Businesses are having to offer more than pay to lure the best talent

‘Here is your salary and a pension’ doesn’t cut it anymore, says one expert. How can firms meet the challenge of changing expectations?

While recent tech lay-offs may indicate otherwise, the employment market in Ireland remains competitive, with companies having to step up in ways other than financial compensation to attract the right talent. What benefits do candidates expect and how can companies persuade them to commit?

Cream of the crop

It’s a buoyant jobs market and for a number of sectors and roles, with employers finding it difficult to fill positions, says Nuala McGuinn, director of the Centre for Adult Learning and Professional Development at NUI Galway.

“Employees are not only evaluating the role and salary scale but are taking a more holistic view to their next career move and taking a closer look at the company itself, its values and what additional benefits it is offering prospective employees – which incorporates training and development opportunities as well as the on-site facilities and ancillary services.

“These can be training days, fully accredited diplomas, masters or the opportunity to take a micro-credential. All are key components in the decision-making process.”


Great expectations

Ciara McLaughlin, HR director at Deloitte, says she has seen “a significant sea-change” in relation to the type of employee benefits job seekers are looking for.

“‘Here is your salary and access to a pension’ doesn’t cut it any more,” says McLaughlin. “In Deloitte we have moved away from the narrow definition of benefits in the past to a more holistic benefits strategy that recognises the entirety of a person’s life, not just their work persona.”

Impact of Covid

Although the Covid-19 pandemic was a difficult period for many, it brought into strong focus the reality of work being only one element of people’s lives, says McLaughlin.

“As we juggled virtual work meetings from makeshift offices at home we got a sneak peek into home lives, with partners, children, dogs and carer roles visible,” she adds.

“At the same time, we have also seen a strong emphasis placed on diversity, inclusion and social impact among both job seekers with years of work experience and those who are just graduating.

“At Deloitte, our benefits strategy reflects this as we have expanded our offering of wellbeing initiatives and employee benefits to recognise the important roles and life events for people outside of their work identity.”

Changing benefits for challenging times

“We wanted to recognise the value to the community made by individuals who opt to be, for example, foster carers or surrogates, and introduced new policies to support surrogacy leave or foster care leave, even though they have no current statutory provision to paid time off work,” says McLaughlin.

“We also wanted to recognise that life can be challenging at times and have in place special leave entitlements, with paid days off related to circumstances such as domestic abuse, miscarriage or a need for prolonged medical care.”

Emphasis on education

Employees see that skills development is important to keeping current in their roles, to keep pace with industry trends, and to adapting to changing job requirements that may arise and to maintain efficiency in the role, says McGuinn.

“Participation in continuing education provides an opportunity for employees to take some time to reflect on their workplace.”

Support for adult learning

Getting support to upskill is also important for employees, says McGuinn.

“This support can be in the form of fee subsidies or full payment of fees, all of which is very helpful as finance is one of the key barriers to learners accessing accredited training,” she adds.

“Additional leave for study or time to attend in-person sessions when offered, is another welcome benefit, particularly around examination and assessment times of the academic year. It can be challenging for adult learners to balance work, study and family commitments.”

Ultimately, if an employee sees that their employer is interested in their professional development and provides supports, whether financial or time off work to attend a course, then this will most certainly attract them to such organisations, lead to greater innovation in their roles and also a desire to stay with that company, in McGuinn’s view.

“For the employer the better skilled the employee, the greater their competitive advantage,” she says. “Despite the many advances in technology, we still need people to drive the innovation and create solutions for the wider good. Access to learning and development is a win-win situation for both employer and employee.”

Company mentors

Continuously checking for the skill sets required is an important role for the learning and development team, as is researching the various types of course that are available and forms of delivery, says McGuinn.

“The availability of micro-credentials allows employees to upskill in a particular area at the time they require the skill and return to learning at a later date for a further skill that is required at that particular point.

“Providing mentor support from employees who have already undertaken the course is a great boost to the adult learner as they often lack self-confidence to undertake a course of study. Role modelling with a colleague who has completed the course can provide encouragement and act as a sounding board when additional support is needed along the way.”

Awarding excellence

Acknowledging employees who have achieved a qualification through employee awards or showcase events is another great way to promote a learning culture in an organisation, says McGuinn.

“Inviting representatives from higher education institutions to attend on site and provide one-on-one course information and guidance is another great way of informing potential learners of what’s involved in a course of study,” she says.

“It’s all about information and communicating the benefit of learning as often as possible.”