designers have seen a jump of 33% while top-end senior UX designers have seen salaries rise by 50% (£80,000 to £120,000). In some cases, senior UX architects have seen wages double, from 60,000 in 2021 to £120,000. Compared to data from five years ago, UX architects have seen a 150% increase and senior UX designers a 70% increase in wages since 2016.

As brands and companies continue their focus on engaging online content, the battle is on to capture the hearts and minds of audiences bombarded by online ads and offers.

In response, designers and art directors that can cut through the noise are in high demand. On the top end, senior art directors have seen a rise of 21% (+£15,000) compared to last year, while salaries for senior digital designers have increased by 44% (+£20,000). This has also trickled down to midweight and junior roles such as junior presentation designers (19%) and midweight presentation designers (11%).

Compared to salary data from five years ago, midweight presentation designers have seen a 66% increase overall. A similar situation has been seen for 3D animators, with a 28% increase for midweight roles (+£10,000) and 30% increase for senior positions (+£15,000) compared to last year’s figures.

The focus on online content is also paying dividends for copywriters and web editors. For copywriters, juniors have seen a 16% rise, 7% for midweight and seniors a 14% rise in wages – some 7% lower than art directors. Senior copy editors have also seen a 10% growth, while junior web editors have seen a 25% increase (+£9,000), midweight 22% (+£10,000) and 30% for senior web editors (+£15,000).

This is promising news given that salaries for these roles had in fact dropped at the beginning of 2021 compared to 2020.

An area that has seen significant salary growth is the marketing performance sector. Companies looking to gain the edge over competition are now turning to analysts to assess business performance. Data is big business and wage increases are reflecting the demand, Aquent said.

While top-end senior marketing data analysts were earning around £60,000 in 2021, candidates are now seeing a 50% jump to £90,000. Junior and midweight search marketing specialists are also reaping the rewards of a changing market, with a 40% increase for junior search marketing specialists and 18% for midweight roles respectively.

As the pandemic presented a wake-up call to many workers, job-seekers are now demanding more from employers. The Great Resignation has seen a mass exodus of workers as people look for more work/life flexibility and higher wages, forcing employers to bend to the wants and needs of those looking for roles.

In a recent study, Aquent also found that 83% of employees would turn down a job offer that did not offer flexible working for one that does.

This is a trend that has been gathering pace since 2019 – applicants who ranked career advancement as their number one goal fell from a high of 25% last year to 17% this year, pay and flexibility are now key. This also shows companies that fail to embrace hybrid working are likely to fall behind when it comes to attracting the best people and skills.

Companies are also having to work harder to retain staff, offering more flexibility. Aquent’s recent study of global employers found 94% will be “enhancing employee experience over the next three years”.

The push from midweight roles for higher pay has also affected the way companies are now hiring junior staff. ‘Entry level’ roles now require a higher level of experience than previously expected and organisations are now looking to upskill hires as a cheaper way to plug skills gaps.

In a tough hiring market, the idea of finding candidates with a “70% match” is also being explored. Business leaders are becoming open to the idea that finding an applicant with a 100% skills match is unlikely but a 70% match with a good working record could become the ideal employee with the relevant training and support.

To add further complication to the hiring process, employers are also seeing more would-be workers drop out of the interview process. Video calling has opened the door for easier ways of interviewing as meetings can now be carried out from home, meaning applicants are less committed than they would be for a face-to-face interview. In fact, while a third (35%) of the workforce are looking for jobs, it is estimated that 10% of those are passive candidates and would not be willing to move unless it is for the right offer.

Aquent UK managing director Aliza Sweiry said: “The job market has been turned on its head from last year becoming an employees market. As we saw last year, those working in UX and CX design have the skills that employers need at the moment and so have seen big jumps in wages.

“This is a great time for applicants with itchy feet to explore the job market, we’re seeing candidates flex their muscles in terms of what they want and expect from a role and employers are responding with higher salaries and more flexible working options. It will be fascinating to see how the industry responds this time next year.”

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