Your Hidden Paycheck May Be Your Best Recruiting Tool

We’ve been in a weird phase in employee recruitment and retention the last decade. No matter what size your company, everybody who wants to hire top talent feels like they need to lure people in

So, the salary stunk. The benefits stunk, but she got to live in France. Bon!

So, the salary stunk. The benefits stunk, but she got to live France. Bon!

with margarita machines, giant beanbags and having a masseuse come in once a week. But if you read the articles coming out of top business magazines, the consensus is, that doesn’t really work. And by the way, that doesn’t really work. What does work is for companies to understand the value of what they offer employees beyond salary, the so-called Hidden Paycheck.

A lot of small business owners are so stressed about not having the cash to pay top people that they don’t stop and really assess what they have to offer employees beyond cash. After all, research has shown that the cash only counts up to a certain threshold. But there are other things companies who are strapped for cash can offer that might make all the difference to candidates or employees. The two things I hear all the time that employees and candidates want are work/life balance and the opportunity to learn. For example, can people work from home sometimes? Can they bring their dogs into work? If a kid gets sick are you going to not give them grief about taking off the afternoon? Do they get to open your office in London or Paris? It’s hard to put a dollar figure on this, but it’s important to at least discuss it with candidates. Ask them, what’s it worth to you to have this as part of your work life? I have a friend who happily took a paycut to switch from a job where she was logging more than 50 hours a week to one where the company required far fewer hours. She was so happy and relieved “I’ve got my life back!”

Or training. I’ve written before about the wisdom in hiring someone who has 70-to-80 percent of the skills required for the job because a person who loves to learn is going to take a lower salary for the opportunity to learn new skills. If you pay $2,000 to send someone to a conference, you can even add this to your hidden salary pie chart. If you’re willing to deal with the inconvenience of letting someone learn on the job, you may wind up with a stellar candidate you could never have afforded otherwise.

But will that person learn the skill and then split? Maybe. People leave sometimes. Sometimes they leave because they already had all the skills to do the job and they’re bored. It’s not like you can bullet proof your HR plan. But you can be strategic about it and grow your company with great people who are looking for some benefits other than salary.
To start with, though, you really need to do some research regarding what your competitors are offering. What salaries? What benefits in terms of health care, retirement, paid time off and so forth? This helps you in a number of ways. First of all, when a candidate comes in and tells you she has three offers for the same job at $105,000 a year you can counter that you’ve done the research and, sorry, the job pays $85,000. Secondly, you can tally up what advantages you offer from a quantitative standpoint and use these to help the candidate understand that they can’t just look at the job as apples to apples. It’s more like fruit salad.

For example, recently another friend took a job for what he thought was a $10,000 increase in salary. Lo and behold, when you factor in how much more he’s spending on benefits than he had previously, it turned out to be only a $5,000 salary increase. And frankly, once he realized that, it kind of soured him to the whole deal because he’d made the decision to switch jobs based on an incomplete appraisal of the situation. So he’s not looking for a job right now or anything but he’s not nearly as psyched about the job as he would have been if he’d really understood what he was getting.

You should spend some time understanding what your company offers. You may be a lot sexier than you thought. And if you’re not…call us. We can help.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at or call (512) 420-8267

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