Top talent demands better work-life balance

2007

Even five years ago, the idea that a senior executive would turn down a job because it meant too much travel, too long a commute or demanded too much of their time would have been seen as absurd.

But now when the head-hunter comes calling, they need to have answers to the work-life balance questions that they are increasingly being asked by senior candidates.

This seismic shift in attitudes among top talent has been documented by the Brussels-based Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC), whose global survey of 138 executive recruiters has found that more than eight out of 10 (85 per cent) have had candidates reject a plum job offer because of work-life balance considerations.

When asked how they perceive that candidates rate their work-life balance against their potential earnings, a quarter of search consultants went as far as to say that work-life balance is more important than increased earnings and six out of 10 said that it now rated about the same.

The survey also reveals that companies are increasingly creating individualised plans to meet the work-life balance needs of top candidates, even if these plans are rather more ad hoc than formalised.

Two-thirds of the executive search consultants say they work with client companies that will create such programs – but on a case-by-case basis – to meet the work-life balance demands of top job candidates.

But as yet, fewer than one in 10 (eight per cent) say that they have client companies with formalised programs.

However this still leaves a die-hard quarter of employers who are not prepared to budge at all to met the demands of candidates – many of whom presumably decide to take jobs elsewhere.

Among the common demands from candidates are telecommuting, flexible work schedules and limited travel. The ability to take a sabbaticals also emerged as popular, although rather less so than other options.

"Executive search consultants now have new competition for top talent: work-life balance," said AESC President, Peter Felix.

"Even five years ago, work-life balance was not an issue that top talent would actively talk about during job negotiations. Executive search consultants now say that candidates will discuss work-life balance very early in the talks about a potential job.

"In a candidate's market, it's something that search consultants and their client companies can no longer ignore."