If you think workers only care about salary, think again?

It is about more than just the salary
Written by Chan Chao Peh Monday

IN this tight labour market, inflation — which is holding steady at around 5% — has translated into wage pressures. However, even as companies grapple with this problem, it is important that they look beyond merely raising salaries as a way of winning the battle to attract and retain talent.

“Convincing corporate headquarters that we need to keep pace with local wage pressures is something I think most MNCs have on their agenda,” says Deb Loveridge, managing director of recruitment and human resources firm Randstad.

“The reality is, most employers are looking for ways other than just the benefit and package to attract and retain the best talent in the market today, because if all you are doing is to compete on wages alone, you will probably lose the war for talent,” says Loveridge in an interview with Management@Work of The Edge Singapore.

While it is common for employees in rapidly emerging markets such as China and India to jump ship for double-digit increases in salary, as a whole, job seekers are also drawn to other attributes, such as job security and the brand of the employer.

According to a study done by the company, the top consideration that draws employees to a company is job security. “It is not so much about whether I will be getting a 10% wage increase this year, but, is my job safe and will I continue to be paid well for what I do – it is more financial security than promise of a wage increase,” she says.

Loveridge, who was appointed to the newly created post in March last year, has been with the firm since 1988. She oversees the firm’s businesses across Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand.

While it is no surprise that job seekers are drawn to big name companies with the brand and glamour, Loveridge points out that the concept of employer branding goes deeper, and does not necessarily mean that big names such as Google will necessarily have all the lead over smaller, lesser-known companies.

“If you see employer branding as just about having the state-of-art office, and funky billiard table in the corner, that might be your vision of what Google will look like — and it is, it is really a great work place, there’s no doubt about it. If your view on employer branding is only limited to those aspects, then you will say it is very difficult to compete,” she says.

Loveridge believes that employer branding, at its heart, is about very basic things, which can be easily delivered no matter how big or small a company is, or which industry a company is in. “A good employer should speak to the values of your organisation, which are usually not costly — it should be about reputation, we had conversations with people who work with us, and ask, ‘what are our strengths, what do we do well, what do we do well as an organisation’? Sure, they like to work in an office with nice surroundings but they are not usually the things that people talk about, they talk about values, ethics and credibility in the market, the things that are a little less tangible and in fact, don’t have big dollar signs on them,” she explains.

Using Randstad as an example, Loveridge readily concedes that the firm is merely paying wages at the 75th percentile, which means there are many competitors that are paying more. “But, what we do is to ensure that we have an employers’ promise that it is all about our values, the genuine care for the people who work with us, a genuine commitment to their personal development plans, the learning processes that help them advance, the opportunities to work overseas; it is also the opportunity to get involved in interesting projects — those are the kind of things that people talk about, that’s what keeps them in the business,” she says.

Evidently, Randstad has some results to show with such an approach. “When I started working in China in early 2011, I was told by colleagues that you won’t ever slow down staff turnover in China — it just is,” she recalls. However, with more than two decades of experience, Loveridge knows very well that in an industry that provides a service, Randstad cannot afford to have high staff turnover. “Staff turnover is something that really impacts our business. Our customers want to see the same faces, they don’t want to see that we have high staff turnover, so it really makes a difference to what is a successful business. We can’t run a successful business with 50% staff turnover,” she says, referring to the rate for Randstad China in 2010.

At the start of this year, the rate has dropped to just over 20%. “So, I’m, optimistic that even in countries where we say that’s just the way it is, in fact, companies can make a difference, so we focus on things where people feel valued,” she says. — The Edge Singapore

This story appeared in The Edge Singapore on July 23, 2012

Posted by Alex Wong CPA Australia Melbourne University, Australia

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