Alts Survey Covering Graphic   Feb 2021

Alternatives & MII Salary & Market Sentiment Survey 2021 Key Findings

10 March 2021 by Sandra Lawler

Alternatives & MII Salary & Market Sentiment Survey 2021 Key Findings

Alts Survey Covering Graphic   Feb 2021

Sandra Lawler Digital, Marketing, Career Advice...

The new 2021 Alternatives & MII Salary, Market Insights & Sentiment Survey

Covid business impacts revealed;  Positive hiring outlook; Surge in preference for long term remote working; Marketing role more strategic; Diversity, room to improve     

Download summary here, with full report to follow...

"From a marketing and a resourcing perspective, there is some light at the end of the tunnel, after a very tough year for businesses and for people personally. Some sectors have been hugely impacted and recovery will be complex. But others such as tech and retail have adapted, pivoted or benefited from the crisis. The picture that emerges now is one of a marketing industry that is resilient, with a pragmatic but cautiously optimistic view of how 2021 and beyond will unfold.

Trading conditions are expected to pick up, a majority of respondents are secure or very secure in their positions and the hiring outlook is encouraging. The surge in popularity of remote working, with more than half of companies talking about a blended hybrid workforce, is a gamechanger. Companies who offer flexibility will be those who attract and retain the best.”

That’s according to Sandra Lawler, Founder Director of Alternatives, Ireland’s No1 marketing & digital talent specialists.

She was commenting on the launch of the Alternatives 2021 Salary, Market Insights & Sentiment Survey, run by Alternatives in conjunction with the Marketing Institute of Ireland. It is the largest annual survey of its kind, with over 850 respondents from the marketing, digital and commercial community. The survey was conducted between 7th-31st January 2021.

Key Findings: 
Market Sentiment & Outlook

Market place was badly hit and Covid impacted hugely. It was a very tough year on most businesses, with a 49% negative impact. Sectors most impacted were the broad travel and tourism sector (90-94% negative), as well as motor, food, drinks, manufacturing and construction. That said the pandemic has had a positive business impact on 1 in 5 respondents’ businesses in sectors such as agri, tech, e-commerce, retail and logistics.

Brexit is expected to impact negatively for 33% but this is less negative than a year ago (45%) and 56% expect better trading in the 12 months ahead.

The Hiring outlook is also more positive and 65% will hire a little or a lot this year, a big improvement on last year. 

Employment, salaries and benefits

Employment has been impacted, but it is better now than in the 6 months post Covid. Following a number of months last year with high temporary layoffs in several sectors, 4% of respondents are now unemployed or on temporary layoff. Tourism, media & publishing and agencies were the hardest hit last year. Those at senior level were impacted the least and those at career entry level, the most.

Salaries have also been impacted by Covid. Many were cut temporarily throughout the year, but by January, 10% of respondents noted a salary decrease.  44% did get an increase in salary, although much of this might have been in place by the time Covid hit in mid March.  

Benefits are similar to last year, despite Covid, with more getting healthcare now. There is also less disparity in benefits between males and females, which had been the case in our previous annual survey. Bonuses remain at similar levels too and annual leave has increased somewhat.

Gender & Diversity

There are 1.8 females for every male, unchanged from last year, with less of a differential at director level (1.2:1). Male respondents continue to be paid more on average than their female counterparts, with the exception of the first stage of their career. The differential then increases the more senior the career level, up to director level when the differential reaches 9%, or an average of €12k.

In terms of Diversity Just one in five respondents consider their companies or functions to be very diverse, with most (63%) considering it somewhat diverse. 14% rate not diverse at all. Although most feel that they are quite diverse in gender and age, diversity in ethnicity and physical ability score very low. Larger, multinationals are better on diversity measures; smaller Irish owned companies have a longer way to go.

Engagement, happiness & coping with Covid

Despite a tough year, personal engagement/happiness in the role is up, with an overall rating of 63/100. Directors and heads of level are most engaged; practitioners and support level are much less so. Half expect to move on from their company within 2 years.

Key factors in driving engagement are working in a meaningful role and to work alongside great colleagues, and with a great boss. Earlier career stage respondents, who particularly value this people interaction, are much less engaged and coping less well overall. 

People rated their level of coping personally with Covid at 63/100. Directors are coping much better (70/100) than most junior levels (55/100) and this needs to be carefully monitored in the months ahead.

Place of Work Polices for 2021

97% are still working remotely now. 58% of companies will operate a blended policy going forward.  15% will work full-time from home on an ongoing basis. Flexible, blended working policies will be key in motivating and managing expectations of staff in the months ahead.

The Evolving marketing role and focus

Marketing role is considered somewhat more strategic than in the last annual survey. 63% felt that marketing played a strategic, revenue generating role in their organisation, in particular those sectors that are very brand and consumer focused.  We see an increase in shared responsibilities with other functions, in areas such as business strategy and customer experience, and a resultant need for broad business, effectiveness and customer focused skillsets as well as strong stakeholder skills.  

As a result of Covid and Brexit for certain sectors, marketers are now operating with tighter resources. Teams and budgets are small and smaller than in our last survey. 45% teams are of 5 people or less, compared to 42% end 2019.

Budget sizes remain tight and 46% plan to spend €500k or less. 28% plan to decrease budgets further this year. Key areas of spend will be digital content, PPC/SEO and above the line. communications.  

The Outlook

From a marketing and a resourcing perspective, there is some light at the end of the tunnel, after a very tough year for businesses and for people personally. Some sectors have been hugely impacted and recovery will be complex. But others have adapted, pivoted or benefited from the crisis.  Businesses will continue to need the skill sets that a strong, strategic marketing function can bring to drive a customer led recovery.  

The focus on employees’ wellbeing is paramount in the year ahead. Not all are coping in this crisis and as the lockdown extends many are being pushed to their limits, especially those at earliest career stage. We need to find ways to support and help them navigate their companies and their careers in the months ahead.

David Field, CEO of The Marketing Institute of Ireland ( said: “At a time when it is critical for businesses to rally their people and sustain performance, our survey clearly shows more junior employees are feeling more pressure due to the impact of Covid. It also shows Covid has had a significant impact on the marketing industry, with both budgets and salaries being cut, but despite this, marketeers have continued to play a key role in driving business performance and engagement with consumers.

Businesses wishing to maintain momentum, drive business performance and retain their talent would be wise to be aware of the pressures their teams are under and ensure they underpin their 2021 plans with supports and programmes to help their teams cope and get the best from their people.   A critical component of this is providing your talent time and opportunity to upskill and continue to grow and develop in their roles.”

For more information on this survey, or to organise a bespoke survey for your business, please contact Sandra Lawler at