The bad news: There’s no doubt unemployment is up in the wake of COVID-19.

The good news: It is not as high as initially anticipated AND hiring is on the rise much earlier than expected, as well!

Employers, when you take the good and take the bad and put them together, you realize you have a golden opportunity in front of you – a large pool of exceptional talent ready for a new opportunity only you and your organization can provide. As an executive search firm, we have the inside scoop on how to attract this high-quality talent. First on the list, compensation for employees, especially when hiring those unique, hard to source skills sets. Additionally, employers must realize they are hiring in a new culture. Employees and job seekers alike have increased expectations and fear in regard to returning to work. Their priorities have shifted, as have their demands.

What do employees really want in their compensation packages?

Compensation – What Employees Really Want

Compensation – What Employees Really Want


Contrary to what you’ve heard, it ain’t “all about the Benjamins.” But they are certainly a large part of the discussion. Salary is one deciding factor when a candidate is entertaining multiple offers. In fact, most won’t even consider an offer if it isn’t at least 25+% above their current salary.


A robust benefits plan is the second course served to a potential hire. Flexible spending accounts, access to PPOs, vision coverage, and all-inclusive dental plans (even coverage for those dreaded braces!) were a hot commodity. Now? If you’re not planning to cover contact lenses and Sally’s four phases of orthodontics, expander included… don’t bother. These are no longer the gold standard. They are simply standard.


After the initial tripping and stumbling that accompanied the transition to telecommuting, employers and employees settled into working from home with success. So much so that in a recent research conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), about 17% of HR leaders in some 2,285 US companies (including Facebook and Zillow) reported their organizations will move to permanent work-from-home policies in the future for their employees. Others, including mega-giant Twitter, have no plans to return to business as usual. Telecommuting is their new normal.

Paid Family Leave

A survey conducted by Unum found that 58% of employees said time off for new parents is the most coveted employee benefit. We’re not just talking about a 6-week break and a promise to “hold your job or an equivalent one”. Employees are demanding (and employers are giving!) extended maternity leave, as well as, paternity leave. The percentage of employers offering paid maternity leave increased to 35% and paid paternity leave increased to 29%.  Additionally, adoption, foster child, and surrogacy leave have also increased.

Student Loan Repayment

According to Forbes, student loan repayment assistance is the hottest employee benefits. “To attract and retain recent graduates, in particular, companies are expanding their employee benefit programs to help reduce student loan debt for their employees.” Considering there are 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loans, this is a brilliant benefit organizations can offer.

Healthcare Cost Reimbursement

As much as 22% of employees turn down coverage offered by employers. Some have opted out of traditional insurance for medi-share type programs. Others are covered by a spouse or partner’s plan. If a robust healthcare plan is part of an employer’s offer, and the candidate already has coverage they are happy with, where does that money go? Employees are demanding it go right into their pockets.

Compensation - What Employees Really Want

We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of organizations that cover fees for employees looking to grow their families.

Family Planning Coverage

We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of organizations that cover fees for employees looking to grow their families through adoptions. Additionally, some are covering in vitro fertilization, as well.

Wellness Stipends

Traditionally, the primary goal for employers who offer ‘wellness’ benefits is to improve the physical health of their employees while improving their bottom line. Company-sponsored exercise, nutrition seminars, weight loss support programs, and health screenings are the wellness programs of the past. In today’s market, employers can attract talent by offering to do more than manage an employee’s waistline. Investing in their emotional and psychological wellness is also important. Babysitter and nanny reimbursement relieves a significant burden employee-parents carry. Subsidizing house cleaners or gardeners,  pool maintenance, and free dry-cleaning delivery are also part of the “new wellness” package.

Relocation and Travel Coverage

Moving from state to state (or continent to continent, in some cases) permanently or simply to visit a client isn’t cheap. And few are willing to do it if they’re expected to pay for it out of pocket. Employers looking to recruit for executive jobs in San Diego, for example, better be ready to help cover the costs to relocate. Also, travel compensation looks a little differently these days. Charging plane tickets and meals to the company account is only part of the equation. As a sales executive recruiter, we know many road warriors are expecting business class flight accommodations, rather than the economy.

In the past, employers bested the competition in the war for talent by offering perks. Gym memberships, free lunches, and on-site massages were popular for a while. Today’s job seekers, however, are savvier. They don’t want “extras” or “treats” they would never have bought for themselves. They want flexibility through telecommuting, security, and for employers to pay for the things they have to pay for themselves.

Download ~ Compensation – What Employees Really Want