So you think you know what candidates want in terms of package? is it just about the money? – From a recruitment consultants’ perspective:

I am one of the founding Directors of CX Talent Ltd – an independent, specialist recruitment agency. We specialise in Customer Experience roles and all roles that focus in and around the customer. I am also one of the founding Directors of Modulr Space Ltd – a business that provides beautiful, Architect designed sustainable, home offices and garden buildings. At Modulr Space Ltd we have come up with a new idea for an employee benefit. It’s called Small Space for business – I’m not about to go into a sales pitch about it here – you can have a look at the proposition on our website if you are interested and get in touch if you want to talk further about it – but I promise this is not what this article is about.

So what – you may be asking, has this to do with what Candidates are looking for in terms of a new employer and the sort of benefits and perks they want?

Well – I am fortunate to be in a unique position to talk about what candidates want and now need when it comes to looking for a new role. Most of my time is spent talking to candidates of all levels about future roles, what they want to do more of, less of, the sorts of companies they’d like to work for and the always thorny question of money and package. We set up our recruitment business in 2012 and we have seen requirements, needs and trends change in terms of what people are looking for in their next employer and package.

It’s been a unique (and hopefully never to be repeated year in recruitment). The world has changed remarkably and quickly and people have new and considered ideas of what is important to them moving into 2021 and beyond.

I have collated my most recent findings from extensively reading reports and articles on this very subject and from speaking to my candidate base and extensive professional network. The point of this article is really to draw attention to what people want from the organisations they work for to feel valued and to help companies focus their offers to new candidates based on the new norm rather than the old ways.

I hope that you find my piece interesting!

Employee Rewards and Benefits for 2021. How can you attract and retain the best talent?

I promised myself that I would write at least one post this year that did not mention the dreaded C word! However, no matter how much I have tried to not allude to it or mention it – its unavoidable! Covid-19 has had an unprecedented (another word I didn’t want to use) effect on recruitment, staff engagement and wellbeing and leaves us wondering what do people now REALLY want in terms of their overall renumeration and rewards package? How will companies attract the best candidates and keep their existing talent through 2021 and beyond? It’s true – the market is flooded with amazing candidates who have sadly lost their jobs. But how do you secure the best talent? Ensure you are keeping up with the latest trends on renumeration packages and benefits? Please read on!

As I mentioned, I have conducted my own research by speaking to our candidate base and network as well as researching this topic extensively through reading reports from industry associations such as REBA to get a strong indication of where candidates are in terms of the renumeration and rewards packages they are likely to expect and want in a post Covid world.

The key themes that spring up over and over again are flexible working arrangements, a better work/life balancepersonal development and training and an increased interest in companies who invest in employee wellbeing.

Company culture is of imperative importance to candidates. Most want to work for an organisation who will want to invest in them as employeesGood Management support, the ability to be autonomous and input into key decisions for an organisation rate highly. To be treated with trust and respect is also very high on candidates’ agendas – rather unsurprisingly! Companies with visible and credible CSR strategies are very important to employees it is an important indicator of culture for a lot of candidates. One member of my network stated

‘ I am very keen for companies to have a strong CSR strategy. This will become a huge motivation factor to work for a company that is trying to improve its social and environment impact’. If there is respect for what the company does and employees are passionate about it then it will eventually show in the customer service and quality of product or service’

Salary is always an issue and clearly candidates want to be paid their market worth and rightly so. According to a Glassdoor survey 46% of active candidates want a high salary (don’t we all?!). However, in discussions with my candidates and with my network – candidates are looking for an all round package. A good / fair salary that reflects their experience and skill set and the responsibilities of the new role – but with good benefits or the ability to sacrifice some of their salary to get a greater range benefits or a greater work life balance that suits them as an individual. Very few candidates are interested in the money alone. In this piece I will take each of these parts of the employee package in turn and pass on both the feedback and opinion from candidates, industry professionals and myself.


According to an article in HR Magazine October 2020 Employers in the private sector are expected to increase pay by an average of just 1% in the year ahead as a result of COVID-19. 

Pay rises have been falling over the past 12 months, with average pay rise now worth 2.2% down from 2.5% this time last year according to research from pay analysts XpertHR. Most employers said they were likely to issue pay freezes, with nearly half (44.8%) of private companies saying they do not expect to increase staff wages. This is certainly true of the majority of clients that we deal with at CX Talent Ltd. Sheila Attwood, XpertHR pay and benefits editor, said:

“Many employers are not optimistic that they will be in a position to award a pay rise in 2021, with a pay freeze easily the most expected outcome of any pay review next year.”

This is not altogether unexpected – and the fact that inflation has fallen makes this altogether understandable (although for many disappointing).

According to Matthew Gregson – Director, Head of Corporate at Howdens who recently said in Employee Benefits ‘Pay rises may take a back seat in 2021 if the economic uncertainty continues. There will be a fundamental shift from monetary reward to the wellbeing of employees’says Gregson.

“Organisations used to attract people with big job titles, big basic salaries and a catalyst promise of ‘more, more, more’,” he says. “What’s really attractive to people now is about the social impact; it’s about the workplace, it’s about the culture, it’s about the environment and that’s why there’s more and more overlapping of benefits. There’s a lot of repositioning; who we like to work for, how an organisation can take an active role in an employee’s wellbeing and how they take an active role in society.” 

So with salaries unlikely to increase over the next 12 months – how else can a company attract and retain talent?

It turns out that actually salary is not everything to todays candidates. Certainly – people want to be paid a fair wage and one that reflects their experience and the new role responsibilities. However, there are other key drivers for workers now that are extremely important.

Flexible Working:

Flexible working and Work/Life balance are the BIG issues that candidates are looking for right now. The majority of candidates state this as being one of THE most important aspects of a new role. This is not just because of forced remote working thanks to COVID. It has been an increasing trend over the past few years with our senior candidates expecting this as a given in any new role. COVID has simply accelerated this trend with candidates from middle management upwards looking for a more flexible way of working. Flexible working in terms of WHERE they work and WHEN they work.

A piece in UC News states that nearly half of Brits would resign if they were forced to return to the office. It also states that:

‘55% of workers are planning a more hybrid role with one to four days in the office. With working from home likely to become part of the future of working life, 45% of office workers are willing to take a pay cut in order to continue working from home in the long-term. 15% would be willing to take a pay cut of 5%, the equivalent to £1,518 a year when looking at the average full-time UK salary of £30,353 (ONS 2019 Av UK salary’.

That’s a pretty clear indicator that flexible working is here to stay. Those companies who do not advocate a flexible working arrangement for their staff – are in our experience – much less attractive to the best talent. Most of our candidates like the idea of a hybrid way of working – with some time in the office, but a large part working from home. This means that businesses can open up their talent pools as people are more inclined to travel further if it’s just for one day a week or fortnight. So instead of getting the best person in the locality who is available at the time. You can just get the very best person!

Offices will need to adapt in order to accommodate this new way of working. They are more likely to become collaborative meeting spaces that people come together to meet and share ideas than where the day to day working activities happen. It is likely that the younger more junior workforce will need to be in the office full time. This is so they can learn their roles and enjoy the social aspect of work. More senior staff are likely to rotate in attendance and on a needs must basis and work remotely for a lot of the time. A great working environment is therefore, essential for when people are in the office – it should be a place that embodies the culture of an organisation and gives employees a sense of belonging for when they are there.

Flexible working arrangements help with a better work/life balance. Employees can use the commute time, dealing with other things. Suddenly – a number of individuals have another couple of hours in the day they didn’t have before! Parents can more easily deal with childcare and do school runs, not have to take time off if a child is unwell, or to attend an assembly or nativity play, people can exercise more easily and use the additional time for leisure. This has a big knock on effect for employee wellbeing. There are of course several other benefits for employee wellbeing – I have covered them in blogs for Modulr Space Ltd and it has been widely written about. If you’d like to read more on this – please visit our news page.

With the change in working practises, employees now expect the employer to provide office technology equipment (laptops, printers, screens) and also in some cases office furniture – desks, chairs etc… And to contribute to bills when working from home – such as electricity and Wi-Fi. SMART meters can be fitted to be able to measure this and bill accordingly.

Companies need to look to work out ways of ensuring their staff are working safely and effectively and maximising their productivity in work time. They also need to consider how to help employees feel connected and part of the team even if they are not altogether in person.

Employee Wellness:

An emphasis on Employee Wellness and a commitment from a prospective employer to contributing to employee wellness is another big and increasingly important factor for employees. Have you considered whether your current wellness programme meets what employees are actually looking for and now need? This is what I found when speaking to my candidate base.

Employees are ideally looking for health and wellness benefit options that match their personal lives and needs. They are more interested in holistic employee wellness plans that include both mind and body and help to manage potential mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression. This can include working from home, so they are able to work with less stress created by commuting and more time for physical, leisure and family activities. Mental health care could include wellness coachingmindfulness courses and in some cases individual therapy. According to ClassPass 88% of professionals who they surveyed said that they would be more likely to put in a good word for an employer who supports their wellbeing efforts.

Wellbeing also covers finance wellbeing and counselling. Financial stress can severely impact productivity and by being able to offer finance wellbeing programmes – from seminars, to workshops can help alleviate some of this stress and enable happier employees.  Increasingly we’ve seen businesses are now offering ‘knowledge share’ seminars in which different staff can share their specialisms – eg accountants on budgeting.

Personal Growth and Development:

Next on the list in terms of importance for candidates is personal growth and development.

‘I’d love to work for a company where people are encouraged to grow even if it meant to negotiate a bit on salary’

‘Actually investing in staff – training and coaching both new and existing staff. Happy Staff stay longer’

‘An organisation which invests in providing opportunities for its people to develop and grow’

The above quotes taken verbatim from responses to a Linkedin post I did recently about this very subject.

Candidates appear to be looking to companies to stay for the mid-long term at the moment. The trend for moving every couple of years has slightly changed with candidates looking to work for an organisation for 4-5 years, maybe longer as long as there is development and potential career progression. Retaining engaged and motivated staff saves enormous sums of money in recruitment and training of new staff – so this should be something that companies should be looking to invest in. Resources such as online learning platform Udemy were cited as attractive. Additionally company mentoring programmes were mentioned as being an attractive benefit / idea for employees’ personal development.


good holiday allowance is always attractive to candidates, the ability to purchase additional holiday is also something that we have seen an increase in interest in. The government passed a temporary law in March of this year allowing staff to rollover 4 weeks of their paid holiday due to COVID – this may not be something that employees look to do for 2021, but certainly something that they will want to be able to do in the future.

Additionally – as part of the wellness piece people would like some sort of family / care giver leave available to them.

Sense of security:

Increasingly and understandably candidates want to start a role with a sense of security. This can take several forms – they want to know that they will have job security of course – particularly if they have recently lost a job. But also this covers financial aspects of the overall package such as pension and health insurance. Company pension schemes vary in generosity – but to a great number of candidates this is a very important piece of the package puzzle. If a company offers a generous pension scheme – with contributions over the statutoryThis is very attractive for candidates.

Health insurance whether it be individual or family is also very important and high up on the list of ideal benefits for employees.


To the beginning of this year (2020) a bonus was an important part of the overall package for an employee. Interestingly – very few candidates brought this up as a requirement for their next role in our recent survey. It is a nice to have rather than a necessity and candidates would rather be paid market value or fairly for their experience and skills on the basic and have their package made up of other aspects than a monetary bonus. Everyone loves a bonus of course – if it is genuinely achievable and based on performance. I can only summise that the fact that very few employees are receiving a bonus this year as opposed to last may have influenced this. Perhaps this has ceased to be as important as it might have been before in better economic times. Personally – I think it is an important perk and helps employees strive further if there is a financial benefit for exceptional performance.

Car Allowance:

For most of our senior executive positions we would usually expect a car allowance to be given as part of an individuals’ package. However, thanks to the pandemic people have been unable to travel around and meet people as part of their roles or have needed to use a company car to make work journeys as they have been working from home. Very few candidates have cited a company car as being an important part of their package for a future role. The use of technology and video calls has to have had a significant bearing on the requirement for company cars. Most candidates who have enjoyed a car as part of their previous package would ideally look for this to be continued or made up on salary or alternative benefits.

Childcare Vouchers:

Most companies are open to discussing childcare vouchers with employees. It is certainly something that candidates are keen that a company is able to offer their employees.

Other Benefits and Perks:

Other benefits and perks that were brought up are Gym MembershipCycle to Work schemes, Eye care vouchers, platforms such as PerkBox. The ability to offer 1 or 2 days to work for a Charity – which is a nice way to help employees feel as if they are doing something good for the community beyond just working for a pay cheque was also suggested.

Benefits like fruit and dress down Fridays, bars etc… were seen as nice to haves – but by no means of significant importance to candidates.

In Conclusion:

From my research it seems to me that candidates are much more interested in the type of company they work for than in how much they earn from it. Candidates want to be paid their market rate in terms of salary. But most importantly they want to be valued as both employees of a business and as individuals. In terms of benefits and rewards packages – emphasis on wellbeing and more individual approach seem to be the most attractive options to candidates for 2021.

An environment where:

‘the employer values the quality of life of their employee and reflects this with flexible working options, mental health support etc…’

‘A fair and mutually supportive environment would be attractive in addition to flexible working, work / life balance with a reasonable salary that related to experience and qualifications’

Getting it right – how to future proof your Wellbeing strategy

The trends I’ve talked about here have been seen for a while – they are not all born out of Covid and we believe they are here to stay.  That does bring me back full circle to Modulr Space because a stand alone home office is now a significant benefit, both to the employee who has the use of it and the employer who owns the space (disclaimer – other home offices are available!)  This is not the only solution to the changing demands of the talent market of course, and not everyone would even be able to host one.  But, formalising the home office in terms of health and safety requirementsconfidentiality and productivity should be factored into future planning for TA and HR professionals particularly those dealing with significant numbers of senior staff.

Small Space by Modulr Space Ltd, flexible, architect designed, sustainable, tax efficient working from home solutions for business.

The other real constant running through our research that we have heard many times, has been the need to be heard and valued as individuals. People who can bring their authentic selves to work are more powerfully aligned to the shared success of the business as well as their own. A really easy and efficient way to create this relationship is to offer the right, well thought out range of benefits and salary sacrifice options, so that people can tailor it to make a real difference to their day to days lives. It could be childcare vouchers, gym membership, a home office, an EV or an enhanced pension – and over the course of a typical employment these choices will probably change. Employees have different needs and priorities and respecting that simple fact goes such a long way towards delivering a happy and engaged team.

By Jo van Riemsdijk

Director – CX Talent Ltd and Director – Modulr Space Ltd