The days of a job for life are long gone - so is staff loyalty now just about the money?

Research shows workers will take a pay cut – for the right role.

By Joanne Foley Regional manager, Matrix Recruitment

THE DAYS OF the permanent, pensionable job are long gone.

Much of today’s workforce is made up of digital natives who are globally mobile. They are an educated and savvy lot with high expectations, according to our recent survey, which showed that two-thirds of employees were expecting a pay rise this year – with one-third expecting €2,500 or more.

With this in mind, business owners need to consider how they can take some basic but important steps to attract and retain staff, whilst also fostering loyalty in a workforce.

While money certainly helps, it takes more than the monthly pay cheque to keep staff motivated. Employers need to understand the needs of their staff and what makes them tick. Get that right, and you can get on with the business of what makes you tick – your business.

Taking a pay cut

Our survey of more than 1,500 employees in Ireland showed that whilst most are expecting a pay rise this year, employers can still take heart – nearly one-third of workers said they would consider a pay cut for the right job.

Before you start drafting an internal memo to staff about salaries being slashed, the findings relate to employees considering changing jobs. Asking existing staff to take a pay cut is one sure way to trigger a mutiny.

What you can do, however, is take a hard look at the different positions, job descriptions, opportunities and pay grades across the company and compare them to similar jobs in both your own and other sectors.

Are you paying your sales manager €30,000 when the company next door is offering a salary of €45,000 for a comparable position, together with health insurance, training and opportunities for travel?

If so, not only will you have difficulty retaining staff, you will have a problem attracting staff in the first place. But if you can’t afford to match a competitor’s pay scales you can still create that ‘perfect job’ by understanding what motivates people.

Most of us want a job that offers a clear pathway to promotion, opportunities to develop our skills and expertise and the occasional perk. So rather than throwing money at a job, take a look at how you might offer really good training for staff.

Perhaps you can introduce team-building or mentoring programmes, or you might simply ensure that the job description clearly outlines the opportunities and the benefits that the position offers. Occasional perks like staff outings or a half day to reward a business win can also work a treat.


While basic salary is important, the prudent employer will also be looking at the non-cash benefits that can be offered to staff or prospective candidates.

Don’t underestimate the power of incentives like extra holidays or flexitime, particularly for younger workers. Our survey found that among 18- to 24-year-olds more than one-third said it was the benefit they most wanted from their jobs, ahead of health insurance and even performance-related bonuses.

Health is wealth

Different age groups have different priorities and, as employees enter their 30s and 40s, health insurance and a pension take precedence. Seek advice from your financial advisor on the most tax- and cost-efficient options that will allow you to offer staff important benefits that won’t overly stretch cash flow or impact the bottom line.

To stay or go

More than one-third of employees expect to change job in 2017; however, more than half admitted they would be willing to stay with their current employer for a higher salary.

Therein lies the conundrum: do you let them go, or do you make a counter offer and entice them to stay? There is no single answer.

However, my advice is to take some time to think about the consequences of that person leaving or being made an offer to stay. Of course, it can be a hassle when good people leave, but it’s rare not to find a candidate equally strong, if not better, to fill their shoes, and they can often bring a new dynamic and energy to a company.

Before making that counter offer, you also need to think about the potential impact on other members of staff. Will word get around that the boss is loosening the purse strings? You certainly don’t want a queue of disgruntled employees at your door, all threatening to leave if they don’t get a pay rise!

In my experience, if an employee has expressed a desire to leave but agrees to stay for more money, it won’t be long before they move on. This is borne out by the research findings: 80% of employees leave within 12 months of a counter offer. That said, some staff are just too good not to fight for.

Get creative

The best business leaders think outside of the box. So get creative; think about what employees really want, however aspirational, and see what steps you can take to create a job and working environment that allow you to get and keep the best staff for your business.

Joanne Foley is regional recruitment manager at Matrix Recruitment. The full findings of the annual Matrix recruitment salary survey can be found here.

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