The number of board-level appointments with packages in excess of £200,000 made by employers using retained headhunters rose by 4.5% over the past 12 months, according to new research.
The study, conducted by Executive Grapevine, also found that the amount of money employers paid for filling such positions increased by 21.7%, as companies looked to fill top positions ahead of an economic recovery.
Companies in the healthcare, financial services, consumer and media sectors faced the biggest increases, while those in the industrial, telecoms and technology, and professional services sectors also contributed to the increased spend at this level.
However, the cost of hiring in the £100,000 to £200,000 bracket fell by 2%, despite a 5% growth in the number of assignments, the research found.
At this level, fees only rose in the industrial market (up by 13.7%), healthcare (8.2%) and consumer sectors (6.7%), with financial and professional services down by 2% and 7.7% respectively.
“The strong growth rates at board and leadership level contrast starkly with low or negative growth below £200,000 in all other sectors except industrial,” the report said.
“This suggests that the salary level of assignments at which executive search is most valuable to clients is moving to a new, higher base level.”
Fees derived by retained headhunters for public sector and government placements worth between £100,000 and £200,000 fell sharply, by 52.5%, while those worth more than £200,000 decreased by 18.1%.
“This suggests that all but the most strategically significant hires have either stopped or been migrated to a different recruitment solution,” the report concluded.
Overall, the number of executive search assignments rose by 5.3% over the last 12 months and the net fee income for retained headhunters grew by an average of 17.7%, or 15% on a like-for-like basis. This took the sector into positive territory for the first time since 2008.
Another survey by recruiter Robert Half International revealed that just 11% of senior executives in the UK intend to add permanent, professional-level staff in the second half of this year, while only 29% say they are more confident about the economy now than they were six months ago.
Losing top talent is executives’ greatest concern, cited by 59% of those surveyed, with 21% of those in the private sector planning to offer pay rises to retain staff.