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Which jobs saw the biggest salary increases in 2021?

By Simon Winfield, Managing Director, Hays UK & Ireland

Amidst ongoing uncertainty and a return to working from home guidance for many, skills shortages are presenting a challenge to those employers keen to grow their business. The result? Significant salary growth across many specialist and technical areas – double digit salary increases in many cases, which is great news for professionals looking to move roles.

Optimism around longer-term activity is climbing steeply – according to our latest Hays Salary & Recruiting Trends 2022 guide, 64% of employers say they are optimistic about the wider economic climate and the employment opportunities it may create within the next 2-5 years. This is a significant increase from 37% in 2020, and with hiring plans also at an eight-year high of 80%, it’s likely this competition will only increase. If you’re looking to move job, you should start thinking about how to leverage this wealth of opportunities, but if you’re an employer, you’ll need to be planning ahead – what can you do to stand out in such a competitive market?

Acute skills shortages remain

Skills shortages are certainly on the up – our research shows that 86% of employers experienced them over the last year, compared to 77% in 2020. Productivity (46%) and employee morale (45%) are just a couple of the many areas being impacted by these shortages, and the talent scarcity is expected to reach a critical point. The proportion of employers expecting to face a shortage of suitable applicants when hiring in the next year leapt from 51% to 72%, a hefty increase that clearly shows the challenge they face.

Slow jobseeker movement is also presenting an obstacle, and compelling employers to turn to pay increases in a bid to attract and retain talented professionals. So where are these increases highest?

Technology roles still dominating highest pay increases

Overall, intense competition for talent has driven salaries across the UK up by an average of 2.8%, which is higher than last year’s increase of 1.2%. But this is not the whole story. Double-digit salary growth has been particularly evident in many of our specialist, technical areas, and pay rises of 10-20% are not uncommon for professionals seeking out more senior positions. So which roles specifically are getting the biggest increases?

Seven out of the top ten are in tech roles, which is hardly surprising. We have seen such an acceleration in digital transformation trends since the onset of the pandemic, and tech professionals are playing an increasingly critical role in shaping the new era of work. Roles in marketing and in engineering also made the top ten. Is your job on the list?

The top ten roles receiving the highest pay increases are:

  1. Security Architect – 16.4%
  2. Senior Marketing Executive – 10.9%
  3. Penetration Tester – 10.6%
  4. Cyber Security Engineer – 9.1%
  5. Cyber Security Manager – 9%
  6. Data Architect – 8.9%
  7. Production Shift Manager – 8.7%
  8. Cryptographer – 8.4%
  9. Cyber Security Analyst – 8.3%
  10. Project Controls Manager – 8%

Pay set to rise again next year in line with skills demand

The demand for skills that we’re now seeing is set to continue, and in response close to two-thirds (61%) of employers are planning to increase salaries over the next year. If you’re a professional working in areas such as technology, engineering and manufacturing, marketing, life sciences and construction, you can expect double digit salary growth to continue. So if a career change is on your list of new year’s resolutions, now could be the time to consider which direction to head in. Are you looking to take a step up, make a sideways move into a different industry or just gain some new experience? 

Be assured that technical skills are not the only ones in demand. Whilst the top ten list of salary increases features job titles with technical skill sets that can be difficult to learn and transfer across from other jobs, our research says that almost all soft skills have increased in importance to employers over the last 12 months. These include communication, the ability to adopt change, flexibility and adaptability, problem-solving, the ability to learn and coordinating with others, which are skills that allow you to add value no matter what new technology is being invested in.

Salary is not the only priority

Whilst competitive salaries are still important, our findings show that staff are attracted to roles with better work-life balance and which offer more purpose. It’s becoming obvious that people are increasingly motivated to work for organisations which prioritise social responsibility and doing good.

So if you’re an employer looking to hire, think carefully about how to put your purpose front and centre, and make sure that anyone involved in the hiring process is equipped to answer questions about how your organisation helps the communities it serves.

If you’re a professional thinking about how to take your career forward in 2022, it might be worth considering not only how your skillset can meet the current demand and get you that crucial pay rise, but what really matters to you in a career. Whether that’s work-life balance, colleagues, organisational purpose, training or career development, making smart choices for the long-term will be critical if you want to thrive in a rapidly evolving jobs market.

Learn more about how salaries and recruiting trends are changing across the UK by requesting access to the Hays Salary & Recruiting Trends 2022.

About this author

Simon joined Hays in 2006, having commenced his recruitment career in 1993. Initially responsible for our businesses in Western Australia and Northern Territory, Simon relocated to the UK in 2014 where he was responsible for our operations in the West & Wales and Ireland, before being appointed Managing Director of the UK & Ireland business in 2018.

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