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Xcede Salary Guide 2021: The Biggest Trends in Talent

  • Publish Date: Posted over 2 years ago
  • Author:by Xcede

​2020 saw the COVID-19 pandemic accelerate the pace of digitisation across all sectors and, in turn, the expectations of employees, particularly those working within the fields of data, digital, and technology. 

Results of the latest Xcede Salary Survey provide key data and insights into the current market trends that are driving candidate movement. Here, we examine some of the findings that will help businesses shape their talent acquisition strategies in 2021. 

Lay of the Land

An urgent need for organisations to build strong digital, data, and tech teams, means companies are working harder than ever to attract and retain top-tier talent. This is reflected in our survey results, with a 55% increase in salaries for Head Of roles across all three specialisms as businesses invest in senior professionals who can drive strategies over the next 12 months and beyond.

While contractors have provided an excellent short-term solution to skills shortages, companies are rapidly coming to the conclusion that the only way to address the situation is to prioritise Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) strategies and processes. When researching for the survey, we found that more organisations were distancing themselves from just relying on formal higher education qualifications to instead focus on attributes and internships to win the war on talent. 


An acute focus on digital transformation projects during the pandemic meant organisations had a precise blueprint on the data talent and seniority level they wanted to hire. As a direct result, we saw less speculative hiring and a greater emphasis on candidates with the exact skills and experience dictated by project needs. 

Data skills remain in high demand, with two roles set to become crucial for a lot of businesses in 2021:

  1. Product Analyst. A booming area for several years, with employers dealing with a lack of qualified candidates in this particular space.

  2. Machine Learning Engineer. Increasingly required by companies that have built data science teams but need engineers to deploy and productionise algorithms.


The pandemic did little to impact digital growth, which saw a year-on-year increase in average salaries by 4%. Top wages in product management rose 15% from 2019, with this figure expected to increase by the end of 2021 as demand outstrips supply.

2021 will see the continued acceleration of ecommerce and lifestyle applications, meaning digital will remain a candidate-driven market with remuneration and benefits packages predicted to keep rising as companies seek to attract and retain talent. 


Demand for specialist technology roles will continue to grow as companies continue their digital transformation journeys in 2021. Last year saw average salaries increase by 12% on the previous year, with top-level wages rising by 5%. Back-end developers are particularly sought-after across a range of industries, with permanent salaries for lead-level increasing by 7% since 2019.

In 2021, companies will further define the parameters of remote working as a permanent option, especially if they want to secure the best tech talent. It will be interesting to see how this will impact salaries and additional incentives offered. 

We’re likely to see employers who invested heavily in creating a ‘fun’ workplace culture start backtracking (if they haven’t already) and rethink how this culture translates to include remote working.

Download the Report

The Xcede Salary Survey 2021 highlights findings from 24 industries, combining information gathered from surveys, CVs, job listings and successful hires to provide a snapshot of current hiring trends and guidance on remuneration for the most prominent roles in data, digital and tech. Download your copy today.