Communicate asked employees what they have to say about their salaries post-COVID-19.
In this last part of Communicate's Salary Survey, bigger and bolder edition, employees themselves tell us how they feel about the ways in which they are rewarded for their work by their employers. We reached out to industry professionals individually via an online survey that received a large number of responses. These professionals shared their own data and details, which, once aggregated, provided a somewhat different perspective from what industry players had told us.
Turns out they indeed have a lot to say...
• Although a number of agencies had to resort to reducing their workforce, a massive 96.9% of our respondents were able to keep their job, albeit at the cost of seeing their salaries reduced for a while in most cases.
• In order to retain their workforce, most organizations implemented salary cuts, with 61.5% of respondents saying that their salary was temporarily slashed.
• Thankfully, a wide majority of salaries were restored (81.5% of respondents), more often than not with payback of the shortfalls (in 79% of cases) – which goes to show how the decision to temporarily reduce salaries was the right move for organizations to reserve cash and pay back employees once they found their footing in the new normal. Yet, the gender and age gaps reflect the differences in how different types of employees were treated differently, perhaps in line with the importance of their roles, their salary levels, and their own priorities.
• The fact that almost a fifth of respondents (18.5%) are still earning less than their pre-pandemic salary shows that a not-insignificant number of organizations are keeping their costs down, either because they are being prudent (we won’t venture into calling anyone stingy) or because they haven’t recouped lost revenues yet.
• These findings clearly show a glaring gender gap, with women faring worse than men in terms of salary cuts and yet having their salaries restored less often, perhaps as they chose to work from home or part-time more than men in order to deal with childcare and home-schooling.
• Another interesting insight is the difference between agencies and marketing departments, with the latter resorting less to implementing salary cuts than agencies (53.8% vs 66.6%) but also restoring these salaries even less often (42.8% vs 84.8%) when they had to do it. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise; marketing department staff is not viewed as critical to the organization’s survival whereas employees are the lifeblood of agencies.
• All in all, it seems that being a 40 to 55 years old man, in what we can assume is a senior position, correlates with not having your salary cut but, when it was, getting it restored more than other types of employees.
• In terms of salary increases and bonuses, the findings of our survey very much mirror those on salary cuts and subsequent restoration.
• Unsurprisingly, a majority of respondents haven’t received a salary increment since 2020 (70.3%) or a bonus (58.5%), which shows how, beyond the initial shock, the pandemic still has a rippling effect on the economy.
• Men represent twice the number of women among the few who did receive a pay bump (44.4% vs 23.5%) and/or a bonus (59.2% vs 32.3%), while the youngest and oldest gene-rations were often left without either. Once again, this could be a reflection of women’s priorities – or of managers’ perception of women’s priorities.
• Agencies and marketing departments were both conservative in their approaches, with roughly a third of respondents approving salary bumps and less than half giving bonuses.
• It is possible that salary increases and bonuses were offered as a way to compensate for earlier salary cuts at the end of 2020, when outlooks started clearing up in the region. They could also be a way to retain key employees at a time of great uncertainty.
• As expected, though, bonuses in 2020 were not only rarer but also lower than in 2019.
• Again, the combination of being a man aged 40 to 55 correlates with not only avoiding salary cuts, but also, in some cases, receiving a pay increase and/or a bonus.
• Few respondents (20.6%) saw their company adjust the benefits they offer to support employees during the immediate shock of the pandemic and in the months that followed.
• It is surprising that only 39.4% of respondents benefited from flexible work policies which are often touted publicly as a priority for industry players (see the agency survey above). This may show how the work-from-home rule that applied for most of 2020 actually hampered or diluted flexible work policies, with the work/life balance becoming harder to find for employees.
• Similarly, only 6.1% of respondents enjoyed wellbeing programs offered by their employer, despite the general focus on mental health in public discourse.
• A clear majority of respondents would happily look at different compensation and work models, with the four-day workweek taking by far the largest piece of the cake (57.6%) and the option of having access to a profit-sharing scheme attracting almost a quarter of respondents (23.8%). Even though these two options seem far from applicable in today’s environment in the GCC, other types of benefits do not garner as much support amongst the workforce.
• There has been quite a massive drop in how happy industry professionals are with their pay today compared to 2019. While a large majority (70.8%) was satisfied two years ago, less than half (47.7%) is today, which should be a cause of concern for employers already faced with challenges in recruitment and staff retention.
• Although, as we saw, women were generally hit harder by the crisis, the happiness drop is less steep for them than for men, perhaps due to lower expectations and their need to juggle work-for-home and family. Possibly, women may also tend to be less vocal than men about their financial expectations.
This article was published in Communicate's latest issue.