As January brought the wettest start to a year since records began, we were struggling to maintain the optimism that a new year brings. We’ve started the last few years with the phrases “the new normal”, “challenging environment” and the catch-all platitude of “cautiously optimistic”. As I write today, it seems we may have turned a corner. The sky is blue, the sun is shining and there is a vigour and confidence across sectors and industries that we haven’t seen for quite some time. For us at Dartmouth Partners, we’re experiencing the fastest start we’ve seen for five years (and some are saying ten). For our clients, it means an increased focus on retention, attraction of new talent and growth hiring.
Sadly, for many, the compensation figures are not reflective of our 2014 swagger. Base salaries are largely stagnant and bonuses have deviated marginally. As a result, total compensation is broadly flat or up by percentage points – enough to buy you a nicer watch but not a nicer car, or indeed enough to leverage up a little more on the housing ladder, (now that is a bullish market).
As is the case in recent times, a wide spread of numbers remains, with “doughnuts” still prominent. If you’re rated as a good performer or above, you’re happy with your spoils. Below that, and you’re going home with a much smaller piece of the cake or even a doughnut. The division between winners and losers continues. What’s most telling is that sentiment from institution to institution differs widely. It all comes down to how expectations have been managed internally. Clear communication wins hearts as much as the actual bonus.
We’ve found recruitment activity across all verticals and sectors increasingly robust and it’s this that gives us confidence. M&A, Debt, Corporates, Equity Research, Private Equity, Consulting, Hedge Funds and our Graduate business are all experiencing strong demand. Whilst it’s not comparable to working in a bank, we’ve put in some late nights and long shifts to absorb the increase in activity and added to our own headcount. When we cast our minds back to this time last year, we’re certainly not complaining.
“The War for Talent” is back on the agenda. If you’re a firm immersed in the war, how do you win? Take hiring seriously. It’s very often put on the backburner, whilst the more practical matter of “doing the day job” takes priority. In this market, good candidates will get snapped up. Our efforts as recruiters will focus not simply on attraction, but on the all-important execution part of the mandate- “getting people over the line”. It looks set to be an interesting, busy and productive year.
For a full copy of the survey, please get in touch with us.