No matter how big or small your firm is, or which type of projects or company you work with, salary is and always will be one of the key driving forces in attracting and retaining the right level of talent to get the job done.

The consultancy market is made up of a variety of different firm types, ranging from the largest multidisciplinary firms, right down to the Boutique organisations which offer localised and niche services. While it can appear as though these different firms deal with different clients and in different areas of the industry, the talent stretched across them is largely the same. This is where salary comes into play.

Despite the big-name multidisciplinary firms boasting the largest footprint and arguably the greatest expanse of projects at any one time, their lack of a niche or specific area of focus can often mean that salaries are typically pitched at a lower rate. This goes against a more traditional view that the larger firms pay more – with the lack of an industry niche meaning that consultants are typically charged out at a lower rate compared with those from a highly skilled boutique agency.

This is not necessarily the case. Firms who are working on the large framework type projects such as HS2, Highways and Homes England, are limited on what they can pay salary wise, compared with firms working on a more diverse range of projects, some of which they can price at a higher rate.

The intermediate firms and SME’s meanwhile are catching up, no longer relating their smaller size to lower salaries. And the smallest and most specific firms, considered Boutique agencies, pay higher salaries still, often attracting the most skilled professionals in their sector.

What is impacting salary in the Consulting Market?

While the size and breadth of a firm does have an impact on the salaries it pays, the main driving force in the conversation around salary is supply and demand – what is the demand for specific job roles, and how high and varied is the talent pool to choose from?

Let’s break this down a little further into a couple of specific job roles and niche areas.

Ecology and Archaeology have long been considered the staple of our industry. They are popular courses at University, and as such every year there is a readily available influx of graduates keen and waiting to jump into the sector. What this means is that supply is large, regardless of demand, and this generally means that firms can afford to offer lower salaries – with the candidates simply happy to have found a job.

Meanwhile, areas such as Corporate Sustainability, Air Quality, Noise, and Energy are in high demand, despite there being an insufficient supply of roles. This means that firms in these areas need to pay a much higher salaries in order to attract the candidates who can perform the role to a high standard.

The fact is that salaries will always fluctuate, depending on the relevancy of the skill and level of expertise required to perform a role, and the changing marketplace which pits organisations and firms against each other as competitors. The consultancy market is constantly growing and evolving, with years of experience now being outweighed in value by transferable skills and niche ability.

Individuals are constantly craving more from their jobs, not just in terms of salaries but also with regard to flexibility, location, clear opportunity for progression, variety of projects and the structure of the team. The candidate experience during the recruitment process is also a pinnacle area of focus which is on the rise, with this process proving the deciding factor for candidates who receive multiple offers.

When faced with a choice, key factors come into play. It is highly likely the highest salary will win the day, but it is also key to pay attention to the experience of the interview process in the eyes of the candidate; including the style of interview, the speed and type of communication received throughout, the perceived brand and culture of the firm, and the receipt of a clearly laid out offer including a mapped progression plan.

The market looks set to be candidate-led for the foreseeable, therefore having a clear strategy in place is absolutely key to securing the best talent available and avoiding valuable time being wasted by a process that may leave a firm frustrated or disappointed by the outcome.

If you would like to review your current salary in comparison to the rest of the market, feel free to get in touch.