Talent war - The perks advertising industry professionals really want

Ashley Regan
By Ashley Regan | 18 July 2022
Source: Wesley Tingey via Unsplash

Agencies are going to great lengths to sway talent and outshine competitors with lavish workplace perks, but what do workers actually care about?

As long as talent is in high demand, workers don’t have to settle for undesirable pay, unsociable working hours and lack of career growth. Agencies risk losing employees who are willing to make better quality offers.

LinkedIn’s chief economist Karin Kimbrough said: “Companies need to recognise that the power dynamic has changed — workers are going to demand more from them on multiple fronts.

“Candidates are being much more selective about where they work, and workers are more vocal about what they want.”

Despite more than one-third (35%) of employers improving their benefits this year and experimenting with industry-first initiatives - from four-day work weeks to NFT compensations and allowing staff to choose their own public holiday dates.

Recruiters overwhelmingly say flexibility is the biggest driving force for workers when choosing their next position.

James MacDonald, director, NewyTechPeople // RemoteTechPeople, told AdNews: “In the recent talent shortage, flexibility is no longer a perk, it's now a necessity.

“A company providing flexibility in the form of starting an hour early and finishing early is no longer considered flexibility. 

“If your company doesn't offer genuine flexibility you will struggle to attract the top talent - genuine flexibility means the employee has a say in days in the office vs remote, start times and flexibility within the day to exercise / pick-up children / run errands / ect. 

“The pandemic has shown that most roles in the technology and digital space can be done remotely, at least part of the time. If some form of remote is not on offer it's a non-starter for most digital professionals."

These claims are backed by LinkedIn’s workforce confidence survey. More than half the respondents (55%) rated the four-day work week as a top option and flexible work arrangements emerged as a priority among workers overall, with 63% rating it in their top three.

Other options were significantly less popular, with only 16% rating free mental health benefits or the opportunity to take a paid sabbatical, and only 7% prioritising child care assistance.

Research by SEEK also showed work-life balance as the top priority for many Australian workers, with flexible hours or schedules in at #2, ahead of salary and compensation.

Melanie Gillam, principal consultant, NewyTechPeople & RemoteTechPeople told AdNews: “Flexibility is still the key driver for most candidates we speak with, but as people adapt to life-at-work post-lock-down, the most coveted part of flexibility is autonomy. 

“Some people prefer working remotely, others’ circumstances lean towards hybrid and on the other scale, people want to be in the office. 

“There is a massive drive to make the workplace more attractive and the key to this is flexibility and accommodating individual preferences. 

“Giving employees the autonomy to decide how, where, and when they work engenders a feeling of trust and empowerment. 

“Candidates are speaking to us with a clear understanding of their definition of work/life balance. Savvy employers understand that meeting those expectations can be a deal-closer.” 

Does money speak to everyone?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to workplace perks as the value is based on the individual assessing an offer, but money has always been a priority, right?

James MacDonald at NewyTechPeople // RemoteTechPeople, said: “No matter how good perks are, people will shop around and are much more aware of what the general market is paying. 

“Companies won't be able to attract top talent by paying significantly below market rate or trying to undercut someone at the offer stage. 

“In our experience, the best way to build successful teams is to pay at or slightly above market rate and work with the individual on the perks and flexibility that are important to them. 

“It’s also important to ensure you have a healthy workplace culture and clear professional development paths. 

“Competing on salary alone is a very expensive and dangerous way to build teams - if people are there just because you pay the most, what happens when they are tapped on the shoulder with a higher offer?”

Sue Parker, career marketing and job search strategist at DARE Group Australia told AdNews: “My personal recommendation is that every job advertisement should list the salary as candidates are fed up with the lack of transparency. 

“Also, pay what the role is worth and what the responsibilities demand - this will factor into building greater trust and aligned expressions of interest from candidates.”

Jade Lee, workplace culture and engagement expert, told AdNews: “Salaries are rising but this is not the reason that people will leave a company.

"Instead candidates are seeking better culture, more interesting work and feel like they are valued. A feeling of belonging and a strong company culture are highly sought after.”

Social and environmental responsibility is an increasing demand

Sue Parker at DARE, said: "In a world on hyper alert from the pandemic, global wars and social injustices, the way candidates are reviewing their careers and employers have shifted holistically.

“The social responsibility part of the ESG equation (environment, social and governance) has taken centre stage, and climate change often sits next to the evaluation process.

“Candidates are not just evaluating roles and career trajectories but the values and missions of board members and leaders.

“It’s the personal brand values that leaders espouse and deliver on that have significant impact on the choice of new employer for many candidates and they want to see leaders engage visibility on social media."

With 75% of existing and potential employees preferring to work for companies who have a strong social conscience.

James MacDonald at NewyTechPeople // RemoteTechPeople, said: “The growing trend we are seeing is professionals looking for companies that have strong corporate social responsibility or an opportunity to work with companies doing well by the environment or causes of importance to the individual. 

“Companies that have a strong aspect of social conscience should lean heavily into this when attracting talent.”

What advice do experts have for agencies?

Ryan Watts, Marketing Talent Agent @ Aquent Australia: “It’s not all doom and gloom, there are ways that you can make your company stand out and still find incredible talent:

“Offer a competitive package - this can be a strong base pay + super + bonus + benefits. At the end of the day, it can be anything that appeals, just make your offer irresistible and candidates will come knocking.

“Be transparent about the salary - if you wait until the offer stage to discuss salary, you’re going to have a terrible time. Discuss salary upfront so you and the candidate are on the same page from the get go. I cannot stress this enough.

“Offer flexible working - 2% of professionals want to be in the office full time. If you don’t offer flexible working then don’t expect to attract any talent.

“Make it a fast recruitment process - 2 to 3 interviews max! Don’t be dragging the process out over multiple weeks. Be thorough, but be decisive.

“Bring your A-game to interviews - the talent is interviewing you as well, so if you don’t make the candidate feel welcome or excited about the role, then they won’t want to work for you.”

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