The perks of perks: In a skills shortage, how can small businesses win qualified talent?


Employment Hero chief people officer Alex Hattingh.

When considering a job offer, six in 10 Australian employees will prioritise perks over base salary, according to new research from Robert Half.

The study also shows eight in 10 workers would consider benefits as acceptable remuneration, if employers can’t meet their salary expectations.

This has potential to be great news for employers, 78% of whom say they find it more difficult to find and hire qualified professionals compared to five years ago. The same number predict it will become even more difficult in the next five years.

Victoria Stuart, co-founder of Beam Australia, tells SmartCompany small businesses could have a leg up when it comes to hiring, partly because they don’t have to deal with too much bureaucracy in order to meet employees’ demands.

“The challenge in larger companies are legacy systems and structures that challenge flexible working, whereas smaller businesses tend to be more agile. Also, flexibility for them can be fit to scale,” she says.

“High-growth, young SMEs tend to bring in part-time [options] to attract and retain young talent when they’re competing against larger corporations.”

And, in terms of non-salary benefits, businesses are trending towards creating a healthier work-life balance.

Almost 70% of employers are already leveraging non-salary benefits to attract talent, and the most popular offering by far is flexible working hours or remote working.

Other popular benefits plans include health programs, such as vaccinations and gym memberships, or bonuses, leave and holiday allowances, and company-paid mobile phones.

The study suggests these kinds of benefits, along with training opportunities, can help businesses hang on to good staff members. By contrast, traditional retention tactics such as salary counter-offers undermine trust in long-term workers, and can often actually lead to further threats of resignation.

“Counter-offers are often an immediate reaction and a costly way to delay the inevitable,” the study said.

Employment Hero chief people officer Alex Hattingh tells SmartCompany while small businesses may find it hard to compete with established companies when it comes to perks such as lengthier maternity leave, they can be competitive by offering growth opportunities for young workers.

Small businesses are typically more willing to support their young staff members, and may be more likely to have the time to do so.

“Offering someone career development and a pathway to a promotion and opportunities to be learning — that’s something that the younger generation really want now,” Hattingh says.

“Small businesses really have the ability to do that. They don’t have any big policies and red tape and all of these approvals to go through to give someone a secondment or a stretch assignment to learn what people do in other roles.

“It doesn’t cost small businesses anything other than time, whereas in big companies, people are so pigeon-holed into what they’re doing, they don’t really have that opportunity.”

Ultimately, Stuart says businesses who stay flexible in their recruitment will come out on top.

“This is the changing nature of what talent are demanding at the moment,” she says.

“Those businesses that can adapt and accommodate to the changing preferences of talent are going to be the ones that win.”

NOW READ: How do you attract good talent when you have shallow pockets?

NOW READ: Building a great team: Six tips for recruiting talent into your startup


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