“Jobs are booming but real pay is down” was a headline feature in City AM this morning.
In some ways this comes as a surprise, particularly when we’ve seen total compensation in banking increase in the past year. Whilst some banks paid lower variable comp than expected in the Jan– March bonus round, the increase in net pay still remained above the rate of price inflation.
Of course there are some broader factors to consider, especially given the statistics are UK-wide. A much greater number of part-time workers brings down the average, as does the fact that the number of NEETs has decreased with the intervention of government to provide greater training opportunities to young people. Whilst this takes the jobless total lower, the real earnings of this group are both static and low when compared to their peers in full-time, permanent employment.
The headlines in the business press over the past year have indicated that it’s not just people working in the financial sector that have benefited from a larger pay packet. Controversy over senior executive remuneration aside, there have been some examples of extraordinary payouts. Last year Sports Direct shop floor staff with a tenure of five plus years were awarded immediately tradable stock worth up to £75,000, taking the gross compensation of such employees to over £100,000, with 2000 of the group’s staff benefiting from the scheme. This week it has been revealed that around 3000 staff could be set to treble their basic salary once again this year.
In general the incentive of greater compensation based on performance and attainment of results begets motivation, hard work, focus and better individual performance as a result. When this applies unilaterally across an organisation a sense of common purpose is inevitable, and thus teamwork, collaboration and compliance with the management’s agenda tend to be enhanced.
Of course this is not applicable to all of the constituent parts of working Britain. Performance-related pay is controversial amongst teachers given the agglomeration of children with unsupportive families, thus ‘real’ achievement of schools is very difficult to measure, particularly when it’s straightforward grade attainment that is the only yardstick. Surely the purpose of scholastic education is to produce young adults that are prepared for the world of work, and this isn’t just about getting 4 As at A Level. I’d wager that the average Sports Direct employee would have had different academic results to your average first-year Analyst in an investment bank, but last year’s remuneration proves you don’t have to be a whizz at maths to succeed. Loyalty and hard work trumped natural academic talent. And Sports Direct is a winner, having wiped out many of its main competitors.
There has long been a tendency of job-hopping in the City for the sake of shorter term gains. An increase in base salary and a guaranteed bonus seem attractive when deal activity and markets are flourishing, but when times get tough it’s often the loyal and hard-working who survive. These are the people who maximise their longer term earnings.
It’s a struggle to remember a better time to move jobs than now. There are many opportunities out there and a real lack of talent – this has already led to Analysts, Associates and VPs receiving multiple offers, and that trend is set to continue. Competition may even intensify, and that will result in bidding wars. It’s always good to be smart in negotiating, but if you choose the wrong organisation or role based on a marginal difference in base salary, there’s little chance you’ll be able to stay loyal to that firm.
Culture match, team fit, organisational structure and firm momentum should be the real decision points. Will this job kill you in terms of hours? What’s the likelihood of progression? How will you be positioned in the team? What exposure and learning opportunity will you gain? Can you actually imagine working there five years from now? If the answer to any of these questions is negative, be sure to rethink.
How good is the management? What’s the vision? How good are your potential colleagues, and how committed are they to the firm? If these answers are all positive, you’ve picked a winner.