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Salary divide as firms across region take on more workers

06:00 14 January 2016

Cooper Lomaz Salary Survey 2016: Jane Lovell and Mark Fletcher.

Cooper Lomaz Salary Survey 2016: Jane Lovell and Mark Fletcher.

Archant

Average salaries in Suffolk trail behind those in Essex, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire but are ahead of Norfolk, a survey has found.

An annual survey by Bury St Edmunds recruitment firm Cooper Lomaz found a salary divide between East Anglia’s most easterly counties and those further west, with Norfolk faring worst on an average of £30,992 a year, followed by Suffolk (£31,193) and Essex (£33,951). The top-paying county was Hertfordshire (£41,908), followed by Cambridgeshire (£37,754) and Northamptonshire (£34,453).

But the firm, which says this is its most comprehensive survey to date, said staff were putting interesting work and good management ahead of salary when it came to job satisfaction.

It also found that salaries and job opportunities are continuing to rise as the economy recovers, and skills shortages in some sectors mean employees are benefiting from a bidding war of salary offers as their existing bosses try to retain their services.

In Suffolk, there are shortages of strong accountancy and finance candidates in the automotive sector, along with electrical design engineers, it said.

Work-life balance, and not just salary, figured strongly, and companies were urged to “up their game” with improved benefits, holidays, training and career opportunities to attract and retain staff.

The study is compiled from information provided by more than 2,000 professionals in specialist sectors, along with data from interviews with more than 15,000 candidates.

Cooper Lomaz operations director Mark Fletcher said the growth over the last year, and anticipated again this year, 2016, is a reassuring sign of confidence in the market as the economy continues its recovery.

More than half the surveyed businesses (55%) are planning to expand staffing this year as the economy is projected to grow by 2%.

Wages are increasing slightly at around 4%, with 58% of those surveyed enjoying a salary increase.

The survey also shows that salaries are only placed third when it comes to employee job satisfaction, sitting behind an interesting job and good management.

With talent at a premium employees are “clearly aware that they operate from a position of strength in the current market,” said Mr Fletcher.

Key staff looking to move to other companies, including in engineering, IT and accountancy are seeing their current employers coming back with salary rises in a bid to keep them.

But people are not solely motivated by how much they get paid said Mr Fletcher, who urged employers to recognise that, while salary remains important, opportunities for professional development and recognition of achievement are “key factors in staff retention.”

“Any forward-thinking company needs to look after its employees,” he said.

“It’s important for employers to keep staff happy, and it’s not just about money. People also want to have an interesting job and a good manager and opportunities to train and develop.

“Companies are being more innovative with benefits, holiday options, mobile and home working.”

It was important for companies that cut back in the recession and credit crunch to invest in staff, he added. The slump in the oil and gas industry, which was the top-paying sector in last year’s Cooper Lomaz salary survey, has seen companies in the sector cutting to skeleton staff.

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