Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

Tough Talks with Clients – Rising to Meet the Compensation Expectations of Talent

Moving through the challenges of 2020, the needs of employees shifted in terms of benefits and compensation expectations. As we move forward with healing from the upset caused by the pandemic, those expectations remain high. However, the landscape of the workforce has also shifted. There are far more hybrid/remote roles and different expectations that come along with this change. This has created new challenges for external talent sourcing/staffing professionals. 

Compensation, benefits, and employee resources need to meet candidates’ expectations to secure the highest quality talent. The pandemic is just one example of an unexpected factor impacting how employee compensation needs and candidate expectations shift. And one thing you can count on as a staffing professional is the evolution of candidate expectations. The trick is, while you’re the front line in talent acquisition for your clients, you are also still the middle man.

You must ensure you have the answers to tough candidate questions regarding salary and benefits. And you are an invaluable resource for clients to stay abreast of the expectations of incoming talent. Your role in aligning clients and candidates is significant, but acquiring all of this information can seem daunting. So we’ve simplified the process a bit for you by digging into a few of the most important topics you should discuss with your team, clients, and candidates.

Here are a few questions you need to ask to get a handle on compensation expectations from all sides:

What is the ratio of remote to hybrid to in-person roles?

Depending on the needs and size of each company, the number of employees overall, as well as remote vs. hybrid vs. in-office, can vary. If only a few employees move to remote or hybrid roles, it’s unlikely clients will plan for a significant deviation from their current salary strategy. However, they should recognize that expenses for employees who work remotely vary from those in the office, so they may want to consider stipends for home internet or office equipment.

Suppose your clients have shifted most of their workforce to remote offices. In that case, there may be room for them to reallocate traditional office expenses to fund secure personal devices, updated communication and task management software, and employee recognition programs. While these perks do not pay the bills, they reduce stress and personal expenses and boost morale for employees working from home.

Employees who accrued higher home utilities working from home during the pandemic may have higher compensation expectations when their company moves to a long-term remote or hybrid working model. This is especially true since The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 eliminated the miscellaneous deduction for home office expenses until 2025. 

Start the discussion:

Naturally, you’re going to need to have a firm grasp of the company culture when sourcing and screening talent for fit. Understanding the balance between in-office employees to hybrid/remote workers is essential for incoming talent. Ask clients to give you the breakdown of their staff:

  • How many roles are filled compared to open for in-office positions? 
  • How many roles are filled compared to open for remote roles? 
  • Are there hybrid roles available? 
  • How do flexible work options work (by department, role, elective, etc.)?
  • Are there incentives offered to work from home?
  • Are there incentives offered to work in the office?

With this information in mind, you can raise the suggestion to clients that they look into remote work benefits competitors are offering to ensure they are not losing out on top talent. Be prepared to provide these details to the best of your ability.

How does the company distribute resources or budget for the needs of each employee in those roles?

Costs associated with running a traditional in-person business office are relatively cut-and-dry. However, employers now need to look at the costs of balancing an open office building compared to managing a remote workforce. Saved money in business expenses could mean there is wiggle room for employee bonuses or pay raises. However, it’s possible moving to a hybrid workforce could mean higher investment in employee resources.

Keep in mind, the savings for employees associated with reduced commuter time/fuel/vehicle maintenance or even the advantage of increased work-life balance could be incentive enough to move a greater portion of the workforce to remote offices. No matter what, keeping everyone on task with the same project management software and communication methods means onboarding is the same for candidates regardless of where they will serve in their future roles.

Start the discussion:

Entering a new job can be nerve-racking for even the most seasoned candidates. Knowing what tools clients use in the onboarding process and for daily tasks is helpful when you’re sourcing qualified candidates and easing candidate stress. 

Candidates like to see companies have their best interests in mind when budgeting for workflow resources. This is highly valued even if their direct compensation expectation can’t be met. They can at least rest assured they can do their best at their job stress-free. 

Cutting-edge technology, like video sharing, intuitive scheduling software, and collaborative chat boards show talent clients are committed to keeping teams connected and successful. Ask clients to dish the details on their tech setup:

  • What platform do employees use to stay connected day-to-day?
  • How (and how frequently) do leaders keep in touch with their teams?
  • What software do candidates need to learn to complete work tasks?
  • Through what means do they receive that training (one-on-one, independent learning, remote, or in-person)?
  • What tech support is offered through the company? Through external service providers?
  • What devices (if any) are provided by the company for remote work? For in-office work?
  • Are stipends offered for home internet? Commuter expense accounts? Parking passes?

If there are tools clients use that candidates can get firsthand experience with during the hiring process, be sure to highlight them. For example, can candidates put themselves into hiring managers’ calendars for interviews using the team’s scheduling software? Do teams use video messaging to stay connected? You can use this information to get talent excited about the ease of working and communicating with your clients.

Check out these questions to ask candidates in Round 1 interviews for remote roles!

What is the cost of living/commute times/means in the area?

Employees who temporarily worked remotely (the majority) during the pandemic enjoyed the benefit of saving money they previously allocated to commuter expenses, buying/packing lunch, updating their professional wardrobe, etc. These savings conveniently came when inflation soared for many everyday goods, rising to meet supply and demand at a strenuous time on the economy. Acclimating to the costs associated with being a working professional is likely to sting and will certainly raise their compensation expectations.

The cost of living and commuting may be greater than when employees packed up the office for a seemingly temporary stint at home as well. Therefore, if clients want candidates to return to the office, they may need to offer commuter incentives. Similarly, if they are hoping to cut costs by shifting to a remote or hybrid workforce, they will still need to consider the increased financial burden on employees to work from home. 

Start the discussion:

Take a look at the information you’ve gathered from clients regarding how much of the workforce works remotely vs. in-office and ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you having more difficulty attracting talent to your clients’ in-office roles or remote roles?
  • How far does the average employee commute? By what means (carpool, train, bus, etc.)
  • How many hours does the average remote employee work from home?

Now, this part will require a bit more math — and much of it is approximated — but you should be able to gather a good idea of the typical costs associated with commuting to work and those from working in a home office. Based on the pay and benefits offered and the number of roles needed to fill in the gaps in your clients’ workforce, what deterrents challenge your talent sourcing strategy?

Raise these concerns to clients. Explain what roles are seeing lower levels of interest in the staffing process and be prepared to back that up with additional data showing their retention rates. They may need to shift some of the budgets to entice more top talent in one area or another if they want to see a better return on their investment in talent acquisition.

What benefits can defray other expenses for employees?

It’s entirely possible clients are investing in a few benefits that could attract top candidates without actually budging salaries or adding in additional spending. Often, companies offer benefits packages with seldom-used perks that, while it would be beneficial to audit and cut costs, could also be just what up-and-coming talent is looking for.

For example, do your clients offer any of these unconventional benefits?

  • Gym memberships
  • Health and wellness incentives
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Childcare expenses
  • Pet insurance
  • Unlimited PTO
  • Grocery or utility credits
  • Discounts on personal tech devices or mobile data

Start the discussion:

Request clients audit their full benefits and employee offerings, no matter how big or small, and share those details with you. Explain they may offer incentives they’ve already budgeted for that are underutilized and could appeal to incoming talent. Additionally, this is also a good time for them to determine if they have been paying for perks they could eliminate to make room for more practical and popular benefits. 

Suggest a quick and straightforward employee survey to assess the value of each benefit offered. Compare this data to candidate polls your staffing team provides to ensure current talent and potential hires align with their interests and needs.

Here are 20 great questions for Round 2 interviews for remote roles!

What’s the average rate of promotions/pay raises?

One thing talent from all generations agrees on is advancement opportunities. No one wants to invest their time and skills into a dead-end job. Your client may not be able to meet compensation expectations at every level right now. But if candidates see a quick and easy path to advance in the company and earn the salary they desire, they are more likely to accept a lower offer.

This could require a shift in the way your client hires, and it may mean you need to adjust your staffing strategy. If they consistently come to you to fill higher-level roles, they are likely not promoting frequently from within. This could suggest they are not retaining talent long enough to advance. It could also mean they are not hiring talent with the potential to move up. Either way, it’s up to you to figure out.

Start the discussion:

You’re going to want to do an internal investigation before you raise the concern with your client. Look to your staffing metrics.

  • What is your placement rate for entry-level roles? 
  • Are you constantly filling specific roles? 
  • Do you fill more entry-level positions or leadership roles overall?
  • What is the rate of turnover for lower-level positions vs. higher roles?

You then want to look to your clients’ internal structure. For example, does your client have a leadership development program? What is the success rate? It’s possible your sourcing criteria could need to change to funnel more talent into their leadership training.

You can explain that hiring more high-potential candidates at an entry-level and promoting from within saves money in salary offers and talent sourcing. In addition, they are more likely to attract and retain top talent eager to move up rather than shell out high salaries to leaders who oversee underqualified employees. And high-potential hires are going to be attracted to the company’s advanced mobility rate.

Also, discuss what merits pay raises and promotions within the company. Is it tenure or performance-based? Does the company support upward movement through mentorship programs or ongoing development and certifications? These benefits are equally attractive to ambitious talent.

The bottom line is your clients need to understand that rising to meet the compensation expectations of talent is more complex than just throwing more money at staff. But they can use these various angles to their advantage in securing the best new hires.

Transform Your Placement Process with Video Interviewing

Josh Tolan

Josh Tolan is the Founder and CEO of Spark Hire, a video interviewing platform used by 6,000+ customers in over 100 countries.