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Work-life balance more important than salary for two thirds of Brits

A flexible and remote working structure imposed on the nation over the past months, has for the first time in seven years, seen work life balance overtake an attractive salary and benefits package as the most desired factor, when choosing an employer.

The findings were revealed by specialist recruiter, Randstad within its latest global employer brand research 2021 report, an independent survey of over 190,000 individuals in 34 countries.

Salary loses the balance of power
When over 9,000 UK respondents were asked what the five most important drivers were when it comes to choosing an employer, work life balance was the most desirable for over two thirds (65%). Unsurprisingly, following company downsizing, furloughed employees and redundancies across the country, job security still ranks among the top five drivers, for six in ten.

The most important drivers when choosing an employer
Work-life balance: 65%
Attractive salary and benefits: 64%
Job security: 61%
Good training: 58%
Pleasant work atmosphere: 55%

When splitting respondents into blue and white collar groups, 59% of blue collar workers consider work life balance as the most important driver, compared to 68% of white collar workers. The 2021 survey also found that a desire for a better work life balance grows with age, with 70% of 55-64 year olds prioritising it compared to just 59% of 18-24 year olds.

Randstad UK CEO Victoria Short said: “In some respects, the profound changes in many people’s jobs has clearly brought the benefits of flexible working to the surface. Our data suggests there are two groups of workers who want to see a more balanced lifestyle here. For many, remote working has increased the number of hours they are connected to their employers, reflecting the need for a better lifestyle balance. At the same time, some have benefitted from working at home by being able to carry out tasks or juggle personal responsibilities around a more flexible work schedule.

Interestingly, our findings revealed a stronger appetite for a better work life balance in the UK compared to the rest of Europe. Overseas, an attractive salary and benefits package still holds the top spot in terms of the most important aspect when choosing an employer. For me, that suggests some lessons to be learned from the UK around promoting flexible working patterns.”

What workers want versus what’s on offer
Research into the disconnect between what employees want and what their employer offers in the UK encompasses everything from safety and career progression, to salary, security and company reputation. The new findings indicate a significant gap between the two, highlighting the need for leaders to keep their ear closer to the ground in order to remain attractive to a wider range of future employees.

An evaluation of current employer offerings revealed that work life balance is further down the priority list, sitting in sixth place. Looking at the general perception of what employers across the UK offer as a whole, work life balance slips even further down, to eighth place, highlighting an oversight of the importance of a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

Short said: “Understanding the gap between what employees want and what they think employers offer provides valuable insight into building a strong employer brand. Benchmarking against what employees perceive being offered by their current employer gives more context to the gaps that need to be bridged in order to create a credible name and the ability to attract the UK’s most sought-after talent.

In order to gain credibility in a market where we are slowly seeing candidates regain control and confidence, business leaders must be proactive in listening to the opinions of workers, and ensuring that they are actively encouraged to share their voice via the relevant channels.”

Career changes on the horizon for 1 in 5
Despite the country’s unemployment rate currently sitting higher than it was at the start of the pandemic at 4.9%, a fifth are still planning to leave the comfort of their current employer to explore new opportunities, within the next few months.

When seeking new opportunities, recruiters were identified as the most used channel by job switchers. One in three (33%) are now tapping into local expertise to secure a new role, overtaking job portals as the former most popular platform.

Short offered: “While nearly half (45%) of employees in the UK are not afraid of losing their job this year, there is still clearly an appetite for securing a better role elsewhere, for one in five.

It doesn’t come as a surprise however that recruitment agencies are the most used channel when seeking out these opportunities. In an unpredictable economic climate where many reskilled candidates are seeking new opportunities, leaning on the expertise of specialist recruiters who know the market and current landscape is highly valuable. Among the benefits of using a recruitment agency, saving time and money is high on the priority list, particularly for SMEs with limited resources, needing to find and hire the right people with maximum efficiency. It has been estimated that the typical cost of replacing an employee after a bad hire is 21% of their annual salary and the average time to fill a vacancy – before COVID-19 – was 36 days, reinforcing the need for field experts to help acquire the right talent.”

Pandemic pay cuts
When over 9,000 UK respondents were questioned about what change in salary was taken in their latest role, a quarter (24%) stated that they switched roles for the same salary, highlighting lower confidence in requesting a higher pay package from a new employer.

Diving deeper into the demographics of job switchers, nearly half (48%) of 55-64 year olds surveyed reported a decrease in their salary. Geographically, the East of England was the hardest hit by the pandemic in terms of remuneration – 28% changed jobs, and with a pay cut, compared to just 14% in London.

Looking at fluctuations in pay per sector, those working in agriculture and transportation have seen the largest decreases in salary for new roles, with a reduction of income reported by 44% and 43% respectively.

Findings also highlight some pay rises for key workers, most notably those working in manufacturing being remunerated more generously, with nearly one in five (18%) receiving a pay rise of £30,000 and upwards, when changing roles. One in three respondents (29%) working in healthcare also received pay rises when changing roles, seeing an increase of between £500 and £2,000 per annum.

With an eye on progression, a quarter of women surveyed do not believe that the pandemic will influence their career progression in the next 12 months, compared to just 17% of men. Data also revealed that one in five Brits do not expect to receive a promotion in the year ahead, amid financial difficulties and businesses finding their feet again post pandemic.

Short concluded: “As we slowly navigate away from the crux of the pandemic, it’s clear that people are weighing up what is more important to them when it comes to finding a new job. The pandemic has given many of us more time to think and become more savvy. Consumer spending habits have changed, which may be one of the driving forces behind bumping salary from the top spot in terms of desirables.
A new career is a positive life change, not necessarily just driven by salary, but something that promotes a better lifestyle overall. It looks like this has now resonated with more of the county’s workforce, unfortunately it has taken a global pandemic to reevaluate.”