Your work questions answered: Salary trends in 2020
CAREERS' panel of expert recruiters answers a reader's question each week. Have a question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Are salaries being offered in recent months lower than usual, or have they remained unaffected?
Head of Organisational Psychology Consulting,
Stillwell Management Consultants
Even before COVID, there had been general restraint in remuneration, reflecting prevailing economic conditions. Employers are, however, still willing to offer appropriate and generous salaries for suitable talent but they have been inclined to adopt more rigorous and strongly evidence-based recruitment practices, both because the cost of a bad hire is much more damaging in a COVID environment but also, in some industries, the capabilities required are critical and specific to the plans organisations have for managing through and beyond the pandemic. There has been somewhat less tolerance for candidates making unreasonable salary - or other - demands and, in some instances, where pay cuts have been made across the organisation, the candidate may be asked to accept an interim lower-level package in line with that approach.
For most roles, salary increases were put on hold this year and so pay remains unchanged. Given the unprecedented events of the past year - firstly Australia's devastating bushfires then coronavirus - it's understandable that employers elected to forgo pay rises this year. Instead, employers are turning to non-financial rewards to compensate staff - especially those who have put in overtime and extra effort in recent months to help their organisation remain competitive. For example, employers are rewarding staff by continuing to allow some form of regular flexible working, offering learning and development opportunities and investing in health and wellness programs. With budgets remaining tight, employers are also rewarding staff with a promotional opportunity. This is a sensible strategy since a promotion is now that important to candidates that it has leapfrogged salary as the main reason people leave their current position and look for a new job.
We have certainly seen downward pressure on salaries with increases difficult to justify or defend. However, what has been most notable in an increasingly competitive job market is that executives are prepared to take huge pay cuts to change roles, particularly those moving to Adelaide or returning home. There has been a surge in over-qualified candidates accepting roles paying much less than their previous salary. It's also not uncommon these days to have a manager and their subordinate apply for the same job. Covid has really highlighted what we already know, and that's Adelaide is the best city in the world to live and work.
Salaries have, in many cases, remained the same or, if anything, they might be slightly down. This is to be expected when you consider the very large number of candidates currently in the marketplace. As a candidate, it would be worth taking this into account when seeking employment. If you're not sure what to expect in your industry, you can always talk to a recruiter. There is also some variety within industries. Depending upon the financial circumstances of each business, we're only seeing companies offer employees CPI salary increases at the moment. If you're looking to negotiate a stronger package, perhaps consider what other benefits an employer might be open to offering.
Originally published as Your work questions answered: salary trends in 2020