4 benefits employees *actually* want in 2023

Guess what? Even if you find the right candidate, they can say no. 

In fact, candidates saying no was our top recruitment trend for 2023. With jobseekers in control, the best candidates know they can be picky and shop around – which means, employers, you need to make your offer worth their while. Because we genuinely want y’all to thrive, here’s a steer on how to bag the top talent…

  1. The salary they *really* deserve

We know budgets are tight. But get this: candidates are skint, too. Research by Indeed and Glassdoor showed higher pay was the number-one consideration for almost a third of candidates – which makes sense considering the crippling cost-of-living crisis. The upshot is: it doesn’t matter how great any of your other benefits are if your salaries are pants.

Rather than paying the bare minimum and risking losing talent to fairly paying competitors – whether because they quit or never join in the first place – why not offer candidates (and existing employees, while we’re at it) the salary they really deserve? Being a) realistic – by properly researching the market – and b) generous – by paying over the odds, rather than bang on or below – not only starts your relationship on the right foot; it could also save you money on recruitment fees and lost productivity in the long run.

By the way: what a candidate was paid in their last role has nothing to do with what they deserve to be paid by you. In fact, as HR Magazine argues, asking for candidates’ current salary silently undermines your diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives because, “When you base someone’s salary on their previous pay, you are inheriting gender, race and class gaps in pay from previous companies.” So stop doing it. Yeah?

Also, for the love of Whoopi Goldberg (niche A Little Bit of Heaven reference, sure), will you please disclose salaries on job adverts. Or else why are you even bothering?

  1. A culture where they feel seen and safe

We’re actually pretty loath to include this in a list of ‘benefits’ because we absolutely believe fostering a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion should be a must-have for all businesses. But, for those who are lagging behind, the fact is an ED&I strategy actually makes recruiting easier.

In a survey by Deloitte, 80% of people said inclusion efforts were an important factor when choosing an employer. “Devising a comprehensive ED&I strategy helps you to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, demonstrates that you are listening and that you care, provides access to the broadest pool of candidates when it comes to recruitment, creates loyalty among your existing employees – the list goes on!” says Aby Hawker (she/her), Founder and CEO of TransMission PR.

Make all people of all races, genders, ages, abilities, religions, and backgrounds feel seen and safe. Show them you genuinely care and prove your business is going to be a place where they feel valued and respected. And don’t go thinking a few choice buzzwords in your application process is job done: for this to work, you need a comprehensive ED&I strategy that’s communicated and implemented across all touchpoints – or, whether by word-of-mouth or spidey sense, candidates will know.

  1. Flexi-f**king-bility

Yes, fully remote roles are vanishing. But do we all need to return to being treated like children, our bum going numb on a specific seat in a particular building between the unchanging hours of 9am and 5pm (if you’re lucky) every. Single. Day? 

You might guess from our tone that we’re big fans of flexibility here at Lightning – and we’re not alone. According to a survey from Future Forum, 95% of respondents care more about flexible hours than remote work. And, in a report by Adobe, 84% of employees would like at least some flexibility, in contrast to only 16% who said they prefer a set schedule.

Flexibility in working hours and location is crucial for an inclusive culture. Parents, caregivers, cognitively diverse people, and those with religious commitments are just some of the diverse talent you could alienate by having an inflexible policy. Plus, the reality is: life happens. If you trust your people, who cares when or where they get the job done – as long as they do?

  1. Wellbeing support

If there’s one good thing that came out of the pandemic, it’s an increased focus on wellbeing. And with one in four people experiencing a mental health problem of some kind each year in England, it’s about time.

As Guardian Life writes, “The key to a mental health strategy in the workplace is to normalize it within the organizational culture and day-to-day dialogue. Lean on leadership to make well-being a legitimate priority by organically and consistently addressing it in announcements, emails, and Town Hall meetings. Include behavioral health resources in HR and workplace policies, employee benefits offerings, and employee communications.”

The important thing to understand about wellbeing is that it means different things to different people. For some, it could mean having a longer lunch break to fit in a gym class (hello, flexibility), or taking a paid mental health day every now and then. Others might benefit from mental health and career coaching from the likes of Emplomind, or personalisable wellbeing experiences through an app like Heka. As Head of Go-to-Market Strategy at Guardian John Modica explains, “Given the different needs and perceptions among generations, a one-size-fits-all approach may not work” – so make sure your approach is tailored and individual so people feel supported in whatever way they need.

Of course, there are a billion other benefits you could offer (check out this enormous list if you’re looking for inspiration), so don’t feel you have to stop there.

Just know that deciding on your benefits package is just the start: in order to make a positive difference in your hiring (and retention), people need to know about it. Considering a YouGov poll revealed only 57% of employees have been told about the benefit schemes at their work and just 53% know how to access them, it’s a pretty good guess the same goes for candidates. So, shout about it! And, if you’re working with us, we’ll do the same.


Here at Lightning, we work with you to plan and manage your end-to-end candidate experience – including advising on benefits and best practice. Get in touch to find out how we can help your business.

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Thea Bardot

13th March

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