The 2016 Public Practice Salary and Charge Rate Survey, undertaken by Knowledge Shop in conjunction with industry recruiter Lucky You Found Me, found 45 per cent of firms expect to increase fee-producing staff levels in the next year.
The research also showed that larger firms – seven directors and above – are adding fee-producing staff at an even greater level.
In light of this, the industry reported ‘attracting talent’ as its second-largest issue, with firms saying they struggle to find suitable staff.
It’s not all good news for professionals though, with the report showing clear tension between firms and team members. Firms believe ‘productivity v labour cost’ is their biggest staff-related concern.
Forty-nine per cent of firm respondents do not intend to increase salary levels (by 3 per cent or more) in the next 12 months, although the survey demonstrated that overall salary levels have increased beyond CPI increases, according to Knowledge Shop managing director Lisa Armstrong.
However, Ms Armstrong said the research revealed the profession is split.
“Either firms are pushing hard on growth – fee growth, growing staff numbers, and to some extent, increasing what they are willing to pay to acquire staff – while many others are not moving at all. There is very little in between,” she said.
The research showed that 53 per cent of firm respondents do not intend to increase client charge rates (by 3 per cent or more) in the next 12 months.
Bonus systems are becoming more common but their effectiveness is often questionable.
“Over 50 per cent of firms with a bonus system in place said that it was not effective, but either team members expected it or it makes the team feel better to have a rewards system in place,” said Ms Armstrong.
“Where firms do not recognise team members in any way – bonuses or rewards – survey respondents were derisive about the lack of recognition: ‘Wouldn’t that be nice’-style comments, or ‘You might get a comment from a manager but that’s as far as it goes’, or ‘Nope, nothing here’,” Ms Armstrong said.