Beyond The Salary

With unemployment at a two-year low in the three months to February 2022, job-to-job moves reaching record levels due to resignations in October to December 2021 and the number of job vacancies at a new high of 1,298,400 in the three months to January 2022, employers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of focusing not just on effective recruitment but on staff retention. Here, Lucy Flynn discuses pay, flexible working and employee wellbeing, and what employers can learn post-pandemic.

Recruiting staff at any level can be expensive, time consuming and, without professional help, can have varying success – and it is only the first step in the employment journey. Although salary is often the headline figure, increasing numbers of employees report that pay is only the starting point and when looking for a new job many seek to work for employers whose values align with their own.


This does not mean to say that pay is not important; it’s the reason most people work after all. If anything, given that inflation is rising at 7% as of this week, its fastest rate for 30 years, pay is paramount.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported in February 2022 that growth in average total pay (including bonuses) was 4.3% and growth in regular pay (excluding bonuses) was 3.7% among employees in October to December 2021. However, in real terms (adjusted for inflation), regular pay, excluding bonuses, fell by 1% in the three months to February 2022.

As such, even for those companies able to increase pay in line with inflation, the rising cost of living is outrunning many pay increases, including the increase to the National Minimum Wage.

While some businesses can compete for talent through salary alone, others are simply unable to do so.

Flexible Working

The pandemic forced many businesses to re-evaluate their approach to flexible working and to adopt working arrangements outside of standard company hours and company offices, often for the very first time.

Remote working arrangements, part-time working, condensed hours, virtual meetings and flexitime came into their own over the last two years, and hybrid working looks like it is here to stay with companies large and small reaping benefits that agility can bring to their business and staff.

Reports suggest that workers whose roles can be performed from anywhere, expect to be able to work from anywhere. For employers the important issue is defining what successful hybrid working looks like and communicating to the employees the overall approach of the business to managing the hybrid working environment, including:

  • how it achieves a fair and equitable workplace for all employees regardless of location
  • how the business expects its employees working remotely
  • how its leaders will manage employees remotely
  • how teams will achieve their goals while working flexibility

The firm view of commentators is that those organisations looking to attract top talent, retain valued people and respond to market fluctuations with efficiency and positivity could do much worse than embracing flexibility as the rule, rather than the exception.

Employee Wellbeing

A focus on employee wellbeing is swiftly moving away from being just an added benefit of employment. Employee expectations have expanded beyond free fruit platters and discounted gym memberships into other aspects of working life.

For example, employee healthcare packages as standard are becoming more common, and within those packages we are seeing increased emphasis on day-to-day wellness – with many memberships offering access to free wellbeing apps, discounted health-tech, counselling and therapy sessions, money off healthy eating and incentives to keep active.

However, organisational benefits and a fair pay package do not always equate to employee wellbeing. We are also seeing a shift towards employers looking at their own culture and management practices to try to improve employee wellbeing across the board. Ensuring clarity of role and duties and providing manageable workloads can go a long way to improving employee satisfaction, as can clear communication of KPIs and celebrating achievements of individuals and the business alike.

Learning and Development

Employers are also finding that having a genuine focus on investing in staff in terms of training, development, paths to promotion, access to learning resource, performance reviews and coaching is helping them to recruit and retain valuable talent.

We have seen in recent times a move in some industries towards skill-based hiring – with competency rather than qualifications being the main driver for recruitment. This practice can not only help employers retain staff by encouraging internal mobility and set out clear pathways for development, it can also increase the external pool of potential employees.

Supporting staff to develop skills by providing access to learning resources, both internal and external can take many forms, including: –

  • financially contributing to course fees
  • allowing time off for study
  • setting targets for professional development
  • designing and leading internal learning programmes

A focus on training managers in communication skills, developing their emotional intelligence and resilience to lead the business at all levels can reap real rewards and demonstrate a true commitment to the culture of learning across the board.

In addition to the more formal learning and development tools, mentoring or “buddy” programmes can give an outlet and support to employees at all levels in their employment and help them identify and focus on goals for their career.

It is encouraging to see that many employers are rising to the challenge and attempting to honestly address the reasons for their own migrating workforce to try to ensure that their own business is a good place to work. Pay is often at the top of the agenda but offering truly flexible working and having a genuine focus on investing in staff in terms of training, development and wellbeing support is proving essential to recruit and retain valuable talent.

By Lucy Flynn