Company culture can outweigh pay: Poll

Many would take ideal job even with cut in wages
By John Dujay
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 10/16/2017

When considering a move to a new employer, many workers are placing a greater emphasis on a strong corporate culture, over and above the value of pay packages, according to a survey from recruiting firm Hays Canada.

When it comes to switching jobs, the pay package is less important, as 73.4 per cent of workers would accept a pay cut if they found their ideal job. Millennials would accept a slashed salary of more than 10 per cent for that perfect position.

“When people were making decisions on whether to stay or whether to leave, and whether to take a new job on, the weighting they were giving to salary on its own had reduced and they put more weighting into things like career progression, company culture,” according to Rowan O’Grady, president of Hays Canada in Toronto.

Generation Y workers (or millennials) said they value work-life balance more importantly than any other factors, found the survey of 4,500 employees.

But what some employers consider a good work-life balance does not always appeal to younger workers, said O’Grady.

“Individuals are saying, ‘I want a good work-life balance’ and companies are responding to that by saying, ‘OK, well we can offer flexi-hours or we can offer work-from-home options,’ thinking that helps with work-life balance,” he said.

“But actually, flexible hours and work-from-home are not high up on the list of benefits or
investments that employees are looking for.”

How people are treated on a day-to-day basis is much more important to the younger generation, he said.

“When people are saying ‘work-life balance,’ I think what they mean is ‘When I come to work, I want to work hard, I want to do meaningful work, I want to get good feedback, I want to feel like I am being invested in and feel like I am actually getting somewhere but, at the end of the day — which should be five o’clock — I want to get out of here and I don’t want to work late. I want my weekends to myself,’” said O’Grady.

“Companies need to rethink their own definition of work-life balance.”

As well, a stronger Canadian economy over the past few years is making more workers look to greener pastures, he said.

“A lot of dissatisfaction that we would see happening is just the direct result of a better job market,” said O’Grady, unlike in 2013 when “there was a lot of fear in moving jobs.”

“You fast-forward to today and now we’ve had many years of a stable job market, frequently a growing job market, companies giving salary increases; there’s confidence in the job market, and you’ve got individual people who have colleagues who recently left and gone onto a better job and it’s all worked out well.”

“The irony is, the better the job market, the less satisfied people tend to be in their current job,” said O’Grady.

Dissatisfaction rising

Driving the results is a growing level of discontent among many workers as there is a significantly lower percentage of people who are satisfied in their job, he said.

Overall work satisfaction has decreased by 19 per cent since the last survey in 2013. And 88.9 per cent of employees would leave their current positions for an ideal job, up from 77.6 per cent in the earlier survey.

“Lack of career progression is the number-one reason people cite when they talk about why did they leave their most recent job,” said O’Grady. “Some people see career progression as being the job title they have, how many people they are managing, and getting a salary increase, but often what they are actually looking for is professional development.”

Employees are asking themselves “Am I learning new things? Have I learned new skills? Am I being challenged in my job? Is the company investing in my ability to do more?” when they consider their job satisfaction, said O’Grady. They want the employer to “not just promote me (but) develop me, make me better, make me a more accomplished person.”

A big part of career development is challenge and change,
he said.

“If you want to keep people engaged, you have to think, ‘How do we bring change and how do we challenge people in new jobs?’ because that really is what professional development is about,” he said. “The biggest win they could have is trying to figure out how to bring change and challenge to an individual at work.”

People are looking for the opportunity to grow their basket, not necessarily from a hierarchical standpoint, but laterally, according to Pegi Klein-Webber, director of corporate communications and people development at M&M Food Market in Mississauga, Ont.

M&M offers personal coaching services to employees — and it’s appreciated, she said.

“They’re not taking it as ‘Oh, I have to be coached’ as a negative, they are taking it as ‘You’re investing in my future.’”

New recruits are looking for different offerings from companies, and recognition is high up on that list, said Klein-Webber.

“The first thing that comes through a conversation is about being valued.”

M&M has been able to attract a fair number of smart, interesting people from other larger brands, she said.

“What the brand really feels and thinks is important to them from a culture perspective.”

New recruits want access to decision-making, flexibility with work hours, balance in life outside work, and participation in various experiences at work, said Klein-Webber.

“One of the keys things that comes up in conversations is around transparency: Having a five-year vision and being able to communicate that on a regular basis to a potential employee so they clearly understand where the company is going is as important as compensation,” she said.

“They want to really understand the business and what we are doing to grow the business.”

Fitting in

When deciding on whether or not to hire a new recruit, HR should “be honest and try to look for the fit; it may take a little longer and it may seem more difficult to do, but once you have that fit and the person really feels like they belong, and they feel accepted and welcomed into the culture, they’ll fight for it,” said Agostino De Gasperis, vice-president of people and partnerships at Labatt Breweries of Canada in Toronto.

“We don’t want to make the mistake of filling it with someone who won’t be happy and they won’t thrive in our environment, so better to take a little bit more time and make sure you have a candidate that’s not just qualified technically, but then also will feel at home in our company and with our culture.”

A company’s culture can be conveyed by most HR professionals by being “very inclusive, responsive, to create that passion around a team, and understanding, with a laser focus of what this organization is doing,” said Klein-Webber.

Employees are looking for a robust company culture, according to the Hays survey, but what exactly does that mean?

“We challenge people to stretch themselves, to find innovative ways of doing things, whether it’s innovative products or adjusting processes internally to change the game, and to really just have an ownership mindset,” said De Gasperis.

Getting workers to fit in is crucial to maintaining a strong culture.

“We openly say to folks ‘It’s not for everyone, but if it speaks for you, we’d love for you to join us and be part of something special,’” he said. “Given the amount of time we all spend at work, you want to do something that you are passionate about, and you want to do something that makes you feel you belong; intrinsically, everybody has that kind of desire.”

Once an employee embraces the corporate way of doing things and continues working at a company with a solid culture, the pay raises take care of themselves, said De Gasperis.

“If people are making a trade-off for culture, if they pick the right culture, they’ll excel and the financial rewards will follow.”

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