Want to keep your best employees from joining a competitor? You might have to hand out some significant raises in the new year.

Starting salaries for professional occupations are expected to rise slightly more than 4 percent on average in 2016, according to a study from staffing firm Robert Half. Here are the average pay increases for the five sectors Robert Half tracks.

  • Technology--5.3 percent
  • Finance and accounting--4.7 percent
  • Creative and marketing--3.8 percent
  • Administrative and office support--3.8 percent
  • Legal--3.1 percent

"It's a wake-up call for employers that don't think they need to pay 4 and 5 percent annual increases," says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. "If they're just giving cost-of-living increases, they're losing talent."

Robert Half's study analyzed salary data for more than 750 occupations, sourced from more than 1,000 recruiters in the U.S.

Why are salaries expected to rise so much in 2016? Demand for skilled talent in these industries outweighs supply, particularly in technology-related roles, according to the study. 

Professions that are expected to see the largest jumps in pay include:

  • Big data engineers--8.9 percent
  • Mobile app developers--8.2 percent
  • Content strategists--8.1 percent

So how can you attract and retain top talent if your business can't afford to hand out significant raises? 

While 83 percent of employees in the study said a bigger salary would be the number one reason for leaving, nearly half of all respondents said that more growth opportunities and a better work-life balance were also important considerations. Nonmonetary perks employers should think about offering include:

  • The option to work from home
  • The ability to work across multiple projects in non-compartmentalized departments
  • Access to senior management

"Hang that out on your job description to make sure that you attract those people," McDonald says. 

If you're having trouble finding qualified candidates for certain positions, one strategy to consider is hiring individuals who have some or most of the required skills, and paying for training programs to bridge the gap, McDonald says.

For more information on compensation levels in 2016, check out Robert Half's infographic below.

Published on: Sep 2, 2015