Who’s getting the biggest bounses? Is it time to rethink how the rewards are shared out?

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Posted: Jun 2022

In our most recent annual Salary Guide, one of the key findings we reported was the return of bonuses. Reflecting the healthy state of the communications industry as the economy continues to bounce back post-pandemic, more respondents received a bonus (68%) in this most recent survey, compared to the previous year (59%). Furthermore, agency bonuses now match those of in-house professionals, with the average bonus up 1 percentage point to 18%. However, 12% more in-house corporate comms professionals received a bonus (72%) compared to agency professionals (60%).

The survey also found that the largest bonuses were awarded to the more senior in-house and agency respondents. In-house Communications Directors, Global Heads of Comms, and Heads of Comms UK/EMEA reported receiving the highest average bonuses, a healthy 23%.

In the agencies, CEOs reported an impressive 43% average bonus, with Board Director/Partners receiving 23%.

The junior professionals in the agencies from entry to Senior Account Director levels reported receiving the lowest bonuses. Considering these are some of the most sought-after levels across the sector, this is somewhat surprising. In this competitive market, monetary compensation would be the best motivator for these professionals in the early stages of their careers.

Everyone loves a bonus

Bonuses are always discretionary and as we know, there are some large, group-owned agencies which don’t give bonuses, but many corporate comms and financial comms agencies do. However, what we have observed is how bonus offerings can impact work culture – a bonus is great motivator, a mark of great work, a share in the profits. From what we can tell, every corporate comms agency has a different formula when it comes to calculating bonuses, what they reward bonuses for, when they pay them, and how transparent they are about them. That said, everyone we know loves a bonus, although they can be a huge bone of contention.

Over the years, we have noticed that it’s very typical for agency bosses to reward themselves and their most senior members of the team with the lion’s share of the bonus budget. Justified by bringing in new business, leading teams, retaining, and growing client accounts as well as bringing in new business leads. It’s also typical that bonuses at the delivery ranks (Account Managers, Account Directors and Associate Directors) can fall short and the Account Executives are just ‘thrown a bone’. Our survey findings back this up.

Tables have turned

However, the tables have turned in the 2022 hiring market as there is now a shortage of people to fill roles at delivery levels, which has pushed up their salaries, but not their bonuses. Compared to the previous year’s findings, all delivery levels received lower bonuses.

So, agency CEOs, this is the ideal time to really examine retention strategies, and consider carefully what to pay out early next year, how to distribute the rewards, and define what it is you are rewarding. Considering the staff shortage, perhaps more attention is needed on the delivery levels – rewarding them better will surely help keep them – it’s an idea worth considering…

We recognise that this is often a quandary for CEOs and FDs – new business wins are team efforts, keeping the business is a team effort, and what is often recognised most is who brings in the leads. So how exactly can bonuses be worked out fairly? There is no harm rewarding new business leads although perhaps remember, the delivery levels are busy working rather than networking. In our minds, it’s actually quite simple to have a transparent bonus scheme which the team can all push towards. It’s just a question of being mindful that the scheme is aligned with the company values and enhances the culture, rather than the team resenting it, and using it as a motivator for leaving.

To read more about our findings on bonuses, as well as a number of other topics, you can download our annual Salary Guide here.

The Works Search: a search consultancy specialising in PR and corporate communications. We have unrivalled matching abilities and known for finding the top 5% performers in the industry - the ones who deliver and make your reputation great. For more advice or market insights, do get in touch with us on 0207 903 9291 or email

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