Recruiting is no longer only about what you can offer, but also about what you stand for. In our globalised world where the next competitor can easily outbid you in a remuneration war, competing for candidates based on salary alone is no longer a sustainable strategy.

In Michael Page’s Talent Trends 2022 The Great X report, we found that 64% of respondents in Malaysia are willing to accept a lower salary, or forgo a pay rise or promotion for better work-life balance, overall well-being, and happiness.

Nikhil Jaiswal, Regional Director of Michael Page India, elaborates, “Salary will always be the top motivator for an employee to join a company. However, what is important to note is that salary, alone, is no longer sufficient for candidates to accept a job offer.”

If a candidate receives multiple job offers, they will not necessarily pick the role that offers the highest salary. Instead, they would go with the company that made them feel most welcomed.

Related: Why candidate experience matters and how to do it well

Develop a strong employer brand

Large organisations may lean on their well-marketed company brands, but this strategy is no longer viable in this new era of talent acquisition in a candidate-driven market.

“In the past, working for a big multinational brand was a real motivator and a significant driver for candidates we were representing. But that dynamic has shifted,” says Anthony Thompson, Regional Managing Director, Asia Pacific, and Executive Board Director at PageGroup

The Great X report also found that employers overvalue the importance of their company brand by 227% when it comes to talent attraction in Malaysia.

“A company brand is how the world perceives you, and is what companies use to attract customers. Those that have a good company brand think just because of their well-perceived company brand image, people would want to work with them. However, that is not the case; and companies that still think this way would not be able to attract and retain talent efficiently if they do not work on their employer branding,” Rhiannon Guilford, Director at Michael Page Philippines, explains. 

According to the findings in The Great X report, when it comes to factors that influence candidates’ decisions on where to work, candidates rank company culture and values, and leadership in their jobs after the no.1 factor, remuneration and benefits. These “soft” motivators are closely followed by a greater sense of purpose and flexible working arrangements.  

“Candidates are looking for a lot more than a big brand now. They are interested to know how a company’s vision and purpose align with their values; they want to know how they can fit into the company culture and will look at things like diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I),” says May Wah Chan, Regional Director for Page Executive and Michael Page Malaysia.

“Candidates are asking more in-depth questions about a company’s vision, and things like how companies give back to the community. My advice is that companies just need to convey a simple, clear, and consistent message throughout the interview process,” says Olly Riches, Senior Managing Director of Indonesia, Singapore and Philippines, and Page Executive SE Asia.  

He shares: “We are also starting to see Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) becoming a prominent topic for Millennials and Gen Z. What companies can do is to bring senior decision-makers earlier into the interview process as they tend to have more information and can articulate ESG goals quickly and confidently, and that can attract candidates.” 

In a world where money is no longer the sole motivator for employees, organisations need to move towards creating and maintaining a positive and meaningful company culture and employee experience to retain the best and brightest. They also need to focus on developing a strong talent brand, or employer brand, and also offer career growth opportunities.

Related: How qualitative performance evaluations give businesses a competitive edge

Bring company culture across to job seekers

Company culture is fast becoming a crucial deciding factor for candidates when they choosing jobs and accepting job offers

It can be a fuzzy thing to define, but candidates usually know good company culture when they experience it.

For companies to attract, retain, and grow the talent that will bring them long-term success, they will need to tweak — or even overhaul — their culture to meet the expectations of professionals to be seen as human beings and not just cogs in the machine. 

Employees want to work in a place built on respect, trust and kindness. Creating a people-first culture can bring about huge payoffs for companies: It boosts team morale, enhances collaboration, and improves overall productivity and performance. 

Showcase your company culture at every touchpoint 

The question is, how can job candidates experience your company’s culture before they accept the job offer? 

It is key not to underestimate every touchpoint an employer gets with a potential new employee. And it starts when you advertise with the job descriptions, and following that the way HR personnel and hiring managers sound when they talk on the phone or email the candidates. 

Treat job descriptions as a proposal that will be mutually beneficial. Make clear what it will take to succeed in the role, but ensure that you are painting a clear picture of what the candidate can stand to experience, learn, and achieve within the role and company. 

“Hiring managers can humanise the conversation. They can share their experiences at that company, talk about what they enjoy about their jobs, not the technical aspects but just what makes them happy to go to work, what the hybrid work arrangements are like, etc. These would help bring across the company culture at your organisation. Also, the interview session should not be treated as an interrogation. It is a two-way conversation,” explains Sonia Fernandez, Associate Director at Michael Page Thailand

The best way to attract candidates is through positive word of mouth. It is no secret that candidates look at reviews on Glassdoor to get an idea of a company’s culture before applying for their open roles. Internally, organisations need to connect employees to corporate initiatives that encourage collaboration, transparency, and trust.

Culture-enhancing activities could be as simple as organising team lunches, being flexible with remote working or even offering more parental leave. All these gestures — whether big or small — cultivate a positive company culture from the top down that is enforced at all levels of the organisation.  

A great company culture improves employer branding, which in turn makes your company more appealing to top candidates. According to Glassdoor’s Statistical Reference Guide for Recruiters in 2020, almost all employees (93%) mention company culture in their reviews on the site, making it clear just how important it is to them.

The same report also revealed that having an overall rating on the website that’s one star higher — a score that includes points for positive company culture — attracts talent six times more effective than paying a higher ($10,000 per year) salary.

Related: 5 interview questions to ask to tell a great candidate from a good one

Demonstrate commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I)

One tangible indicator of company culture at any organisation is its diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) policies, says Kristoffer Paludan, Regional Director of Michael Page Thailand.

The rise in awareness of diversity comes at a time where modern organisations are increasingly structured to be collaborative and team-based, and there’s ample evidence that those who effectively recruit and manage a diverse workforce have a clear competitive advantage.

Many big organisations that have embraced the concept include Gap, L’Oréal and Nestlé, according to Thomson Reuters’ Diversity and Inclusion Index. Moreover, companies with a greater gender mix and ethnic diversity consistently outperform the rest by up to 21%, achievements that will surely catch the eye of top talent.

Paludan adds that more candidates are now bringing up DE&I during discussions on job interviews. They are asking if companies have a DE&I strategy, how that aligns with the overall company strategy and how they manifest in their company culture.

Related: How to hire to improve gender diversity in the workplace 

People want to work in a place where they are heard and valued, and where there’s psychological safety to express their ideas and opinions.

Aside from reading about the DE&I policies companies may have on their websites, candidates can easily observe the level of diversity and inclusion in a company by going through the respective company’s LinkedIn account and looking at the profiles of its employees. 

In Malaysia, 67% of respondents have asked or will consider asking about a company’s DE&I policies at job interviews, of which 50% are Baby Boomers, 73% are Gen Z, while Millennials make up 68% and Gen X, 68%. 

On top of that, 36% of respondents say they would withdraw from interviews or job opportunities if they observe a lack of DE&I policy and commitment from potential employers.

According to Deloitte, millennials stay longer with firms that value diversity. Unlike previous generations, these young talents have grown up with the idea that diversity, equity, and inclusion are crucial corporate values – and will absolutely take these aspects into account when making a job decision.

Related: 5 ways to improve equity in the workplace

Offer great employee experience

There are several factors that contribute to a holistic employee experience: adequate pay, flexibility, hybrid work arrangements, and upskilling and reskilling opportunities for career advancement.

According to Toby Truscott, Managing Director at Michael Page Japan, “it is important not to underestimate the impact of having changes to working conditions thrust suddenly upon us as a result of the pandemic. Whilst many have enjoyed the opportunity to work remotely, many have also experienced isolation and fatigue. Moving forward, it is important to provide choices to employees.”

In this COVID era, offering flexibility and hybrid work models at the workplace are no longer substantial perks. These have become hygiene factors.

In Malaysia, 66% of respondents prefer hybrid work arrangements while 26% love it. For 66% of over 15,000 respondents in the Asia-Pacific region, hybrid work arrangements are now a universally expected basic.

The desire for flexibility and hybrid work models is consistent across all seniority levels in an organisation, even for those at C-suite levels, and across all generations, even Gen Z (1965-1980) and baby boomers (1946-1964). During job interview sessions, it is crucial for the hiring manager and HR personnel conducting the interviews to inform candidates of the organisation's hybrid work models, if any. 

Inform job seekers of career growth opportunities

High performing and talented job candidates are always keen on learning and improving, so career growth opportunities are always big motivators for them to join any organisation.

Unfortunately, since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a drop in career growth opportunities. During this time, 49% of employees have said that career development, mentorship and training have been sorely lacking.

In our Talent Trends 2021 report, we found that a lack of upskilling options was one of the top three reasons that would cause employees to leave their job voluntarily across all levels of the company, from entry-level workers to VPs.

This finding is amplified in The Great X report, where 44% of respondents in Malaysia say that a lack of career progression or promotion will lead them to resign from their jobs.

During job interviews, it is crucial for hiring managers to provide candidates with information on their potential career path if they join the company.

It can be challenging to organise internal training and workshops during the pandemic, so a lot of companies have been doing them over video meetings. To provide more flexibility, organisations can consider offering affordable memberships from online learning platforms like Coursera and FutureLearn, which can help companies save costs on logistics.

Career growth opportunities can also come in the form of mentorship and is an important factor in a talent attraction programme. It is not just employees who benefit from these initiatives; organisations can enjoy higher levels of engagement, retention and knowledge-sharing, which boosts employer branding to attract top talent.

Hire from alternative sources and sectors, and focus on primary skill sets

With the competition for applicants intensifying, companies should also consider candidates from different industries with similar skill sets.

According to Sharmini Wainwright, Senior Managing Director at Michael Page Australia, the traditional approach to recruitment has always been quite linear. “For instance, many hiring managers only consider potential hires who have come from the same industry. A lot of them don’t stand back and think: ‘What is the skill set I’m looking for? What are the other job functions and industries I can recruit talent from?’ But that mindset is slowly changing.”

She adds: “If organisations want a solid chance at addressing the talent shortage problem, many realise they will need to get creative and hire from sources they might not have previously considered. If a potential candidate has the primary skillset, but not the technical knowledge, it could just be a matter of organising training sessions or upskilling them to get them up to speed.”

“Superior talent” is up to eight times more productive than less capable staff, so it’s obvious why the best companies have their eyes on only the top percentile of the workforce. While remuneration and tangible benefits are attractive incentives for signing on the dotted line, intangible benefits such as company culture, diversity, equity, and inclusion — as well as career growth opportunities — are equally significant factors that will influence their final decision.

Download and discover 2022's talent trends in Michael Page's The Great X Report now

Discover the latest in our 2022 Talent Trends report, The Great X: This survey report covers what hiring professionals need to know to address talent attraction and retention for the year ahead. It also highlights a change of times in the hiring outlook as job candidates and employees now prioritise their well-being more than ever. Download our report to find out more.

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