4 Salary and Hiring Trends You Need to Watch

By Paul Flaharty, executive director of the marketing and creative practice at global talent solutions firm Robert Half which connects professionals with companies hiring in marketing, creative, digital, advertising and public relations. His primary responsibility is to develop and oversee the growth strategy for the company’s marketing and creative contract talent solutions teams across the United States. 


The most sought-after designers are visual problem solvers, storytellers and experience creators. They are also highly adaptable professionals, continually looking to hone their creative skills. But identifying these designers for your team isn’t always easy.

Navigating a hiring process today can be challenging. Companies continue to compete for top candidates, salaries keep trending upward, workplace expectations have changed, and uncertainty causes unease in the marketplace. It’s a lot for any creative leader to face when looking for professionals to help with critical design projects.

Drawing on the 2023 Salary Guide From Robert Half here are four key trends I’d recommend hiring managers consider when crafting a recruitment strategy.


1. Top Talent Expects Top Salaries

Let’s cut to the chase. To hire and retain skilled designers, you need to offer competitive starting salaries and review them regularly to ensure they stay competitive. Robert Half recruiters report that many candidates are receiving 3-5 job offers, giving them little incentive to consider an opportunity with a lowball starting salary.

Employers are getting the message. Forty percent of marketing and creative managers are boosting starting salaries to entice new hires, while over half (52%) are giving raises to keep current employees from eyeing a move to another company.

National median salaries for the following in-demand design roles reflect the upward pressure on pay:

  • Art director: $93,250
  • Digital artist: $68,250
  • Graphic designer: $62,000
  • Packaging designer: $63,250
  • Web designer: $75,000

Salaries vary by location, of course. You can search for a city in the Salary Guide to get a figure adjusted for regional living costs, availability of skilled talent and other factors.


2. Work-Life Balance and Wellness are Rising Priorities

Even a generous salary offer may not be enough to seal the deal. Many candidates look for well-rounded compensation packages that improve their lives in a variety of ways. These are the five most-wanted benefits across all sectors:

  1. Health insurance
  2. Paid time off
  3. Retirement savings plan
  4. Dental insurance
  5. Leave of absence

But that’s not all that workers want. Seventy-nine percent of employees surveyed want to improve their work-life balance, and 51% would like more well-being support from their employer. And companies are listening — a majority (83%) of HR managers said they’ve added new perks in response to the hiring market. These include remote work opportunities, mental health resources, wellness programs and more.

This priority shift to health reflects many workers’ experiences during the pandemic. It’s no surprise that candidates are giving special consideration to employers offering extensive benefits and perks.


3. Flexible Work is an Expectation, Not a Perk

Remember the 9-to-5? Many employees would rather you didn’t. Around three-quarters (74%) of creative professionals currently work in remote or hybrid arrangements, and over half (55%) say they feel most productive working from home. Forty-one percent of senior managers said some employees have quit rather than return to the office full time. Robert Half recruiters report that firms with strict in-office policies are experiencing the highest turnover rates — the last thing employers need in the current job market.

The best way to look at flexible work is not as a perk or concession but as a win-win for you and your workforce. Remote workers who may once have faced a grueling commute can now start their day sharp and fresh. And working off-site makes it easier for them to shut out distractions for a couple of hours to focus on high-priority tasks. Not all employees want to work from home 100% of the time, though. More than half (55%) of those who plan to look for a new job say they want a hybrid approach where teams alternate between home and office. Employees want to work an average of three days a week remotely, leaving plenty of time for the kind of close-quarters brainstorming creatives thrive on.

There are also definite benefits businesswise of offering fully remote or hybrid options. For one thing, with geography no longer a barrier to recruitment you can hire employees who live anywhere. Also you’re likely to see better staff morale and work-life balance and, as a result, increased retention.


4. Professional Development Policies Are a Talent Magnet

With many projects requiring up-to-the-minute knowledge of new industry-specific tools and software, designers can’t stand still and stay competitive. Reskilling can help them keep pace with how their jobs are evolving.

While the best designers learn something new every day, few have the time and resources to pursue more structured training on their own. That gives firms with well-developed upskilling programs an edge in recruitment and retention. Whether you offer perks such as subsidized online learning, mentoring opportunities or both, make sure these programs are prominently advertised in your job postings and candidate outreach channels.

With various shifts and disruptions in the past few years, the current employment landscape can at times look like a minefield. By understanding and addressing the professional, personal and financial priorities of employees and candidates, you can build a great team of design professionals.


For more insights to help you hire and retain talent, check out the 2023 Salary Guide From Robert Half.