How to win the war for talent when you can’t offer the highest salary

With the demand for candidates at an historic high, Paul Farrer outlines key areas employers can focus on to help attract and recruit talent

How to win the war for talent when you can’t offer the highest salary

As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, we’re witnessing a hiring spree. 

Businesses of all sizes are equipping themselves with the skills, resources and people they need to recover and grow as the UK economy prepares to fully reopen, at long last. 

This upturn in the demand for candidates has hit historic highs, across countless sectors and among both permanent and temporary workers. 

But as welcome as this evidence of business confidence is, it creates a new challenge for hiring managers and employers – many of whom don’t have the financial resources to win the war for talent by offering the highest salaries to candidates. 

So how does an employer stand out, convince candidates to move roles and in turn hire the people they need? And how can they do it when Covid-19 has impacted the amount of money they’re able to offer? 

Here are several areas that businesses should focus on – each of which have proven successful to the clients we support here at Aspire. 

Enable progression and help people achieve career goals

When interviewing a candidate, be clear about the opportunities available to them. Ask them where they want to be in one, two or even 10 years. What are their career goals? What do they need to achieve them? Discuss a clear plan for their progression, plot the road ahead and help them buy into the project that you hope to recruit them for. 

Be honest with them. If you identify their motivations and know that they can’t be realised either in substance or time scale then show them that you will be happy to develop their career to a point they move on with your best wishes.

If you can’t offer someone the best salary – for the time being at least – it’s important that you’re able to present a realistic strategy that puts them on the path to earning more in due course in a role that fulfills them, even if it’s not with you.

Articulate your business culture and evidence your success

Is your business a desirable place to work? Do you have a set of values that everyone buys into? A diversity and inclusion policy? An environment where employees feel valued, safe, motivated and somewhere they belong? 

With 54 per cent of women and 45 per cent of men already checking employers for diversity and inclusion policies before they accept job offers, culture and values are often the most important criteria for candidates when they consider a move. 

Telling potential employees that your business is responsible, inclusive and a great place to work is easy – anyone can do that. Proving it to them – whether through the diversity of your workforce, training opportunities or community projects – is what matters and may make the difference when convincing someone to join. 

Don’t simply allow flexible working, encourage it

In the wake of the pandemic, remote working is clearly here to stay. People don’t want to be forced back to the office full time. They need and demand flexibility and are looking to work for businesses that help them better balance work with their personal lives. 

Companies that not only allow flexible working but actively encourage it – and equip employees with the best technology and even home office equipment – will stand out from the crowd in the post-Covid landscape and find themselves in a stronger position to attract candidates. 

Focus on the entire package, not just salary 

Salary is important but remember that money is one element of what you can offer. Along with flexibility, better progression and a diverse and inclusive workplace, consider the whole package. 

From access to healthcare schemes and generous (or even unlimited) holiday and maternity and paternity pay to forward-thinking bereavement policies – such as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden’s decision to introduce paid miscarriage leave – it’s time businesses thought outside the box. So ask yourself, what can you offer people that others don’t? What would make you want to work at your company? 

For some candidates, money matters above all else and always will. It’s a personal choice. But speaking from experience, the number of people who prioritise other aspects of a job – such as role requirements, corporate culture and values, leadership, relationships with managers and team, training and development opportunities, career progression, location and flexibility, diversity and inclusion and company benefits – all play their own significant parts. 

If you can tap into this when recruiting for your next role you may be onto a winner. 

Paul Farrer is the founder of recruitment firm Aspire