Competitive pay and flexibility key for staff to thrive

09 January 2019 5 min. read

With an increasingly competitive market for talent in the UK and across the Western world, companies are constantly on the look-out for new human resourcing techniques to help obtain and maintain staff. However, while analytics may go some way to helping, research shows that the analogue mechanisms of competitive compensation and flexible working are top priorities for employees to be able to thrive.

As an ageing population means fewer new workers are coming through to replace a large section of the labour force approaching retirement, while employment sits at a decades-long high and new firms increase competition for workers, many companies have been left contemplating the best practices to maintain a stable human resourcing balance. Without securing a ready stream of inbound talent to cancel out employee churn, while being able to maintain a level of loyalty which minimises the number of exits from a company, firms face a troubled future. As a result, many UK firms are exploring analytics as a method to guide talent-related decision-making.

Mercer study into human resources has found that 93% of companies now use analytics to make better talent decisions. The majority of companies have moved beyond a stage of basic reporting, with 33% now leveraging it to at least reveal correlations between company policy and staff behaviours. A further third use analytics for cause and effect analysis, while 9% are leveraging it for predictive analytics. This figure may well rise in the coming years, as firms look to get a leg up on competitors, and anticipate trends in order to improve the fruitfulness of their recruitment and retention efforts.

How are analytics being used to make better talent decisions?

While analytics may help pre-empt such trends to a degree, however, certain needs among employees are unlikely to change in the coming years, and HR professionals will need to address them before considering the further trends. Indeed, what the majority of employees want, few companies actually offer, and by appealing to these needs, any HR department could get ahead of the game. The problem is that the popular areas are pay and flexibility – two aspects which bosses remain reluctant to give ground on, as they are keen to drive down costs in order to maximise profits.

81% of thriving employees polled by Mercer believed they were paid fairly and competitively, making them five times more likely to think so than the average worker. While Mercer’s report went on to find that UK workers said their top priority to thrive was in fact “leaders who set a clear direction”, then, the figures on pay would actually suggest pay is still more important. While knowing what a manager expects on them is important, financial stress is well documented as detracting from an employee’s ability to match those expectations.

Who supports flex working?

In a market which has seen wages suppressed for the best part of a decade, driving down consumer power in the UK and often leaving those who do still participate in consumption heavily burdened with debt, it is not hard to see why this would be the case. At the same time, though, Mercer found that only 21% of companies offer some form of internal pay disclosure, a worrying lack of transparency on the matter.  


At the same time, 63% of employees are keen on greater flexibility in their work. This was noted by employees from the UK as the second most desired factor in helping them thrive at work. A third of UK workers believe they are not given the flexibility and support they need to do their job properly, and so it is again easy to see how increasing the flexibility of work might improve the outcomes enjoyed by a company, particularly by enabling them to make the most of otherwise marginalised labour, such as working mothers.

Employee perspective: What would help you thrive at work?

Despite this, two in every five employees are left to worry that flexible working may damage their career prospects, due to the reluctance of management to support it. Some 46% of HR professionals remain reluctant to back flexible work, due to a perception that it will need to be fairly applied; or in other words, a large portion of workers may want to use it at once. This leads to another fear, which is that 42% of HR leaders subsequently believe it may impact on teamwork and face-to-face collaboration. A further 36% believed it would make rewarding contribution harder to measure, as workers would not be supervised in person.

With a difficult period ahead for companies looking to stay ahead of competitors in terms of staffing and getting the most out of current employees, these two fronts offer a key window of opportunity for entities to capitalise on the hesitation of others. With a growing number of employers turning to analytics to maintain the health of their HR practices, picking up on those trends remains key for both employees and companies to thrive in the future.