Flexibility beats bonuses as preferred perk

Workers have gotten used to flexibility and prefer it over monetary gain.

Flexible working has surpassed bonus pay-outs as the bigger draw for job candidates in the Irish market, new research from the National Recruitment Federation has found.

As the phased return to Irish workplaces gets underway this week, most job candidates in the Irish market now view flexible working as a necessity rather than a perk.

“The Irish workforce has managed extremely well in the remote working world of the past 18 months and the flexibility we have become accustomed to is not something candidates want to let go of”

“Employers around the country are gearing up to manage the return of their employees to on-site working and, while health and safety has to be their top priority right now, how they respond to employees’ flexible working preferences needs to be high on their agenda,” Donal O’Donoghue, president of the National Recruitment Federation, says. 

“The Irish workforce has managed extremely well in the remote working world of the past 18 months and the flexibility we have become accustomed to is not something candidates want to let go of. Our advice to employers would be to take heed here and build flexibility carefully into any talent attraction and retention strategy going forward.”

Favoured flexibility options

Among the 114 recruiters surveyed this month by the National Recruitment Federation, half said candidates now view flexible working as being “more important” than bonuses when considering new roles. Forty-one percent see it as less important, while the remaining 9pc place equal importance on both.

“Employers who are too rigid in trying to get people back to the office without consultation and collaboration are at risk of high attrition”

Sixty-five percent of the recruiters surveyed, meanwhile, said job candidates now regard flexible working as a “necessity” when applying for new roles, compared to 35pc who see it as a perk. 

Sixty-seven percent of the recruiters surveyed said candidates place “similar importance” on both salary and flexible working when considering new roles, while 21pc see flexibility as more important than salary, and just 13pc see it as less important. 

When asked about candidates’ preferred flexible working options, 57pc of the recruiters said candidates want to work from home for three days per week, compared to two days for 39pc and one day a week for 4.4pc.

By contrast, the favoured flexible working option among employers currently is two days per week working from home (53pc), followed by three days per week (29pc) and one day per week at 18 per cent. 

“Creating a sense of belonging and culture” was cited by recruiters as the biggest flexible working concern for employers at 66 per cent, followed by productivity at 53 per cent, trust at 32 per cent, cyber security and data protection (30pc), and health and safety at 15 per cent.  

“We carried out this research because we wanted to find out more about the real expectations and attitudes to flexible working among both candidates and employers in the Irish market right now,” Geraldine King, CEO of the National Recruitment Federation, said.

“What we’re hearing from candidates is this resounding message: ‘we’re not going back.’ For the majority, returning to the pre-Covid way of working in the office full-time just isn’t an option.

“At the same time, employers are grappling with how best to manage flexible working in the future: How might it impact productivity over the longer term? What are the potential security and health and safety risks, and how can they maintain a healthy, cohesive culture?”

Donal O’Donoghue cautioned employers against taking too stringent an approach to forcing employees back to work on-site without careful consideration. 

“There has been an enormous pendulum swing in recent months from an employer- to a candidate-driven market. The labour market in Ireland right now is actually very buoyant and there are even skills shortages in some areas.

“Our view would be that employers who are too rigid in trying to get people back to the office without consultation and collaboration are at risk of high attrition, because flexibility is now so critical to employees and candidates. It will play a very important role in helping employers to attract and retain the most talented and sought-after candidates in the future,” said O’Donoghue.

Main image at top: Donal O’Donoghue, president of the National Recruitment Federation, and Geraldine King, CEO of the National Recruitment Federation.

John Kennedy
Award-winning ThinkBusiness.ie editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.

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