A 2021 salary guide released by specialist recruitment firm Robert Half on Wednesday highlights a talent shortage in the professional services industry, as accounting and financial services firms rush to offer unique non-financial benefits and rising salaries.
“2020 was a turbulent year for employment in Australia as the pandemic sent shockwaves through the economy,” said David Jones, senior managing director Asia-Pacific at Robert Half.
The report found that salary trends in 2021 for new employees leaned heavily towards attracting top, new talent. About 70 per cent of respondents said they were willing to increase their initial salary offering, with 40 per cent of them saying they’d only do so for top talent, while the remaining 30 per cent would look to increase salaries across the board.
But businesses were in favour of offering salary increases to existing staff as well, as 70 per cent of respondents reported moving to offer raises. In a bid to bolster retainment, businesses are also looking to offer non-financial benefits to existing staff, with 64 per cent of businesses introducing new non-financial benefits to do so.
“As the market shifts into recovery mode, opportunities will start to expand again as companies kickstart new initiatives and agendas,” Mr Jones said. “A considerable number of these [are] driven by the shift to remote working, business planning and revenue generation, and digital transformation and cyber-security agendas.”
Respondents eager to attract new talent and keep the top performers they already have, according to the report, are getting more creative in their approach to non-financial employee benefits.
“Although competitive salaries remain key to retaining and attracting skilled candidates,” Mr Jones said, “not all companies can offer the highest salaries for the skills they need — particularly in sectors still feeling the impact of COVID-19.”
The most popular benefits offered were flexible work hours, accounting for 30 per cent, health insurance at 29 per cent, and permanent hybrid working arrangements — which would involve a mix of office and remote work — at 27 per cent.
As well as placing value in a company that offers growth and security, workers have grown increasingly attracted to companies with a wellness offering.
Benefits spanning mental health support, gym membership, and even financial planning, have been ranked among the highest. And businesses have identified these benefits as an opportunity to offer talent a unique point of difference.
“With upward pressure on salaries likely to increase in the coming months, the business impacts of COVID-19 are causing many companies to embrace non-financial benefits to help differentiate themselves in the market,” Mr Jones said, “and add sufficient alternative value for employees to offset any perceived gap in remuneration.
“Benefits that support employees’ work/life balance, flexibility of work hours, and hybrid remote and in-office roles are likely to be some of the lasting workplace legacies of COVID-19 in the upcoming jobs landscape.”
John Buckley is a journalist at Accountants Daily.
Before joining the team in 2021, John worked at The Sydney Morning Herald. His reporting has featured in a range of outlets including The Washington Post, The Age, and The Saturday Paper.