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What Workers Want

By Nigel Heap, Regional Managing Director, Hays

It is a topic we discuss all the time, particularly with those employers who are in skills-short areas or trying to find a specific type of person from a limited pool of professionals. It is important because when looking to attract professionals, companies need to be able to differentiate themselves from the competition and when they’ve found them, they need to be aware of what will keep them engaged and motivated.

We looked into this topic recently with a survey which generated over 13,650 responses. It explored the importance of four key factors – pay, culture, career progression and benefits – that are pivotal to the decision about whether to stay in a job or whether to accept a new one.

In summary, the survey highlighted that:

Competitive pay is important, but not a stand-alone factor

Not surprisingly, pay is the single most important factor in the decision as to whether to accept a new job or stay in their current one. Managers need to offer competitive salaries so they don’t become a barrier and pay rises for promotions need to be managed carefully to meet expectations. The competition for talent remains strong and salaries need to be benchmarked with up-to-date information.

Cultural fit is a differentiator that requires greater focus

Employers and employees agree that good cultural fit is important. Employers rate culture above the individual’s potential and qualifications, and employees rate it as the second most important factor influencing their career decisions. Many would even be prepared to take a pay cut to achieve a greater cultural fit.

Professionals want training, but may be underutilising what’s on offer

With a workforce that is ambitious and wants to reach the top of their profession, it isn’t surprising that respect and recognition is most highly rated from a promotion, followed by training and development opportunities. All seniority levels up to C-suite say they always consider an organisation’s training policy. However, there’s still work to be done to educate employees about the type of training and the development opportunities on offer.

Candidates look for policies on benefits before applying

Benefits may be the least prioritised overall – compared to pay, culture and career progression – but that’s not to say candidates don’t factor them into their decision. In fact, the opposite is often true. Candidates will almost always consider what benefits policies are available to them before deciding whether or not to apply. Many are expected as standard, but aspects like flexible working, CPD and diversity can’t be ignored.

The survey discovered a lot of positives about employees today – they are ambitious and they have a propensity to be loyal. However, they also want a better work-life balance, to be recognised for their achievements, to be supported with training and to receive benefits, such as flexible working.

Most of this is directly relates to culture and given that professionals stated that they would be prepared to take a pay cut to work for an organisation that offers a better cultural fit, culture is a key differentiator for companies. An effective discussion on the culture, what it is truly like to work in the organisation and what is expected of employees and in some cases, the opportunity to meet the team, should therefore be a key part of the interview process.

This is particularly true because communication problems are fuelling gaps between employee expectations and what they are experiencing. Employees want to be fully aware as to what employers can offer and to be empowered to make selections that best suit them, such as the type of training they can undertake. By ensuring that managers are well-versed in their organisational culture, knowledgeable on career progression and informed on benefit and development programmes, organisations will be better placed to recruit and retain top talent.

Find out more about these findings from the Hays What Workers Want Report 2017.

About this author

Nigel is Regional Managing Director for Hays UK & Ireland and EMEA, and Chairman of Asia Pacific. He joined Hays UK in 1988 as a trainee consultant. By 1997, he was Managing Director of Hays Australia, and consequently expanded operations to New Zealand, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia. In 2006, he was appointed Managing Director of Asia Pacific. He became UK & Ireland Managing Director and Chairman of the Asia Pacific business in 2012. In 2018 Nigel was appointed Regional Managing Director for Hays UK & Ireland and EMEA, and retains his position as Chairman of Asia Pacific.

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