Heading into an election year, employment issues and personal finances are at the top of many peoples’ minds. While unemployment during the recession was not as high as initially expected, salaries and wages have failed to increase significantly for many years, and many people in Bristol and the south-west have lost earning power in real terms because of the effects of inflation.
In Bristol, as across the UK, this looks likely to change at least gradually this year. A study conducted by Robert Half suggests that more than half (55 percent) of chief finance officers in the region plan to increase salaries in 2015, with the average increase being in the region of 8 percent. In these times of sub-1 percent inflation, this is a significant improvement, and should lead to more stability within companies.
As well as increasing salaries, these firms are also likely to be recruiting more, and spending money on developing and retaining existing staff. Almost all (90 percent) of the CFOs questioned believe that the economy has entered a period of growth, and the confidence that this belief generates bodes well for their employees’ conditions and development.
However, more firms in the area are also looking at improving their recruitment deals to tempt in new talent. Up to two-thirds of companies plan to offer sign-on bonuses for key professionals, in particular those with finance and accounting skills, but Bristol firms overall are still working out what the best incentives are for persuading the most talented staff to remain with them.
Packages range from traditional core pension and remuneration schemes to flexible systems that allow staff to “buy” extra time off or other perks. There is also an increased focus on training and development, partially to retain staff, but also to help to fill the emergent skills gap that many firms have suffered with over the past few years.
In terms of retaining talented staff, companies in the southwest have begun to break out of the traditional thinking that salary satisfaction is the only thing that counts. It’s impossible to deny the importance of a good salary in preventing dissatisfaction, but for more and more, flexible working is seen as a recruitment and satisfaction factor.
More organisations are offering ways for their talent to commit to working more effectively in terms of their own lives by allowing flexible working, job sharing and working from home. Importantly, many companies are facilitating this as part of their remuneration packages, in particular by supplying staff with dedicated technology such as laptops and tablets.
Company cars are still part of the package for many jobs, but some of the focus has moved to telecommuting and home offices to allow staff to avoid travel all together. This is a key focus for Bristol, as it means employees can target London jobs without the long communt.
Because of the wide range of additional bonuses offered by most roles in Bristol, talking directly about salary trends is tricky. After all, how much flexible working is worth varies from person to person depending on their circumstances. In purely monetary terms, however, Bristol salaries are at about 92.3 percent of the national average. That average is, of course, skewed by London weightings and the inflated figures from the southwest, and Bristol’s figures are competitive with most other regions. In particular, salaries just across the border in Wales are currently sitting at only around 89.5 percent of the national average.
The gap between Bristol’s average and the national average does appear to be narrowing, however. The Office for National Statistics’ official labour market statistics suggest that, since 2009, the gap between the national average and Bristol wages for full-time employees narrowed by around 2 percent. Of course, this raw figure does not take into account the positive effects of the various incentives offered by firms in the southwest, many of which have a larger impact on their employees’ quality of life.
Skills shortages in finance and accounting mean that roles in these areas are likely to see salary increases above the general trend. Additional hiring across the board also puts more pressure on the pool of skilled HR personnel, which in turn means that these roles are also likely to see many of the greatest benefits of the general increase in salaries this year.
For more information about particular industries’ trends both across the country and in the region, check out the full report for the year at http://www.roberthalf.co.uk/salary-centre.