Exceptional Off-Cycle Compensation Adjustments for Software Engineers in 2021

The data is in: many companies have taken a drastic step to adjust compensation during the year, responding to a beyond heated tech hiring market and attrition numbers for senior engineers rarely seen before.

I talked with more than 30 hiring managers and employees at different tech companies across the globe. These firms have all done off-cycle adjustments since Jan 2021. Most of these adjustments happened June-Nov 2021, and are all above the "usual" annual raises that tend to raise salaries in-line with inflation.

A good part of the market has moved exceptionally the past 12 months in ways I've not seen the past decade. I predict that exceptional raises will be necessary to keep pace with the market, and not risk attrition of software engineers - especially senior engineers - driven by compensation.

This article shares data points I've collected and verified across companies and regions. Numbers are the same as ones published in the article More Follow-Up on the Tech Hiring Market.

Europe

  • 30% increase for all Data Engineers at a publicly traded company with a large office in Portugal. Other engineering expected to follow: however, Data Engineering attrition was too high to not act.
  • 25% base increase for engineers at a Series B startup based in Prague, Czechia. This company saw iOS and Android native engineers being poached from them.
  • 25% increase for engineers in the UK and Germany at a Series B startup with an US HQ
  • 20-25% base increase for managers at a Series C FinTech in London.
  • 20-25% base increase for engineers at a Series A startup with most engineers based in Hungary.
  • 20% base increase for a Seed startup in London
  • 20% increase for “high impact loss” tech employees at an EU tech company with offices in Germany and Spain.
  • FreeNow: 15-25% raise for tech managers at FreeNow in Germany. Engineers expected to get a raise later.
  • 15-20% increase for senior engineers at a sports tech company in London
  • 15% increase for a seed-stage startup with remote employees across Europe.
  • GitLab: 15% base increase for engineers in the Security business unit at GitLab. The security org re-benchmarked their salary against the market and did an out-of-cycle increase for everybody currently working there.
  • 15% increase or £10K increase (whichever higher) at a FinTech scaleup in London ONLY IF people commit to coming to the office 4 days/week
  • eBay: 15% base increase at an eBay subsidiary in one of the countries in Europe in Aug 2021.
  • 15% base increase for all remote developers working in countries like Romania, Serbia by a London-based startup
  • 14% raise for engineers at a UK bank subsidiary effective 1 Nov. This was after management told engineers in June there will be no raises until Apr 2022, answering questions. 25 engineers, mostly seniors (20% of staff) left over the summer and fall, most quoting unhappiness with pay, promoting this emergency measure.
  • Mendix: 10-30% increase for software engineers. “Likely because stock from acquisition by Siemens vested this month (after 3 years) and lots of people are leaving (two founders, two other C-levels).”
  • 10-20% increase for Tech, R&D+Ops employees in a Series B startup in Israel
  • Booking.com: 10% base increase for almost all software engineers at Booking.com in the Netherlands and the UK. “So Booking decided two days ago to randomly give a flat 10% raise to all Software Developers, SREs, EMs, Production Engineers, Data Scientists in Analytics and security engineers. However, ML Engineers, Product and Design were left out of this raise.” “Now a senior developer at Booking.com, in Amsterdam, is making 100-130k base, 20% bonus, $40-$60k RSUS refreshers.”
  • Adyen: 5-20% base increase for all software engineers at Adyen in the Netherlands July-Aug 2021. Engineers with less experience closer to 15-20%. Senior engineers closer to 5%. “Most juniors got a 10-20% bump”
  • 5-20% increase for a Series D FinTech in London: mid-level: 5-10%, senior: 10-15%, staff: 15+20%.
  • 5% spot increase in a Series C company with EU engineers (UK, Finland & other offices)
  • Coolblue: 4-10% increase at Coolblue in the Netherlands, based on seniority. Juniors: €1,608/year increase (€125/month + 8% holiday). Seniors: €6,480/year increase (€500/month + 8% holiday). Principals: €9,720/year increase (€750/month + 8% holiday)
  • 2% spot increase at DMG Media for all staff in the UK (Daily Mail, Metro etc)

US & Canada

  • FactSet: 20-25% one-time adjustment for Software Engineers 2 & 3. FactSet is a US-based financial institution.
  • Edios: 20% less working days: dropped to a 4-day workweek but kept the same salary for everyone (basically, a 20% raise given 20% less workdays for the same salary). Edios is based in Canada.
  • Accenture: 15-25% base salary increase at Accenture in parts of the US, in certain groups in June this year. Part of marketplace adjustment increase.
  • 15-20% increase for remote engineers at a Series B startup across the US (Midwest, Texas etc)
  • 10-15% increase for all engineers at a Series B company with most employees in NYC
  • 10% increase at bootstrapped Aha.io, a SaaS company with around 200 employees, mostly US. Details in a public post.
  • 5-10% spot raise + doubling profit sharing at a non-VC funded company in the Midwest (<100 people) “I was already fairly compensated, in my opinion, but the reason given was the current state of the market. Over the summer we had a couple people leave, and compensation did play a role.”
  • Ubisoft: 5% minimum raise at Ubisoft, Canadian studios
  • 5% spot raise for tech at a publicly traded FinTech company
  • Employees being pulled up to the bottom of increased bands: common at many tech companies

Global

  • $100K-150K one-off stock grant (vesting over 4 years) for Staff+ levels for both existing employees and new offers at a recently IPO’d tech company
  • 15-25% raise + equity bump at a Series F company with US, EU, Asia offices. “I received a 20% salary raise and about a 12% bump in options. My teammate received a salary bump of about 17%.”.
  • Capital One: 12% base increase for engineers in July.
  • New Relic: 8% base increase in June, plus $10-25K RSU for software engineers. They predicted attrition if they did not act. In the past years, the base increase was 2%. “Even with the increases we've still had very high attrition due to this market.”
  • 7% global raise for remote engineers at a Series B company with US and EU remote engineers. Another 10-15% raise planned based on attrition risk and location.
  • Amazon: $3,500 spot-bonus: several employees were granted 1 RSU (trading at $3,500), vesting immediately. Targeting those at high attrition risk.
  • ServiceNow: 4-10% increase. IC2s got 6% increase
  • AMEX: 3% base increase on top of the regular annual increases, globally.
  • Policy to allow counter offers up to +30% without heavyweight process at several mid-size companies
  • Red Hat to hire fewer senior engineers to control costs (source) “An internal email sent on Wednesday by Timothy Cramer, SVP of software engineering, to Red Hat managers directs hiring requisitions to be made at a lower level of seniority than usual.”

Asia & Australia

  • 60% increase for people planning to resign, plus 10% retention bonus for 3 years in Bangalore, India at a non-tech company facing high attrition
  • PhonePe: 40% increase for all tech staff at PhonePe, a payments company in India
  • Atlassian: 20-25% base + more equity for certain people. “Was done in a fairly indiscriminate way”
  • 15% base increase for engineers working remotely in India from by an EU-based startup
  • $1,500 (100K INR) retention bonus for India engineers at a Series B company in exchange to agree to stay until 2023. Paid out in two installments in 2022.

Latin America

  • 50% raise in Chile for software developers working remote at a company to fight attrition. They now make $100K: this was $65K beforehand.
  • Amazon Brazil: 10% increase for all engineers

Africa

  • 20% increase for remote senior engineers in Cape Town, South Africa at a Series B US company

Counteroffers

  • 100% increase on a counteroffer in India, at a Series B startup to retain (and match new salary)
  • 80% raise via increased stock for a staff engineer who received an even higher offer from a pre-IPO company desperate to recruit them, very specifically due to specialization
  • 40% raise via base salary + increased equity at a pre-IPO company in the Netherlands for a key tech lead, after they got an even higher offer from a FinTech startup
  • 30% raise in counter offer for a staff engineer at a German car industry company, after receiving that much higher of an offer.
  • 25% as a remote engineer working remote, for a US company:
    “I told my boss that there’s a big difference between what the market offers, and what I’m being paid”

Location-independent remote pay

  • Etsy is moving to location-independent pay per country over the previous location-based one. Ranges are pegged to metro area locations This means in the US they’ll pay a single SF/NYC pay scale regardless of location, Canada pegged to e.g. Toronto/Vancouver rates.
  • Reddit and Spotify have done the above earlier the year
  • RevenueCat (Series A) is paying global location-independent salaries
  • More well-funded seed & Series A & B startups are doing location-independent pay per country

No raises - and their impact

I’m assuming that the majority of companies have not done off-cycle adjustments. Here are a few companies where I have talked with managers on the impact that holding off on one-off adjustments has had

Meta (Facebook), Google, Apple Uber, Lyft, Microsoft not doing out-of band adjustments

  • Impact: upleveling is far more common during interviews, in the opposite of what you’d expect based on The Seniority Rollercoaster
  • I have confirmed examples from the above companies on candidates being offered a higher level when those companies could not match compensation expectations

Klarna, RedHat, Solarisbank (for years: leadership said they are considering)

  • Impact: attrition, very challenging to hire, heavy upleveling

Dutch scaleup expected to IPO the next year where all engineers are issued equity (and value has gone up). Market salary is now well below what they could get elsewhere. CEO on all-hands: “We’re aware of the market but we don’t think we should be competing with companies that are more aggressive towards recruiting)”

  • Impact: none right now (stock increase + IPO coming up), likely increased attrition after IPO
  • Series B US company: “Right now we are ignoring the fact that the hiring market is hot. Many good candidates we want just refuse to join after hearing our salaries. From what I see the company is now lowering the hiring bar to keep salaries the same. Also no stock refreshers.”

I wrote the article The Perfect Storm Causing an Insane Tech Hiring Market in September, when I suggested lobbying for one-off compensation increases to get ahead of attrition, responding to this major market shift:

Lobby for out-of-cycle increases and spot bonuses. Most nimble companies are giving raises to all their staff. You’ll need to do it at the beginning of the year anyway, but if you wait until then, you will have lost people who would have stayed otherwise. Assume the compensation data you buy is outdated and that the market could be up 15-30% on last year”

Well, it seems plenty of companies acted accordingly this year.

Advice for hiring managers: if your company has not yet made off-cycle compensation changes, you’ll likely have to make a case for a larger than usual raise for the new year. Start engaging your leadership now. The market has moved exceptionally the past 12 months: exceptional raises will be necessary to keep pace with it, and not risk attrition due to finances. Subscribers will find more advice in the next section.

Are you a hiring manager looking to budget for next year? 🔒 Subscribers have access to more in-depth data points that can help with budgeting and determine compensation levels for software engineers - so you can stay competitive in the middle of this very hot market.

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Gergely Orosz

Writing The Pragmatic Engineer Newsletter and advisor at mobile.dev. Previously at Uber, Microsoft, Skype, Skyscanner.

Amsterdam, Netherlands