Research shows workers will take a pay cut – for the right role.

The days of the permanent, pensionable job are long gone. Today’s workforce is made up of digital natives who are globally mobile. They are an educated and savvy lot with great expectations, according to a recent survey by Matrix Recruitment, which showed that two thirds of employees are expecting a pay rise this year, with 33% expecting €2,500 or more.

With this in mind, business owners need to consider how they can take some basic but important steps to attract and retain staff, whilst also fostering loyalty amongst a workforce with high hopes.  But where to begin? It can be an exhausting prospect and an even tougher task for any employer. However, the benefits of having loyal and content employees are invaluable and well worth the effort. Loyal staff are the lifeblood of successful companies, going above and beyond to help a business prosper.  So how do you find or foster such gems and is it really just about the money?

Joanne Foley of Matrix Recruitment, which surveyed more than 1,500 employees in Ireland says that whilst money certainly helps, it takes more than the monthly pay cheque to keep staff motivated.  Employers need to understand the needs of their staff and what makes them tick. Get that right, says Joanne, and you can get on with the business of what makes you tick – your business.

Great expectations? 31% would consider a salary cut

The Matrix study showed that whilst most employees are expecting a pay rise this year, employers can take heart from the news that 31% of workers would consider a pay cut for the right job.

Now before you start drafting an internal memo to staff about salaries being slashed, the findings relate to employees considering changing jobs. We are not for one moment suggesting that you ask your staff to take a pay cut, that’s one sure way to trigger a mutiny. What you can do however is take a good hard look at the different positions, job descriptions, opportunities and paygrades across the company and compare them to similar jobs in both your own and other sectors. Are you paying your sales manager €30,000 when the company next door is offering a salary of €45,000 for a comparable position together with health insurance, training and opportunities for travel? If so, you have not created what candidates will perceive as the ‘right job’ and not only will you have difficulty retaining staff, you will have a problem attracting them in the first place.

If you can’t afford to match a competitor’s pay scales you can still create that ‘perfect job’ by understanding what motivates people.  Most of us want a job that offers a clear pathway to promotion, opportunities to develop our skills and expertise and the occasional perk. So rather than throwing money at a job, take a look at how you might offer really good training for staff.  Perhaps you can introduce team building or mentoring programmes or you might simply ensure that the job description clearly outlines the opportunities and the benefits that the position offers.   Occasional perks like staff outings or a half day to reward a new business win can also work a treat.

Flexibility is key

While basic salary is important, the prudent employer will also be looking at the non-cash benefits that can be offered to staff or prospective candidates. Don’t underestimate the power of incentives like extra holidays or flexitime, particularly for younger workers. The Matrix Recruitment Survey found that flexitime is becoming increasingly important to 18-24 year olds; 38% said it was the benefit they most wanted from their job, ranking ahead of health insurance and even a performance related bonus.

Your health is your wealth

Different age groups have different priorities and as employees enter their 30’s and 40’s, health insurance and a pension take precedence. Seek advice from your financial advisor on the most tax and cost-efficient options that will allow you to offer staff important benefits that won’t overly stretch cash flow or impact the bottom line.

Should they stay or should they go

34% of employees expect to change job in 2017. However, 55% admitted that they would be willing to stay with their current employer for a higher salary. Now herein lies the conundrum; do you let them go or do you make a counter offer and entice them to stay. There is no right or wrong answer. However, my advice is to take some time to think about the consequences of that person leaving or being made an offer to stay. Of course it can be a hassle when good people leave, but it’s rare not to find a candidate equally strong, if not better, to fill their shoes and it can often bring a new dynamic and energy to the company.

Before making that counter offer you also need to think about the potential impact on other members of staff. Will word get around that the boss is loosening the purse strings? You certainly don’t want a queue of disgruntled employees at your door, all threatening to leave if they don’t get a pay rise!

In my experience, if an employee has expressed a desire to leave but agrees to stay for more money, it won’t be long before they move on for good. Notwithstanding, some staff are just too good not to fight for.

Get creative

You can’t please all of the people all of the time.  Being the boss isn’t easy and managing people and their expectations can be overwhelming.  Even the best business leaders have to think outside of the box. So get creative; think about what employees really want, however aspirational, and see what steps you can take to create a job and working environment that allows you to get and keep the best  employees for your business.

Joanne Foley is Regional Recruitment Manager at Matrix Recruitment Group, one of Ireland’s leading recruitment firms with offices in Dublin, Waterford, Carlow, Athlone and Galway.  The full findings of the annual Matrix Recruitment Salary Survey can be found here.

This article was published on in February 2017