Despite the UK economy experiencing a turbulent 2023, with interest rates rising to counteract the highest inflation levels for decades, employment in the private equity and alternative investments sector remained remarkably buoyant.

The demand for support professionals continued and firms consistently competed for quality applicants, resulting in a record number of candidates starting new roles in the last 12 months.

We surveyed companies, candidates, and employees across the private equity and alternative investments space to track changing salary and benefits trends. Feedback shows the rush to recruit is settling to ‘new normal’ levels where demand remains strong as companies take a longer-term approach to hiring.

Pay is a primary concern

In the current market, value for money is vital – and pay is a critical issue on both sides of the interview table. Firms are willing to reward quality business support talent, but they’re making highly selective, strategic hires and moving away from extreme increases for new roles.

Meanwhile, salary remains a core priority for current applicants, but career progression and a standout pay and benefits package are also essential differentiators. Flexibility continues to be a powerful attraction and retention tool, with hybrid and remote working benefits still a deciding factor in offer acceptances and promotion decisions.

From support professional to strategic partner

Development and progression are key to keeping employees on board and engaged. Many employees are asking for coaching on new systems, software applications, data governance, and AI. Others want to sharpen power skills like resilience, confidence, and leadership.

However, less than half (48%) received training in the last six months. And 85% of hiring managers say they don’t have a set training budget for their business support team. It’s a missed opportunity on many levels. A solid learning and development offering outshines competitors in a crowded recruitment market – and prepares support professionals for a changing future.

[Support professionals] will become increasingly more specialist, highly adaptable, agile, and technology savvy, with the ability to manage multiple executives. Focus will become more business-centric, rather than on the individuals one is supporting.

Salary expectations

Salaries remain strong following 2022’s hiring surge – but the candidate-led market may be turning a corner. 80% of our survey respondents received a pay rise in the last 12 months (up from 67% in our previous report) and 72% gained up to 10% of their salary.

With firms reporting smaller recruitment budgets going forward, more modest pay rises could become the norm – and focus may shift to rewards that inspire loyalty among valued staff. Since our last report, almost half (48%) of employers have introduced new measures to retain their support team, including flexible working, pay increases, and additional benefits.

Role expectations

Our survey shows a growing population of EAs looking to move from support to strategic partner positions. Target titles include Business Manager, Senior Business Partner, Operations Manager, and Chief of Staff. Other participants want to remain in the EA space and expand their brief by taking on high-profile projects.

Respondents’ career ambitions also signal a departure from traditional support tasks. In three years, many EAs see themselves several steps up the ladder in strategic roles, including Project Manager, Operations Manager, Head of Support, Head of Administrative Practice, and Chief of Staff. Others aim to broaden their current EA or PA scope to lead events and assume high-level operational responsibilities.

Benefits

Although salary is top of mind for today’s candidates, a first-rate benefits package remains a strong draw for applicants – and an essential strand of your retention strategy.

31% of surveyed employers tell us they’ve introduced or are considering a range of new benefits for 2023.

Flexible working

Flexible working remains a central priority for business support professionals – although its significance dipped slightly year on year. In our previous report, 82% of staff regarded remote working as either ‘extremely important’ or ‘very important’. For 2023, the number slips to 77%, with 44% considering it ‘extremely important’ and 34% ‘very important’.

Our survey data shows applicants aren’t ready to return to the office full time. When looking for a new role, 52% say they’d accept no fewer than two WFH days per week. Very few prospective employees are now holding out for a fully remote set-up, but 10% want three days from home and 29% wouldn’t go lower than one remote day.

Download our full market insights report for more information about salary expectations, role growth and benefits for business support professionals.