Is salary the top priority for senior executives?

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Barron Williams

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As the old saying goes; “money doesn’t buy you happiness”. So, is salary still the top priority for senior executives in 2021?

What are the factors beyond pay that really drive happiness and job satisfaction?

Many of the big recruitment firms like to disseminate a quarterly or yearly salary survey. 

A quick Google search will present you with a host of salary calculators.

Personally speaking, most of them are of minimal value. 

Maybe a starting point if I’m being generous.

If I’m being brutally honest, then they’re often nothing more than a way of capturing data, with not much in the way of context. 

Post-pandemic our priorities are shifting 

The culture and values of an organisation are the first things many candidates will want to establish. How did they look after their people during the pandemic?

Also, the connection with members of the senior exec team and the opportunities for progression are now more likely to convince many to take a new role.

Now we’re not saying that salary and benefits are not important. 

We’re just saying they are maybe no longer the most important factor when it comes to job satisfaction.

In our experience, salary tends to play a bigger part up to middle management but once you step over that threshold into senior executive roles, other drivers such as culture and career progression become more prevalent, the opportunity to make a genuine impact.

The senior execs in our network want to work for companies that share their values. Genuinely.

Who foster a culture where they feel they can fit and thrive. For the long term. 

Organisations that place greater emphasis on opportunity and growth. Again, genuinely.

Hygiene factors are still important, but they often take a back seat during negotiations, or they’re assumed to be a given.

That said, it would be foolhardy for organisations to disregard salary and benefits… Especially in the current competitive climate.

They are not the key drivers when it comes to job satisfaction and securing the top talent, however, they are what’ll get you on the playing field and into the game!

Does money still make the world go round?

According to a recent survey by Glassdoor, it is still one of the top factors that we consider when evaluating a potential new employer.

…And I suppose maybe even more so when candidates are weighing up competing offers or deciding to leave their current employer.

If you want to attract the top senior execs, then competitive pay and benefits are still important.

But post-COVID, it is important to recognise that salary (or remuneration to be precise) will help attract exec talent, but it will not necessarily retain it!

In Barron Williams’s experience, this is where we need to see real focus and change. 

We will sell your vision to prospective candidates… Can you back it up?

For candidates, culture is the new king

The best senior execs need to see an opportunity for growth. Both personal and professional!

It is often said in the recruitment industry that the right candidate is someone who knows their value or worth.

A good candidate will know their strengths but the great can break them down into specific activities.

Provide examples of how they’ve used their knowledge and experience to achieve tangible results.

Let me put it another way. 

How many of us have stated in an interview or interviewed candidates who say they have strong leadership skills.

I would hazard a guess that most reading this have it on their CV? And rightly so…

However, if you ask somebody to provide more detail, and examples of those skills in action, then it becomes evident who knows their true worth.

The talented execs can answer this question with ease.

Good leadership is often referenced but good leaders are a rare commodity. 

What examples would you give?

That ability to drive change, recognise potential obstacles, overcome challenges and inspire others is the secret formula.

Where and when have you done that?

And for us, a good leader is always looking to be consistently challenged. 

Those candidates that know their worth are not looking for the same role. 

They want progression. They want a new focus. They want to feel they can make a difference.

What are you worth?

Your market value is a relatively simple formula… You can estimate your worth based on your role, experience, skills and geographic location.

Going back to the point I made at the start of this article regarding salary surveys and calculators… 

Whilst we’re not fans of the way many in our industry use them to capture data, doing research to establish what you are worth is a worthwhile exercise.

You can’t negotiate a new package without a starting point.

The info is easily found online but that will only get you a ballpark figure.

Talk to your network… If people were hiring someone like you, what would they expect to pay?

Talk to Non-Execs and HR Directors… They should give you a good picture of the market for people like you. 

Be realistic… SMEs pay less than MNCs typically, but there are trade-offs.

Each organisation is different, just as the personal circumstances of each candidate are too.

Budgets and other financial constraints have to be taken into account. And as we’ve already stressed, at the senior exec level it is not just about salary…

What is the full package including benefits?

What’s in it for you in the long term? Shares? Career arc? Experience?

Is this a role that will set you up/lead to bigger and better opportunities in the future?

Is it a bigger role in terms of budget, team, scope, etc?

Where will it put you in 3 to 5 years?

Does it widen future options?

Is it worth a CFO considering a CEO role for less money if there’s the option to yield greater dividends based on performance or the opportunity to increase earning potential further down the line?

Surely career progression, in the long run, is more important than a salary bump in the short term?

You have to ask yourself these questions when considering your options.

What is the impact on clients looking to recruit the best people?

We can flip this to the other side of the negotiating table too…

If you’re not sure of a senior exec’s value or if they’re the right fit for your organisation, ask them what they think they’re worth. 

Understand their salary history and possible trajectory.

For those in an SME, the challenge can often be about attracting blue-chip talent without the spending power of a large multinational.

Don’t assume they’re out of your reach. It often just takes a little creativity.

Talented senior execs want to work for an organisation that can match their passion and ambition.

If you’re an SME, then it can be tough to compete on salary alone, especially with the big names.

That’s when culture, career progression, possible share options, etc can be the winning hand. The opportunity to make a real difference with greater scope and autonomy.

However, to generate the appeal, that’s when working with a senior exec recruitment firm like Barron Williams can be the difference. 

This is where our professional, diligent approach can provide the advantage you need by understanding you, your organisation and your goals.

We can partner with you to best position your brand and identify the best fit for the role. We have to sell you and your role to a discerning audience.

It is important to lay the groundwork before the first interview.

We’re looking for like-minded people.

We also need for you to demonstrate from the start that culturally you’re the right move for that candidate and that you’ll value both their professional and personal well-being.

We will ensure that you start with a role brief that defines exactly what and who you’re looking for.

Not just the operation deliverables but defining the type of person you want.

Nothing is more important…

We can help you establish your USP. Why this? Why now? Make it real!

Sell your ‘brand’. Sell your ‘vision’. Sell your ‘culture’.

Sell the role. The responsibility. The opportunity to grow.

We speak to those not actively looking for a move. We need ammunition.

Once we’re talking to the right people, and we present them to you, we can support you during the interview process. Lead, guide, ‘broker’.

Ensure the right questions are asked. And answered. By both sides!

Help you to analyse and compare how each candidate responds/performs. A trusted advisor!

What are they worth?

In our experience, if a candidate is focused only on monetary gain, then are they even the right person to join your team? You won’t be meeting them!

After all, if a candidate is simply motivated by salary and bonus when they talk to you, will they be tempted to jump ship 2 to 3 years down the line when they receive the next better offer?

Those seeking the right opportunity, cultural fit and professional development are the better (long-term) investments.

Tenures are getting shorter as it is. People are used to moving companies these days. Just the way it is.

We have to give people a reason to join (and stay). Or rather, you do.

We have to see the value in good working relationships.

Many execs are at that stage where career fulfilment and job satisfaction are more important than salary.

What can you offer?

More creative freedom or authority?

Genuine ownership of a strategy, function, mission or department?

Benefits such as a performance-related bonus, health insurance, pension or car allowance should fit the value you expect the individual to create.

But what else will give you a competitive edge? Again, it’s the ‘vision’.

As a friend of mine says; “you sell the sizzle, not the sausage”!

The ‘right’ package with benefits also demonstrates that you care about their personal well-being as much as their professional. And it doesn’t have to break the bank.

Take care of the things that are important

Amongst the biggest impacts on recruitment during the pandemic is the shift to remote working and the importance of a work/life balance.

COVID has changed the way we work. Irreversibly in some respects.

This is something we look at in detail in this month’s other Insight article.

Have you changed enough to embrace the changes?

What are you doing for both current and prospective employees?

Are you earning loyalty?

Having the right team starts with retaining your best people.

Why should the best come to you… And stay?

Do you offer the chance to work in a culture that promotes innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit?

Do you provide the opportunity to be part of a forward-thinking, exciting company?

Have you got a clear future, a bright future?

If yes, that has a value.

Good people want to work for good people. They want more than the right salary package.

It is often the intangibles that secure the best.

Talented, competitive candidates aren’t just looking for a new role… 

They’re looking for opportunities. 

Your opportunity?

A company is only as good as its people …Nothing is more important, is it?

Your senior exec team itself should be a selling point. Build the right team(s) and you will attract talent. Like-minds, delivering.

You’re saying to potential candidates that this is a great opportunity to work with and learn from respected execs. Join us.

By your nature, as senior executives, you’re constantly striving to improve, take the next step up the ladder, keep moving forward. Individually and as part of an organisation.

Can you help them develop?

Support Non-Exec activity?

Offer to pay for professional certifications or advanced training such as an MBA?

Salary is a given, essentially. 

Consider everything else.

Focus on what makes your company different from the competition and why it is a great place to work.

Focus on what you can offer the right candidate as a whole. 

You may be surprised at what motivates the person you want!

If you’re looking for a senior executive for your organisation, please use our Client Upload Form or Call Us now.

If you’re looking for your next role, then please feel free to Upload Your CV or Call Us for an exploratory conversation.

Barron Williams

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