To what extent are job applicants motivated by salary? What are the alternatives?

After the recent controversy surrounding the BBC's salary disclosure of their top presenters, we thought it would be a good time to tackle the subject (at least on a recruitment level) ... 

A business is only as good as the people they employ. This is why the recruitment process is so important and accounts for a £35 billion contribution to the UK economy. Furthermore, with 4,529 recruitment agencies starting up in the UK last year, it appears that an increasing number of companies are realising the importance of sourcing the right talent.

But guess what folks? Talent costs money.

To find the right talent to take your business forward, you have to be prepared to pay up - but how much? We'll be looking at whether your job adverts should contain salary information, how to know if you're offering enough and (if you can't afford to pay as much as competitor companies) are there any other ways to avoid driving your high achievers away?

Should you disclose salary information in your job ads?

Salary disclosure can mean different things to different employers - so in truth, no one perspective applies. In theory, a competent business should be able to independently assess a prospective employee's worth without being biased by any other data point. 

If the employer is a small business, then they may just want to understand what the 'going rate' is for such talent. Unfortunately this has led to the practice of posting fake job ads which can dilute the exposure of your own, genuine advert.

Of course companies can always conduct research across job websites (in order to get an idea of what's a competitive rate), but this salary data is often skewed somewhat, due to wide ranging parameters such as location, experience and prestige of brand. 

A good honest business should look to pay their employees competitively if they are thinking of the long term. Otherwise, hiring someone without paying them enough will only lead to them leaving at the first opportunity - making it a costly hire in the long run.

To gain a better understanding of this, we spoke to Howard Marshall, Head of Human Resources at Rullion, to get his perspective on salary disclosure.

1. Do you believe salary disclosure should be a necessary or optional step in the recruitment process? (either as a candidate or an employer). 

I believe that salary disclosure shouldn't be an early part of the recruitment process. I would always suggest you have a budget in mind when recruiting, but limiting yourself or allowing candidates to remove themselves from the process because the offer is the same as their current salary (or less) generally means you are reducing your candidate pool. 

Often when recruiting you will have a budget remuneration figure in mind, but for the right candidate why would you not consider increasing this? (there may of course be an upper limit you cannot go above)

2. In what ways does salary disclosure in job adverts assist (or hinder) recruitment? 

It can do both - if the salary is disclosed it can stop some individuals from applying based on no knowledge of the salary and therefore you may lose part of your perceived or expected talent pool. On the other hand not disclosing the salary could do the same, but normally it allows individuals to consider the opportunity to negotiate. 

3. Having seen both sides of getting hired and doing the hiring, can you comment on how salary disclosure affects both? (be it beneficial or disadvantageous). 

I am caught between the rock and hard place here. If you disclose a salary figure you may reduce your talent pool based on their decision making processes - i.e. - is the company offering market rates, below market rate, or more than?

The potential candidates then have to decide on whether your business / market is going to enhance their personal skills & ability to market themselves. My preference is to not disclose immediately and then hopefully decide on the right person for the job who matches your needs, but possibly is above your original budget.  

But what if you can't afford to offer a rise?

Times are hard out there, and sometimes - no matter how much they want to - businesses simply can't afford to give a significant pay rise to their staff. This can be a catch 22 situation, as the pay freeze can result in some of the best employees leaving, weakening the company and leading to more hiring = more money.

So what can you do?

Well, as the old saying goes, time is money. Why not consider offering perks other than financial gain? According to recent studies, younger generations favour a more lifestyle-centric career plan than any previous generations. 

This means they place more value on things like flexible working hours, increased annual leave, and free gym memberships. All of these are now considered alongside the salary on offer (as opposed to being post-consideration perks) so why not take advantage of this?

3 low cost alternatives to giving a pay rise

Here's just a small selection of perks that are either in place of direct salary reward, or offer low-cost lifestyle additions that will give a more personal vibe to your package:

1. Flexible working hours

72% of employees are currently unaware that they are able to work longer hours and fewer days as a staff perk. Did you also know that, as of 2014, employers are required by law to consider offering flexible working to their employees? This law was formerly only available to parents of young and / or disabled children - but is now offered to a much wider range of people.

Flexible working hours are a great way to increase staff morale and retain top talent. And while you might think that it's costing your company money (in the form of productivity loss), flexible working studies in Sweden have shown otherwise.

2. Remote working

Another perk, similar to the above, is giving your staff the opportunity to work from home. Of course, this only works if the role allows - so anyone in Digital or IT roles are in luck, anyone in retail or field sales - not so much.

Not only does remote working show your employees that you trust them, but it gives them something back - something far greater than any salary boost could - and that's time at home and no commuting hours. 

In our article on remote working, we touched upon some key facts that included: "studies have shown that much higher levels of job satisfaction were felt by remote workers - with 25% citing lower stress levels, 73% claiming to eat healthier and 76% feeling more loyal to their company."

In total, 80% of the respondents reported having a better overall work-life balance. And that's the key: work-life balance. A separate Deloitte study found that Millennials (who will form 50% of the global workforce by 2020) see work-life balance and flexible working as the most important factors when looking for a new job.

3. Annual leave

The last angle in offering time off comes in the form of more annual leave. Giving your employees extra days off could well make the difference between them being discontent and happy in their role. 

The flexibility and freedom to take more breaks through the year is a great perk to have, and will make any employee think twice about taking another job that might pay slightly more in salary.

You could award these extra days of annual leave in relation to time of service to the company, or you could get more creative with it and raffle them off - or even give birthdays / selected Fridays off.

Additional lifestyle perks

Another way to keep your staff happy is by offering additional lifestyle perks that will save them money and build employee morale. Staying healthy is a popular hobby for many people, especially if they're sat down in an office all day. 

Offering a free gym membership is a great way to give something back to your employees, as it not only benefits their health, but it saves money and motivates them to use it.

You can tie this in with providing a free lunch on Fridays (whether you do this weekly or once a month is your call). Whatever goodies you decide to provide though, ensure there are healthy alternatives for any members of staff who want to avoid the temptations of doughnuts or pizza!


There you have it. Hopefully we've given you some feasible alternatives to retaining your top talent in times when giving a pay rise is hard. Building a workforce with strong chemistry is a key step, as it makes people feel valued and part of a team / family. 

Having frequent staff nights out (by this we mean more than just the annual Christmas do) is a great way to achieve such cohesion and, although they cost money, they're still more cost-effective than giving everyone a pay rise.

Ultimately though, most people go to work to get paid. That's just a fact. So these measures should only be used if you have no other option. Underpaying your staff and not offering any of the benefits above is a fast track to pushing them closer to resignation.

This means that you're going to be left with the cost of hiring someone else and how long will they stay for?

Written by Jon Clarke