The tech & digital sector is becoming an increasingly candidate driven market.  As such, employers should be prepared to negotiate employment packages with potential new hires.  In a recent survey, looking at 3000 UK job seekers, more than half (57%) have revealed that they are confident ‘within reason’ when negotiating the terms on a new job.

Of course, the basic salary is a key component. However, recent world events have pushed many of us to reconsider what we want or need from our employers.  The furlough scheme has made us realise that if pushed, we could live on a bit less. Meanwhile, the time at home has forced us to stop and think about how we want to live as we come to the end of lockdown.

The benefits package has become an important motivator in our decisions about the course of our professional future.  29% of those questioned, stated that ‘employee benefits’ was critical in their decision making, proving that what an employer is willing to offer can set them apart.

Candidates have become empowered.  More and more, candidates are willing to push for what they want, especially when they know their skills are in high demand.

So, what is on the candidate wish list, and which are the benefits that will help secure a signature?

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The research revealed that the top 10 benefits candidates want are:

  • Annual Bonus – 42%
  • Pension – 36%
  • Flexible Working – 32%
  • Learning and Development – 30%
  • Private Healthcare – 21%
  • Money for Training – 16%
  • More than statutory holiday – 14%
  • Car Allowance – 14%
  • Accommodation – 9%
  • Unlimited Holiday Allowance – 8%

Are 2021 benefits packages in line with these?

These may be top of the candidate wish list, but are they in line with what is currently out on offer within the job market?

Not entirely.

The same body of research also looked into 100 employer benefits packages.  These results yielded some comparative results, although there was a bit of disparity.

It seems important that the benefits on offer are grown up and mature.  Candidates are looking to the future and are not easily distracted by the more social and ‘fun’ offerings. Many companies offer dress-down days, ping pong tables, drinks fridges, and staff socials. Whilst all of these would be nice ‘perks’, none of these features on the list given by candidates.  However, 62% of companies questioned did include ‘staff parties’ as a benefit.


Unsurprisingly, the research revealed that a pension scheme with employer contributions features on 74% of businesses’ benefits packages.  It would seem the majority of organisations recognise that candidates desire a stable and secure financial future.

Flexible Working.

The Covid 19 pandemic has meant Working from Home has become the norm for most of us.  Perhaps this has influenced the fact ‘Flexible Working’ has become the third most sought-after benefit among those questioned.  The vast majority (81%) of candidates said they were more likely to choose an employer that offers a more flexible working package

Looking a little closer into the data, Millennial employees tend to place a greater importance on flexible working.  36% of 18–21-year-olds said it was important to them, compared to just a third (33%) of 55–59-year-olds.

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Learning and Development.

Over half of the employers questioned (51%) offer employees a Learning and Development program as part of their benefits package.  Reassuringly, this is in line with candidate requirements.  It is pleasing that employers value the professional development of their workforce so highly.  It suggests there is a real commitment to assisting employees as they grow, progress and build their skillset.  It is a recognition that retaining talented candidates is just as crucial as attracting them in the first place.  Keeping candidates challenged, motivated, and engaged will ensure that employees won’t lose interest in their role.

Flexible benefits packages.

The findings of the report are promising. Many benefits appear on both candidate requirement lists and company offerings.

Some companies go one step further though, and offer flexible or tailored benefits packages; candidates can tailor their own package features to best suit their needs or lifestyle.  It stands to reason that the wants of a 21-year-old graduate will differ from those of a working parent of three school-age children.  When asked though, 62% of employees cited this was not a possibility at their organisation, while the overwhelming majority (88%) said this would be valuable to them.

Surely, recognising this would be a quick win for employers wanting to secure their attractiveness in a competitive market.

Perhaps it is candidate expectations that have driven the decision by employers not to offer tailored benefits packages.  74% don’t allow employees to select their own benefits package during hiring negotiations with 19% stating that their candidates’ expectations are either ‘unrealistic or very unrealistic’ in terms of the benefits they should expect to receive at work.

A gender divide.

Looking broadly at the candidate market, it is clear that job seekers are willing to be vocal about what they want from a job offer. However, it seems that men are more comfortable with negotiating a benefits package than their female counterparts.  20% of men said ‘they had a right’ to discuss it with employers, while only 10% of women shared this opinion.  This split is echoed when considering asking employers for a pay rise once they were established in a role. 75% of women revealed they felt uncomfortable when asking for a pay rise, compared to 59% of men.

The research highlighted that women also prized flexible working as a benefit feature more than men; 34% of women said they looked for mention of it in job advertisements compared to just 24% of men.  Additionally, when the respondents were asked to select their top 3 benefits, 40% of women chose flexible working/working from home compared to 27% of men.

Negotiating benefits. What is in it for employers?

Employers who welcome negotiation have much to gain.  An open conversation will facilitate a broader and more tailored approach to hiring.  Through encouraging a negotiation, employers incentivise candidates from day one. Candidates will want to work for an employer who is flexible, who appreciates the work-life balance, who values autonomy, and who facilitates an open and balanced professional relationship.

To be considered a reasonable employer will ensure two things.  Firstly, you will secure a motivated and driven hire.  In so doing, employers will create a more engaged and productive workforce; one that knows their employer values them enough to have invested in their wellbeing.  Secondly, incentivising candidates in this way will set you apart in a competitive market.  It gives you a tangible and unique selling point, particularly if a candidate is faced with two offers of comparable salary.


The competition to attract grade A candidates has never been more ruthless. The tech sector is experiencing a talent shortfall. Employers are needing to go beyond the base rate salary to attract and retain the tech talent needed to push their organisations forward.

Benefits packages need to be part and parcel of every job description, particularly in a time when we have all had some time to reflect on our priorities.  For some, this could be anxiety about a secure financial future.  For others, it may be the equilibrium of the work/life balance we prize most highly.

Although they are not currently commonplace, with candidates in the driving seat, we may see more tailored benefit schemes in the future.   The research underlines that we all have very different needs.  The stage we are at in our career, our lifestyle, and even our gender appear to influence the value we place on the component parts of our benefits package.

Negotiation is a conversation. While employers cannot give in to every whim of their new hire, it is important to be flexible and if possible, deliver a tailored solution in each circumstance.  Candidates relish choice.  To stay ahead of the curve, employers should try to deliver this where they can.

About the author: I manage the recruitment for a range of digital roles for my clients on both a retained and contingency basis. I specialise in senior and confidential appointments, always giving a first class representation of a client’s employer brand.

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