2023 salaries: how a new kind of recession is affecting employees  

January 16, 2023
Business Growth

It’s that time of year again. No, it’s ok we’re not talking about New Year Resolutions. Because we forgot all about those on 2 January. In fact we’re talking about the second annual salary survey from digital and marketing recruitment company We Are Adam.


The findings are interesting for lots of reasons. For anyone in a terrible rush, the report is best summed up at the end of Richard Gahagan’s introduction, when the We Are Adam CEO writes, “For the first time in We Are Adam history, we believe we will see a recession that stays candidate short.”


This really matters. Because, despite a looming recession, it remains difficult to find and recruit new talent. And that is despite a constant flow of news stories about major layoffs across the tech and financial services sectors. When it remains hard to hire good new people, holding on to your existing stars becomes ever more important. And that may get even harder as inflation continues to push salary increase expectations ever higher. And the evidence from this survey is that people want more money and are prepared to jump ship to get it.


Moving for money

This report is evidence, if any more were needed, that for many people – regardless of sector or seniority – the feeling has taken root that the best (and possibly the only) way to get a meaningful pay rise, one that might keep up with the rising cost of living, is to head for the exit and to look for anew role.


And the idea that job-hopping is a career killer seems to have itself died a death, with a large proportion of those who switched roles in 2022 (almost half of respondents) already open to another change.


Well over half of all respondents to the survey (58%) are unhappy with their current salary and a higher salary is now clearly the number one motivator behind people looking for a new position. That’s after 63% say they secured a pay rise in 2022. Fears of second-round inflation getting baked into the economy seem to be well grounded.


Source: We Are Adam Salary Survey 2023

Perhaps that’s not so surprising, when over a third of those looking for a new role (34%) say they would only move for at least a 15% increase in salary.


Sectors and seniority

Interestingly, the discontent with current pay and the openness to moving are not limited to the lower ranks. As many as 45% of executives are not satisfied with their salary and are actively seeking a new role. And these patterns from the survey run fairly consistently through all sectors and levels of seniority. Although agency staff seem even less happy with their salaries than other sectors (70% are unhappy with their pay and 55% are looking for a new opportunity).

Mind you, those who have already taken the leap to an in-house role are not much happier, with 67% of marketing staff not happy with their salary, despite 50% having switched jobs in the last year.  

As Gahagan puts it, "Strap in, dig deep and get ready for a long slog in 2023. People are not happy with their salaries, but rather than feeling under appreciated, their decision to move is largely driven by rising inflation. Simply put, people need more money to maintain their lifestyle. And with incredibly low levels of unemployment, candidates know they still hold the power."




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