Shift emphasis of perks in the war for talent

Brian Starling: Triland Metals: Recruitment strategy. Performance management. Reward strategy. In the so-called “war for talent” which, from my experience, is a most definite reality, these are the three areas HR professionals seem to keep revisiting in an attempt to win that war. Attracting, recruiting and retaining the best, motivating the best, rewarding the best: it has almost become the ‘Holy Grail’ for HR in many industries.

But then, is this really that new, especially when we turn to the subject of reward? For many years, reward specialists have sought to devise reward systems that are fair, transparent, motivational, innovative and strategic.

Moving away from the starting points of base pay and bonus structures, there is a plethora of benefits providers in the marketplace which provide broadly-similar services that can be used either as standalone or as part of a total reward or flexible benefits package.

While there are associated costs, naturally, the playing field is becoming increasingly levelled as the range of benefits available in the marketplace arguably opens up to many more organisations. (In fact, I have seen some small organisations who offer benefits packages at least as good as – if not better than – than some very large organisations).

Allowing your staff to choose their benefits in a cafeteria style works very well for many organisations. But what about with high earners? What differentiating benefits tools do we have to motivate them?With a large base salary and a generous bonus scheme, are benefits such as childcare vouchers, dental plans and eye care vouchers really likely to be that attractive and motivational? In my experience, the answer is ‘no’.

Not that I am in any way criticising such benefits. For what is probably the majority of a workforce, these are most definitely beneficial. It is at the higher end of the pay spectrum that I am questioning the appropriateness of such benefits.

In the ongoing challenge to attract and retain the top talent in our organisations – both for the immediate and future success of our organisations – it seems to me that HR continues to have a very big fight on its hands.

So will benefits strategies move towards a more psychological approach, such as greater life-work balance, enhanced learning and self-development opportunities, as the demands and expectations of the workforce in general change? Who can say? I guess my quest for that ‘Holy Grail’ will continue.

  • Brian Starling, chartered FCIPD, human resources manager at Triland Metals