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Employers need to rethink what they’re offering candidates in the post-COVID world

For years now, employers have been trying to crack the code for attracting and retaining workers, especially those from the younger Generation Z and Millennial cohorts.

Strategies often revolved around perks. Offering a cool office in a hip location, free breakfast buffets, a games room, or company sponsored social outings were all the rage. Well, they were certainly trendy for employers to offer, but not all employees actually cared about these benefits very much.

Companies lean towards offering perks over higher pay because this can be cheaper over time and it benefits them to keep payroll down.

However, COVID has made most of these advantages irrelevant. The kind of workspace or where it’s located don’t matter to employees who are mostly working remotely anyway. The same goes for free food and social events. Those are all off the table.

So, what do employees want? Well, a new study finds that they want the same thing now that they have always wanted. It’s not a ping pong table or comfy lounge area. It’s a steady and reliable income without delays or inconsistencies. Workers are looking to the bottom line, and they want the security of regular paycheque in unsettled times.

According to a newly released Canadian Payroll Association Essential Benefits Survey, younger workers are not as different from their older peers as originally thought. The foremost concern for Generation Z and Millennial employees when it comes to employment benefits is the same as previous generations. They want accurate and timely pay.

This result was consistent for four out of five respondents across all age demographics, with 78 per cent of Generation Z, 83 per cent of Millennials, 79 per cent of Generation X and 74 per cent of Baby Boomers identifying pay as essential.

By comparison, health and dental benefits (61%), RRSP programs and pension plans (43%), flexible working arrangements (38%), training and development opportunities (35%), additional vacation time (30%) and work perks (12%) were all deemed to be essential by significantly fewer respondents.

Perks matter less than pay, now more than ever. One thing that is perhaps muddying the water is the higher than average unemployment rate. While the number of people out of work spiked with the pandemic and the lockdowns, that has not created an ’employer’s market’ with plenty of talent available to choose from.

Job losses were largely confined to the retail, hospitality, services, and recreation sectors. Because those roles were performed on site and with the public, even those organizations who were hiring had trouble finding staff. People were reluctant to put themselves in a risky situation for catching COVID-19. So, salaries had to increase to attract workers.

Most other sectors shifted to remote working arrangements, but weren’t as greatly impacted by the coronavirus and government restrictions. And since the usual perks have lost importance, and workers are craving security and the safety of a nest egg in uncertain times, it’s the paycheque that matters more than ever right now.

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