Even the most prestigious companies have struggled to retain junior employees in recent months as the mental toll of the pandemic and demanding expectations drive out young talent.

“There’s a shortage of experienced junior people,” said Alan Johnson, who is the managing director of Johnson Associates, a compensation consultancy that works with financial services firms. Landing a job at the most high-paying Wall Street companies is fiercely competitive among recent graduates. Retaining those employees, however, has caused headaches for executives…

Junior compensation plays a large role in giving employers an edge against competitors. Many professional services firms compete against one another to recruit talent from top universities. Offering higher salaries than industry rivals can help win over young talent, according to Johnson.

“I think they’re part of the same ecosystem,” Johnson said of major corporate jobs. “Many of those people recruit at the same schools, the same MBA programs, so coming out there’s similarity in pay and opportunity.”

Many companies participate in salary planning surveys to determine compensation levels within the industry and across different positions. That planning has taken on heightened importance this year as employers handle a surge in pandemic- and stress-driven departures by junior workers.

“We’ve told clients that the end-of-the-year pay process this year will be very important,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be a really important year, and make sure you pay people what you think you have to.”

SHRM / July 6, 2021