Survey finds job seekers don’t see salary as the most important attribute of a potential workplace

Kiwi job-seekers are considering work/life balance - not salary - as their primary motivator, according to Hudson's Hiring Report.

The report canvassed the opinions of 763 professionals and hiring managers nationwide.

"The Hiring Report always looks at what the hiring manager needs to pay attention to in order to attract and retain staff," says Hudson NZ executive general manager Roman Rogers.

"It also shows job seekers what they need to be wary of - it's like a rolling check."

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The report has been commissioned each year for the past 15 . This is the first time work/life balance has taken the top spot as the main priority for job seekers.

The report says about two-thirds (69 per cent) of professionals were motivated by "work/life balance, including flexible arrangements" when looking for a new role, with both men (48 per cent) and women (52 per cent) near equally valuing work/life balance as their top priority.

This was followed by higher salary (68 per cent) and cultural fit (63 per cent), career progression and/or training opportunities (56 per cent), better benefits (48 per cent) and better alignment with a company's values (38 per cent). Only 10 per cent were motivated by a better job title.

"Work/life balance has been in the top five for the last six years," says Rogers.

"Anecdotal evidence has been pointing towards employees generally feeling unfairly remunerated because of the economic downturn, so this is a way for them to gain something without asking for a pay rise, which may not be an option for businesses right now."

With many organisations no longer in a position to attract and retain staff with financial rewards, secondary rewards such as training, flexible hours or locations and time off for private pursuits are being touted as a way to offer something extra to valuable employees, or prospective employees.

"Technology has meant that while you might be paid for a 40-hour week, replying to emails and calls might push that up to 70 hours per week," says Rogers. "Many of us start to ask, 'What's it all for?'

"A common purpose, shared beliefs and united vision can make the difference between a disengaged employee who works to live, and a passionate one who loves to work."

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Mums returning to the workforce led the charge for bringing about part-time or flexible work arrangements and a low unemployment figure meant employers were also trying to bring overseas employees or retirees back into the workforce.

Baby boomers wanting to retire and transition to part-time also added to what Rogers calls "the perfect storm" for forcing organisations to consider work/life balance.

"The need for work-life balance is not gender biased," he says.

"The statistics show both men and women are prioritising it. However, the Gen Y respondents are generally more focused on salary with baby boomers (72 per cent) requiring more work/life balance as they look to exit the workforce."

Rogers' advice is not to take an organisation's stance on work/life balance at face value, dig a little deeper before starting a job to make sure the employer's idea of work/life balance is the same as yours.

"If an employer is going to jump on the work/life bandwagon then they need to make sure they can live up to their promises," says Rogers.

"The devil is in the detail. Subtle differences in what people believe about a situation can be the start of the end for a business relationship."

Another finding of the study was to do with how digital communications are changing the way people source talent.

"Social media means hiring managers can find and connect to people they just couldn't 10 years ago," says Rogers. "We found that 90 per cent of hiring managers admit they are looking outside of active candidates to target people already in employment."

The report found that three-quarters of the workforce, whether actively looking for a new role or not, is open to being approached by recruiters.

Rogers' advice is simply to mention in your social media feeds that you're open for opportunities.

Sourcing that talent, though, could now be through blogs, seo (search engine optimisation), conferences, events, referrals, networking, associations, LinkedIn, YouTube, the media, online advertising, job boards, personal networks and databases.

These are just some of the options available for both job seekers and hiring managers.

Most hiring managers admit to looking up a candidate on social media, but it's also candidates who are researching prospective employers online with 96 per cent citing employer brand as important when deciding whether to apply for a role.

The ease of applying for and posting jobs is not always a good thing, though.

Rogers says advertisements may not be written with as much thought as when recruitment agents had to write just the one newspaper ad.

"For the price of a couple of beers, you can now post a job ad online," says Rogers. "Our industry is adapting with technology and up to 75 per cent of hiring managers admit to using keywords in their ads to get maximum impact."

Psychometric testing is also on the rise with the risks of a mis-hire becoming more serious.

According to the report, 55 per cent of senior executives value it as part of the recruitment process.

While finding work/life balance could be a long-term trend, Rogers is not sure whether its current popularity will be the tipping point for major change in the workplace just yet.

"It will be interesting to watch. There has been research around the younger generation heading towards project-oriented work, rather than working for the same firm or in the same job for 40-odd years as their grandparents might have," says Rogers.

"It's been predicted that the generation to come will have 24 different jobs and seven different careers in the one lifetime."

With the range of skills that would take to achieve, future generations look likely to need a finely tuned work/life balance at the top of the list.