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Show Me The Money

Employer Advice, candidate Advice, candidate...

Every New Year we see a surge in people coming back after the festive period looking for new jobs. Is it that they are looking for more money or is it that they don’t like something else about their current job? In our experience as long- standing construction recruiters, we believe that the “something else” is the real reason and that money is rarely the major driver.

More money is normally an easier reason given at resignation stage when you are sat in front of your boss and you just prefer not to give the real reason. It makes the resignation meeting, probably not a relished meeting, much easier and hassle free for the employee. Similarly, in a market where employers are all competing for the same skills sets and staff, one of the quickest and easiest levers to persuade someone to join is to offer more money but this in itself needs to be examined closely. When we do see a move motivated purely by money, it is often a short term move because there are other factors that haven’t been closely considered about the move. Here we share some useful insights based on our experience including the reasoning and pitfalls of money-motivated moves to both employees and employers –

  • It is rare that a salary increase makes a definable difference to lifestyle once appropriate deductions have been made. In order to make such a difference to lifestyle, we feel it would need to be an absolute minimum of 10 percent increase of gross salary. So, our advice is to crunch the numbers and not be blinded by the figure on the contract and make your decision based on the reality and not perception.
  • It is worth considering if an employer is making an exceptional offer, perhaps an increase of 15 percent of gross per annum salary or above, why they are doing this. There could be a number of reasons where they have to make exceptional offers to attract people such as a declining business, a poor track record in attracting and retaining staff, long hours or working away from home, an unattractive benefits package in terms of car policy, pension, healthcare and bonus to name a few.  There will almost always be a reason why employers pay well over the odds to attract people. Our advice is to do your research as more money is clearly an attractive proposition but quickly loses its appeal against adverse circumstances. There are quick checks you can do including a credit check, speaking to clients, subcontractors and former and current employees of the business. Make sure feedback is current and well- informed. Remember you spend a lot of time at work and other factors need to stack to make the job an enjoyable one.

Money aside, what do we feel are the real reasons that people move. Most people know these but to name the key ones – don’t get on with the boss, don’t like the company culture, company restructuring and management change, lack of work, travel and feeling overlooked for promotion. So, let’s look at them and what can be done to avoid some of the issues relating to them:

DON’T GET ON WITH THE BOSS - We think this is right at the top of the list. There is no doubt that If you don’t get on with the boss or feel you don’t get on, that this is quick route to failure. Most people walk away from this situation rather than try and resolve it and that is often on both sides. However, it could well be avoided as not getting on is normally based on poor communication, not addressing issues and letting things fester. Amongst the stress of deadlines, actually sitting down and discussing things calmly gets neglected. It’s a shame this doesn’t happen more as it could offer massive improvement for staff retention. Also, within site teams it is probably not easy for someone to have an independent person to speak to. Really this should be covered within the review process. How much preparation and time actually goes into the review process or is the review approached as a task that has to be completed. Such an approach is never going to have a successful outcome. Also, is there a mechanism for another level of management to be involved so that issues with an immediate line manager can be highlighted and dealt with.    

COMPANY CULTURE - We spend most of our lives at work so liking the business you work for is key and if you don’t like it , there is a real problem. Not many people like change but normally it is that the changes haven’t been communicated well and therefore the employee can often interpret them negatively. One of the main issues that people seem to have is they don’t like what they feel to be ever-increasing process and form filling. They perceive it as desensitising the job and taking the skill away. Most of us recognise the need for compliance and automation but it is clear that good people want to feel that they can make a valued personal contribution and showcase their own talent. When they feel they can’t do this, therein lies a danger of retaining good people.

COMPANY RESTRUCTURING AND MANAGEMENT CHANGE - Generally this is kept quiet by senior management until the last moment by which time half the story is out and people have put their own spin on things, one that is not always positive. A communication issue then leads to a “buy in” issue. People can then place themselves on the job market because of what they think is happening as opposed to what is actually happening. Either way, more timely announcements could help staff retention. As an employee why not ask to speak to a senior manager to ask your own questions about the business and then make your own judgement before placing yourself on the job market.

LACK OF WORK - This shouldn’t be the case in this market and if it is, there is clearly a problem. Lack of work and long-term visibility will undoubtedly unnerve people as they remember only too well what lack of works means. This is an extremely hard one to overcome and will always push people into making a job move.  We are aware that many companies have internal updates on work – winning but these should be regular and highly informative. People like security and also love the buzz of working for a successful business. 

TRAVEL/WORKING AWAY FROM HOME - Over the last decade it is clear that there has been a move towards working hard but not at the expense of work / life balance. Therefore, long commutes are definitely something that people look to avoid and this makes local work is very attractive. Commutes of an hour are generally still accepted as normal and anything over that may become an issue. However if they enjoy the business they work for, get on with the team and feel that there is long term work, this doesn’t tend to be a problem. It is perhaps only when the other factors are not acceptable that commuting, unless particularly gruelling, becomes an issue. Working away from home is a different issue and although working away is accepted within some sectors, within the wider industry there has been a definite reluctance of people to work away from home. In the current climate people don’t feel they need to. We often see people that have accepted a role for a project near home to find out that the next project means working away and consequently placing themselves back on the job market. We advise closer examination at interview stage of where the company works and has worked recently. Recruiting people that work more than an hour from the project or office or recruiting people that are not used to working away from home is not a good idea. In terms of working away from home, there probably needs to be attractive perks more than just reimbursement of hotel and travel expenses. We have seen in some instances subsistence allowances changed / reduced and therefore this makes working away an even less attractive proposition.

OVERLOOKED FOR PROMOTION - Good people want recognition and will quickly become disillusioned if promises are broken. The appraisal process doesn’t always catch this as what might have been set as objectives for promotion might be undone or ignored, particularly if there is a management change and no “follow through” or a change of opinion/ direction. This is dangerous as one disillusioned employee can lead to several disillusioned employees and before you know it, you can have an exodus of staff. If things don’t happen against agreed objectives and timespans it can become a matter of principle and therefore difficult to correct. We suggest that before taking a stand and placing yourself on the job market, sit down and have a meeting and refresh on objectives set and ask for an explanation why a promotion hasn’t been forthcoming. If at this stage you are not happy with the answers, then perhaps look at your options. It is also just part of business that companies can tend to concentrate on problems first which can often mean good people get overlooked, ironically by virtue of their own ability. This in itself is dangerous and doesn’t promote a culture of keeping your best staff. 

Our overall message is that job moves are normally based on factors other than money. We feel that money is the excuse given or the symptom but not the cause. Things could be helped enormously by more regular communication. Be wary of joining a business just for money or recruiting an employee that is just interested in a salary increase as in our experience it doesn’t generally bode well. Remember that there are many other important factors to consider, not only the whole benefits package which could make a difference to how a base line salary is viewed, but also the work and the culture of the business, success and ambitions.