IT Salary Shifts Show Where Firms' Post-COVID Priorities Lie

IT Salary Shifts Show Where Firms’ Post-COVID Priorities Lie

Jun 7, 2021

The Robert Half Salary Guide is one of the biggest annual surveys of remuneration and in-work benefits in the UK. This year’s report is of particular interest because the big question on everyone’s lips is, of course, what impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on pay and prospects going forward.

So how has the IT and tech sector fared? A lot of the talk has been that, with so many businesses leaning heavily on digital solutions in order to keep operating through the disruption, tech has been one of the few sectors to see any signs of job growth over the past year.

But has that been reflected in rising salaries, too?

As this summary of the 2021 salary guide data for the IT and tech sector published in Computer Weekly shows, the answer is no. Breaking down the data into figures for the ‘average’ candidate (or those with a salary in the 50th percentile of the full range for that job role) and for the highest-paid candidates (those in the 95th percentile), Computer Week’s analysis clearly shows that pay across the vast majority of UK tech roles has plateaued.

This shouldn’t be taken as too negative, not considering the huge economic disruption of the past 18 months.

It is encouraging that year-on-year decreases in salaries being advertised are very few and far between. Only project manager, data analyst and IT support manager roles are reported to be offering both lower ‘average’ salaries and top-earner packages. In addition, 95th percentile figures are down for CISOs, developer leads, DevOps engineers, DevOps managers and test analysts.

Can we read anything into the fact that these dips in top-earner packages are concentrated around development? The fact that pay in other percentile ranges remains stable suggests we shouldn’t. It could just be that firms have made fewer ‘senior’ appointments to these kinds of roles.

Higher earnings for transformation leaders

Of more interest are the roles where salaries have gone up compared to last year. So we see that the 50th percentile for programme manager salaries this year stands at £81,000, an increase of 11.72% from last year, while 95th percentile salaries for the same positions now stand at £115,000, a huge 43.75% leap from last year. In fact, a ‘middling’ programme manager role is now paying slightly more than a top percentile position was offering in 2020.

In addition, developer roles are advertising ‘middling’ salaries of £42,000 this year, up 6.33% on 2020, and top-tier salaries of £57,000, up 3.64% – further dispelling any question of there being any significance to the drop in higher salaries seen in other development roles. And top-end pay for infrastructure manager positions has reached £76,000, up 8.57% year-on-year. In addition, the Robert Half survey found that a third of infrastructure roles had been advertised as fully remote over the past 12 months, indicating how keen firms are to get people into position.

These are small samples to go on admittedly, but they do give some indication of where priorities lie in the post-COVID digital reset. The fact that salaries for project managers are down but pay for programme managers has shot up significantly tells its own story – perhaps the years of piecemeal, project-by-project digital transformation are over, and COVID-19 has prodded firms into realising the need for holistic, strategic change.

High demand for infrastructure roles, particularly in management positions, ties into this sense of enterprises going through a renewed wave of significant digital transformation. In particular, the establishment of remote and flexible working as the ‘new normal’, the accelerated adoption of cloud services and increase in digital commerce all signal a need for firms to look again at the design and implementation of their technology stack.