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Why aren’t agencies taking their benefits packages more seriously?

Posted: Oct 2021
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Agency leaders often ask us why so many comms professionals want to work in-house. There are several reasons why a role in-house appeals – the opportunity to work for one brand; more control over your diary; more money and better company benefits.

There are some things that we need to clear up here. First, our recent Salary Guide shows that average base salaries are comparable in in-house companies and agencies. Bonuses are also similar at comparable levels. In-house bonuses nudged above agency bonuses in 2020, although more agency professionals had received a bonus in 2019. There isn’t a great deal of difference when it comes to what in-house professionals and those in agencies are being paid.

However, when we look at company benefits, there’s no competition. Company benefits are better in-house, hands down. Findings from our survey highlighted how agencies struggled during lockdown, making cuts to the numbers of employees in receipt of private health insurance and private dental care. Conversely, in-house companies’ benefits have evolved to support employees’ health and wellbeing during these challenging times of ongoing uncertainty. There has been an increase in the uptake of mental health and wellbeing programmes, private health insurance provision and enhanced sick pay.

One of the main reasons that agencies are losing their talent is that their benefits do not match up to those on offer in-house. This is how the top 10 benefits on offer in-house and on offer at agencies compare:

Top ten benefits in-house and agency 2019-2020

For the full list of the benefits on offer in in-house companies and agencies, see pages 18-19 of the Salary Guide.

These findings show quite clearly how in-house ‘hard’ benefits outshine the ones offered in agencies. Perhaps agencies don’t think it matters? We say benefits do matter.

If salaries are comparable but there are better benefits on offer for an in-house role, it’s a no-brainer where the talent will go. Agencies are losing their talent in droves, and it’s not to competitor agencies, it’s to in-house corporate comms teams. You can read more about this here. If agency leaders want to hire the best employees – talented, motivated workers who can help the business thrive – then a solid employee benefits package is a must if they want to retain these team members. The competition for agencies is not so much other agencies but larger corporates with exciting benefits.

So let us share some words of wisdom for agency CEOs and MDs:

  • Providing benefits that improve the quality of your employees’ lives is crucial for a positive employee experience and can be a key competitive differentiator in what is a highly crowded corporate comms space. The benefits you offer can make or break a promising candidate’s decision to work for your agency.
  • Have you reviewed your benefits packages recently? Updating packages annually is important, not only to show employees that you value them but to move with the times. With remote working taking centre stage, contributing to the cost of home broadband could be a creative option that demonstrates how you are committed to staying relevant.
  • Are you giving your team the benefits that matter to them? If you’re not sure, then carry out an internal survey and find out!
  • How can you stand out among your competitors? Are you aware of the benefits they offer? Do they lead the way, or do you?
  • Tailor the benefits according to an employee’s level / role – for example, we know that agency Account Managers value bonuses, holiday allowance, gym memberships and anything that involves free food and drink. Senior people prize a great pension, parental leave/pay, health insurance, holiday allowance and flexibility.

Let’s not forget that employee expectations have changed across the board in the wake of the pandemic. There’s now a big conversation about the way we work, how we divide our time between home and office, which provides a great opportunity for agency CEO and MDs to show that they are willing to push through changes to their benefits packages to move with the times and show that they are agile.

In a job market where agencies are fighting over talent, as the pickings are slim, it is high time agencies make themselves visible and attractive – a fact we were reminded of only this week, as one lucky corporate Associate Director has three offers on the table, which means remuneration packages will put side by side and compared. The final decision could well come down to which company is offering the most appealing benefits package.

To read our full Salary Guide, click 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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