Challenges Facing Practitioners on Salary Reviews
Managing personnel would have to be one of the most significant challenges for all practitioners.

Today’s world is about employee satisfaction and engagement. There is the constant challenge of hiring, retaining and rewarding personnel. Questions arise around just who are the right type of employees to target for your specific firm; most importantly, being able to recoup on training and development costs for an employee is crucial for staying ahead. Maximise your capacity sooner and avoid industry shortfalls.

Employee recruitment and retention is a daily concern for all practitioners. Smaller firms face additional challenges when attracting their ideal employee over or beyond their larger counterparts.

Most, if not all firms, are either currently evaluating or have just concluded their performance reviews. Professional firms typically coincide reviews with the June/July budget review period. Some of the challenges and considerations are:


Trying to set and review the individual salaries of personnel is often a dilemma. The market dictates base rates for salaries, and during times of staffing shortages, salaries can often be inflated. Just ask WA practices that were caught competing against mining firm wages. These practices now acknowledge that many of the hires during that period are now well over paid by comparison to current markets.

Importantly, when taking on an employee, it’s imperative to understand what local market salaries are doing. Comparing your firms’ employees against benchmarks will ultimately improve your firms performance.

Another aspect to consider is that once you employ a staff member on an above market salary, it is very difficult to scale this back. Often this makes a rod for the firm’s back. Future increase reviews become difficult, or not at all, which can often result in staff resignations.

Rarely do we hear of a wage freeze in professional firms. That’s not to say it can’t happen, but it is rare. Therefore, if your firm is looking to employ a new staff member on a better than market salary, or already does pay personnel better than market rates, at some stage staff turnover may become a blessing as wage costs continue to rise and productivity gains are limited.


Many firms will set benchmarks or KPIs for their staff to achieve. Quite often staff are failing to achieve these targets; perhaps targets are too tough or unrealistic, or the staff are underperformers. Why aren’t targets being achieved? All too often we hear firms commenting that staff provide various excuses for less than satisfactory performances. The difficulty is, where benchmarks are set, the achievement or non-achievement of such targets can turn argumentative, resulting in a disappointing review process.


We have long said that we are not huge supporters of bonuses. Bonuses may become expected as regular salary entitlements, therefore removing any performance requirements. Some firms may pay bonuses irrespective of whether targets have been met. Or, targets set by some firms are unrealistic, leading to goals that are either too high or low. Targets may be unrealistic which may cause problems in determining the bonus amount to pay.

A suggestion here is to keep it fresh and mix it up. Reward those things beyond the norm, otherwise remunerate staff well for achieving average and meeting expectations.


So what do firms pay above and beyond a salary and bonus. Well, in reality that can be quite varied. However, common benefits are things such as course fees, professional memberships, additional study time, social functions, perhaps insurances and the like.


At times firms link client introductions into salary determination or bonus structures, which is fine if that is part of the standard criteria.

However, if you expect this of your personnel, then it can be acknowledged and rewarded separately to ordinary salary reviews and bonuses. Keep in mind, few personnel will be good at this. However, where they are able to introduce new clients, it’s imperative to understand who owns the client as well as whether the introduction is suited to the firm. There is no point having a number of new clients join the firm if they are not a target client in terms of annual fee, size or services. This point is paramount.

So, where new clients are introduced, set up separate rewards for this skill and set the parameters in terms of ideal client attributes. Reward accordingly, but separate to other remuneration factors so should this activity change or decrease it doesn’t become an expectation.

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