You can't just buy talent

Jun 18 2007 by Nic Paton Print This Article

If you want to get the best and brightest talent through your door you throw money at them, right? Wrong – money can be a factor but what attracts job-seekers the most are holidays, where they are going to be based and whether or not they will be able to work flexibly.

The common view among employers that workers will always jump ship for the lure of more money is a myth, new British research has concluded.

While we'd all like a bit more cash to spend, the key questions that go through a job-seekers' mind before accepting a new job are much more likely to be: "where will I be working?", "how much holiday will I get?", "will I be able to work flexibly?" and "what about bonuses?".

Workplace consultancy Croner carried out two studies asking bosses and employees what they felt potential job candidates looked for in a company.

The results were startling in revealing the gap between what both sides rated most and least highly.

The top two attractions job candidates looked for in a company while job hunting were holiday entitlement (more than four out of 10) and location of work (just under half).

More than a third placed flexible working and bonuses as equally important drivers in their search for the perfect employer.

Next up, it was the quality of a company's workplace culture and environment (38 per cent), while slightly more than a quarter listed staff development.

But this was starkly at odds with what most bosses thought made their companies attractive places to work.

Out of the more than 150 employers polled, almost two-thirds thought company reputation was the most attractive attribute for potential employees, followed by workplace culture/environment and opportunities for training and promotion.

By contrast, just over a fifth of employees felt reputation was important, placing it sixth on their wish list of things that gave a company the crucial "wow" factor.

The Croner survey echoes research carried out by psychologist Maarten Vansteenkiste at the University of Leuven in Belgium, and published earlier this month, which argued that paying staff more money, rather than being a sure-fire way to boost the commitment and contentment, can have precisely the opposite effect.

Employees who are more concerned with their material success, status and power than they are with helping colleagues or developing their own talents are more likely to be dissatisfied with their lives and are less committed to their organisation, he argued.

Gillian Dowling, employment technical consultant at Croner, warned that many employers would now have to rethink long-held, entrenched views.

"Today's employees aren't solely motivated by money and are looking for other perks and conditions to help them balance their work and home life," she said.

"Although little can be done about location, home working can be a powerful benefit to employees, as can offering other flexible solutions such as later start times or job sharing," she added.

Employers could miss out on top talent by failing to accommodate flexible working needs, she advised.

"Over the coming months employers will have to rethink how they are going to attract the top people. Employers may have to be more inventive about the benefits they offer," she said.

"And, with increases to statutory holiday entitlement to come in from this October onwards, even the option of being able to offer extra holidays as an enticement will have less appeal to job candidates in a competitive market place."