As job vacancies in the UK outpaced unemployment for the first time in history this month, adding fuel to the fire in the continuing war for talent, workers are very much in the driving seat when selecting a company to work for. Businesses are looking for ways to attract and retain the best staff by offering attractive packages, but do organisations know what employees want regarding salary and benefits?
The number one reason most people go to work every day is to earn money. With the spiralling cost of living, it would be understandable if workers were looking to up their salaries as a priority.
However, while money is considered a significant factor, it turns out that people may no longer just be looking for a hefty pay packet. According to a recent survey, the overriding factor which people now place importance on in their career is ‘workplace happiness’. This is perhaps lucky when you consider that many companies are unlikely to be able to afford the sort of wage hikes required to keep up with inflation when their overheads are rising too.
So, if money is not the only thing workers are looking for, what benefits are now attracting candidates to jobs, and why has money dropped down the list of priorities?
The Covid effect
Since lockdown, a great deal of the working population has reassessed their life goals, having been given a taste of the benefits of flexible working. On the flip side, many have also experienced burnout, especially those trying to be productive in their work while also managing family issues like homeschooling or the care of elderly relatives.
Many individuals have realised that providing they are paid a wage that allows them to live comfortably, they would rather have job satisfaction than earn a greater salary if they chose between the two.
A recent survey found that almost half of workers are prepared to move to a new organisation to improve their wellbeing. This indicates that work/life balance is taking precedence over career choices. So much so in fact, that there is a growing trend to switch the phrase around and refer to it as life/work balance to highlight that, while work is essential, ‘life’ should take priority. Companies are starting to recognise that they need to offer employees a healthy working environment if they want to attract and retain top talent.
What benefits can create a healthy working environment
As businesses move away from traditional benefits, these are gradually being replaced with more innovative incentives that are perhaps better tailored to real employee needs. Making benefits more specific and helpful to workers can increase their perceived value and make them more attractive to prospective candidates and current staff alike.
Flexible working options appear to be one of the critical benefits candidates now look for in a company. This can be in the form of a hybrid or shorter working week, which enhances work/life balance and has some financial advantages such as reducing travel costs, which can counterbalance the inability of some companies to offer hard cash. Also, flexible working can apply to any location, with individuals being able to be based worldwide if the job can be carried out remotely. This gives maximum staff flexibility and opens up a wider talent pool for organisations to recruit from.
Other types of wellbeing benefits on offer are focussed on preventing burnout and improving overall health. Some companies have started offering support sessions for mental, physical and financial health to help employees reduce stress levels, making them feel happier at work and, as a result, more productive. Other offerings include free healthy breakfasts, yoga sessions and social activities. These not only create a healthier working environment but can also aid employee engagement and relationship building at a time when retaining company culture is vital to offset any adverse effects of having a hybrid team.
Feeling valued and having opportunities to develop is also high on the agenda for many workers. This means that equity and inclusion feature in people’s wish lists regarding what they are looking for from an employer. Companies must ensure they have a robust D,E&I policy in place to guarantee they are creating a fair and engaging work environment.
On top of all this, workers are more so now than ever looking for socially conscious employers, and having a policy for this can often outweigh the list of progressive benefits offered.
It looks likely that health and wellbeing have now taken over from monetary reward when it comes to working priorities, and perhaps we have the pandemic to thank for that. Only time will tell if this remains the case or whether the increasing pressure of the cost-of-living crisis pushes people back towards financial benefits, but with people now more motivated by good mental health, inclusion and job satisfaction, it seems probable that work/life balance will stay in the top spot for some time to come.