There's been an interesting shift in what workers value when looking for a new job, and it may come as a surprise. British workers have suffered real-term pay cuts since the financial crisis, with prices rising faster than pay. Against this backdrop, most of us would picture hurried commuters endlessly searching recruiter sites and taking their eyes straight to the salary info, hoping that economic recovery would finally translate into improved pay cheques for them.
Yet, the reality of the situation is rather different. Every quarter, we at CEB conduct a global survey of some 18,000 employees around the world to identify the trends and issues shaping global employment markets.
Recent survey results point to a growing global tendency for employees to prioritise non-financial considerations when looking for a new job. What is behind this trend and what does it mean for employers as the war for top talent intensifies with global growth?
Of course, money will always be important but our research shows that workers are no longer simply chasing the biggest pay cheque. By the end of 2014, compensation was given priority by less than half of global respondents (45.9 percent) as a factor when considering a new professional opportunity.
And the expectations for "switching premiums" - the compensation uplift expected with a new job - are also on a downward trend despite both the global economy and pay outlook recovering. The average employee today is expecting a 14.8 percent payrise - compared with 16.8 percent in 2011.
In other words, more than half the world's employees prioritise things other than compensation in their hunt for a new job, and people are increasingly willing to switch jobs for less money than they would have expected previously.
The reasons why pay is in relative decline as a differentiating factor are two-fold. Firstly, after a prolonged period of austerity, businesses are so focused on cost-control that there is very little room for manoeuvre on compensation, making pay differences between companies muted.
Secondly, millennials - people born between 1980 and the early 2000s - believe they will work all their lives, in stark contrast with previous generations who looked forward to retirement. The mindset of the younger generation means they focus less on earning enough for a comfortable retirement and more on doing a job that is meaningful to them - since there may be no retirement to pursue interests and hobbies full-time.
Overall, it is becoming increasingly clear that what modern workers value above all is the opportunity to develop, to shine and to showcase their talents. This non-financial focus is particularly pronounced in Britain. Over half of UK employees consistently name work-life balance as a priority when choosing a job. Other factors in the UK employee top five are location, stability, respect in the workplace and future career opportunity. Less than a quarter (23.6 per cent) of UK employees said compensation was a top reason they would consider a new job.
At first sight, the focus on personal development and a fulfilling, not just high-paying, job might seem more of a social trend but it has very real implications for the corporate world. Talent is the single biggest differentiator to business growth today so getting the right people in - and keeping them - really matters. Even employers with the biggest and most flexible budgets have to adapt to the new fiscal environment and learn that offering a higher salary than the competition will not mean instant victory in the war for talent. It is time to think far more carefully about what workers globally, and within a particular geography and industry, truly want. Just throwing money at candidates is no guarantee of getting the best people into the business and keeping them.