What started as industry chatter a few months ago is now confirmed in all the data: Executive compensation is up.
Though global figures don’t reflect the level of comp inflation that some talent leaders have felt, certain verticals and company types have seen significant bumps. We’ll dive into the full details in our next industry report—when we’ll also provide Q2 takeaways—but we’ve seen several macro trends play out that are worth covering here.
Here’s what we found:
- The market is at—or near—its highest average comp since we began our tracking.
- That figure is up thanks in large part to significant compensation growth from a COVID-induced local minimum.
- Certain roles are demanding significant premiums right now.
- While the elevated comp levels are being felt across industries, some are more susceptible to higher asks than others.
- While the remote hiring trend has been strong, base comp has not changed much there, leading to a discount on out-of-state hires.
Before we get to the details, though, reserve your copy of our deep dive on this subject by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s dive in.
Base compensation is back to Pre-COVID levels
Year to date, base comp for placed roles is up 3% YoY; in Q2 alone, base comp was up 5% YoY. That’s significant growth in an industry that, save for Q2 of 2020, saw very little fluctuation on a quarter-over-quarter basis.
While we started hearing talk in the market of increased compensation asks from candidates in Q1, our analysis shows that compensation bumps may have actually started sooner.
In looking at average comp for placements on a quarterly basis since the beginning of 2019, you begin to spot a gradual advancing on a every quarterly basis, along with two-step changes: the first in Q2 2019 and the second Q1 2021.
Of course, this trendline is complicated by a significant dip in Q2 2020 salaries, but that’s clearly an outlier caused by massive uncertainty. Now, though, with executive recruiting showing no signs of slowing down—and compensation data showing accelerated quarter-over-quarter gains after another step change—the market seems poised for some record-setting numbers.
Public and VC-backed companies leading the charge
It may not come as a surprise, but public and VC-backed companies, both of whom are riding historic waves of capital, have seen the largest gains in executive compensation: Base comp is up 4% YTD at public companies and 2% YTD at VC-backed companies.
Both, however, have gotten there differently.
Public companies, for instance, saw a 13% quarter-over-quarter increase in base compensation between Q4 2020 and Q1 2021, while VC-backed companies have seen a more gradual increase in base compensation since a minimum in Q2 2020, with 6% growth YOY in Q2 2021.
In our upcoming report, we’ll look deeper into this trend, exploring compensation trends by company size as well as why VC-backed companies are now paying nearly identically to publicly traded companies for executive-level talent.
Industry comp trends are wildly disparate
No industry has had a smooth trendline upward, but some of the biggest movers seem to have had the bumpiest rides over the last few quarters.
Consider: While technology companies saw an 11% increase in comp QoQ, the YoY figure for Q2 moved just 2%. And financial services is pretty much the reverse of that: Up 10% YoY, but relatively flat (up 1.3%) QoQ.
This chart—depicting some of the larger industries in our dataset—tells the story:
Similarly, role compensation trends are equally disparate in their trendlines. We’ll spend more time on them in our report.
Remote hires: A discount in today’s market?
In our report wrapping up 2020, we discussed the growing trend of out-of-state hires and the open question it created around whether we’d end up in a remote-friendly executive world.
It seems the market is answering the question with salary data.
While base comp for in-state executive hires grew 13% YoY in Q2, comp for out-state executive hires fell by 2%. And it’s created a new—and significant—delta between the two.
While out-of-state hires have historically been more expensive than in-state hires, they’re now available at a discount: In-state executive hires are 3% more expensive than their out-of-state counterparts.
For companies focused on getting back in the office, then they should be expecting to pay a premium; those embracing remote-friendly culture, on the other hand, can likely find a discount.
As companies continue to navigate how to rebuild workplace dynamics in a post-COVID world, this data point—along with a share of search placements for out-of-state hires—will be trends worth watching.
Undoubtedly, we’re in a bull market for executive hiring. Recruiting is up, compensation is up, and the fervor doesn’t seem to be dying down. What talent and recruiting leaders need, then, is a pulse on the market and how it can get that market to work best for them in their current situation.
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