IN FOCUS: With a spike in graduate salaries, is the pay of some existing junior employees lagging behind?

IN FOCUS: With a spike in graduate salaries, is the pay of some existing junior employees lagging behind?

Amid the tight employment market, companies CNA spoke to said they have been offering competitive salaries to attract new talent.

Cisco, which has been hiring across the board with about 20 vacancies in different roles such as systems engineering and sales as of Friday, said it designs its compensation packages to be competitive with local talent markets.

“In our last salary review for new graduates, we offered salaries that are well-positioned within our internal pay range and that stand competitive in the market,” said Ms Anupam Trehan, the company’s people and communities leader for the Asian region.

She added that the company continues to see “strong” interest in the open job positions that it puts out.

According to the latest graduate employment survey, the information and digital technologies cluster had the second largest increase in median salary last year, rising from S$5,000 in 2021 to S$5,625.

PwC Singapore, which also has vacancies in areas such as software engineering and risk services, said it has made shifts in compensation and benefits to stay competitive “like every major employer”.

However, not all companies may be able to compete on salaries, according to the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).

“For SMEs with a relatively smaller workforce, any unfilled job vacancy may mean turning away business and requiring existing employees to take on additional workloads,” said SNEF’s executive director Sim Gim Guan.

“To better attract talent, SMEs could redesign jobs to enable their employees to perform at a higher level, which will in turn allow the employers to pay more,” he added.

Creative agency Blak Labs, which has recruited about five graduates since 2019, said it provides opportunities for its new hires, in addition to offering competitive salaries. 

“The market here is extremely tight in terms of talent,” said the company’s managing partner Charlie Blower. “Our approach is to reward based on merit and contribution to the business.”

“Clearly, there are businesses with deeper pockets but we believe there is a trade-off between their working environment and the opportunity that we offer.”


Beyond dangling higher salaries for new hires, experts said it’s also crucial for companies to make corresponding increases to the wages of existing employees to ensure pay equity and fairness.

With the recent spike in median salaries likely to narrow the salary gap between new entrants and junior employees, companies will need to address any pay discrepancies, Dr David Leong, managing partner of PeopleWorldwide Consulting, an HR advisory and search firm.

“Employers must re-calibrate their salary brackets and adjust pay equity quickly otherwise, disgruntled employees might leave their jobs for better pay,” he said.

He added that wage adjustments should also take into consideration factors such as an employee’s experience, contributions to the company and performance.

If left unchecked, Ms Wee said this could result in pay compression, which occurs when new hires are brought in at salaries close to or equal to those of existing employees. 

This could deteriorate staff morale and speed up the revolving door of talent, she added.

Companies CNA spoke to said they regularly review staff salaries to ensure fairness in remuneration.

National HealthTech agency IHiS said it hires around 100 fresh graduates a year, adding that it is currently actively recruiting tech talents for roles such as data analytics and software engineering. 

The agency’s chief human resource officer May Wee said IHiS conducts regular reviews and offers competitive salary which is benchmarked against the industry.

“Correspondingly, the salary we offer for both fresh grads and existing hires have been adjusted accordingly to ensure minimal wage discrepancy,” said Ms Wee. 

This appeared to be the case for all the companies CNA spoke to including Cisco, Deloitte, Blak Labs, PwC and DBS, who said they reviewed salaries across all levels regularly and made pay adjustments, where there were discrepancies. 

Last year, the Government also announced that about 23,000 civil servants would benefit from salary increases of between 5 per cent and 14 per cent, as part of efforts to attract and retain its fair share of talent.

Beyond salaries, Mr Adrian Choo, CEO and Founder of consultancy firm Career Agility International, said companies should also regularly engage their employees in career conversations.

“It’s not always about the money, when it comes to whether people stay or leave,” he said. “There are other factors such as work-life balance, training and investment in their career and the office environment which might cause employees to leave their jobs.”

Some companies like IHiS, DBS, Cisco and Deloitte also said they offer hybrid work model and flexible work arrangements. 

“Since the beginning of 2021, we (have given) all employees the flexibility to work remotely up to 40 per cent of the time,” said DBS’ head of talent acquisition group Susan Cheong, adding that caregivers and young parents have the option to work remotely completely for up to six months at a stretch. 

“Such arrangements support employee needs and aspirations, which tend to change along with their life stages and personal circumstances.”