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August 14, 2017

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What do health & safety professionals want?

In order to win the war for talent and be seen as an employer of choice, health and safety hiring managers need to gain a better understanding of what candidates want beyond a good salary, and be flexible enough to incorporate these factors into their attraction and retention strategies. Caroline Binns, Director, Hays Health & Safety explains.

Health and safety advisors, for example, are perhaps the most acute area of shortage. This has been exacerbated by an upward spiral in demand for skilled professionals to fill these roles.

To attract and retain top talent, employers need to know what professionals in the sector are looking for, and what would encourage them to move roles. The Hays What Workers Want Report 2017 looks at identifying these factors, referring to a survey of 13,650 employers and employees in the UK with over 500 responses from those working within construction, including health and safety professionals.

Insights from the report revealed pay remains the most important factor for employees when considering staying in a role, and when considering a new job. However, culture, career progression and benefits make up over half (51%) of the decision-making process. As pay levels across the sector remain steady, more individuals are putting the emphasis on other factors, so employers in the sector need to consider the complete package they are offering.

So, what are the key factors that employers need to be aware of?

Competitive pay is a must, but doesn’t provide satisfaction in isolation

Nearly two-thirds of employees including health & safety professionals say their job search is focused on a higher salary. However, it’s important employers think beyond pay packets in order to keep attracting top talent in a skill-short market.

Although pay influences 49% of an employee’s decision to move roles, over half (51%) is focused on the other factors of culture, career progression and benefits.

Our results also show that 57% find bonuses motivating, higher than the UK average at 54%. Although bonus payments are not prevalent in the health & safety profession, employers should note the motivation it offers to employees.

Whilst we would encourage employers to keep a focus on pay, there is room for negotiation, as over half of employees in the sector (57%) would take a pay cut in order to achieve everything else that was important to them. For health & safety professionals in particular, this is likely to include looking at an organisation’s commitment and engagement to health & safety.

Candidates will place high importance on whether a company has really positive engagement and direction on health and safety. Employers should be mindful that these initiatives should be led, and demonstrated by senior leadership and not just completed as box ticking exercises, in order to be seen as an attractive employer for passionate health & safety professionals.

Career paths should encourage ambition, as workers want to develop their skills

Encouragingly, the workforce in the sector reported being highly ambitious (87%), more so than the UK average. However, results show traditional ways to nurture this ambition needs to adapt to a changing workforce.

Aside from hoping for an increase in pay and benefits, a fifth of professionals (20%) said they wanted recognition and respect from a promotion, rated higher than moving up a job level and a change of job title.

Training and development was rated as the second most important aspect when receiving a promotion, placing a greater focus on career development, with nearly half (46%) saying they would decline a job offer if it didn’t offer personal development training, higher than the UK average of 39%.

Health & safety employers in particular need to stress the longer term plans for a role, and be open to the idea of funding a NEBOSH diploma – which will be hugely attractive to many candidates. This will also open the possibility of hiring more junior professionals, with a view to training them up over time.

This ties into the fact that three-quarters (73%) of employees place importance on training and developing when looking for a new role. However, there is a mismatch between employees and employers as over two-thirds (69%) of firms say they offer external training and over four-fifths (82%) say they offer on the job training, whereas only 43% of employees report receiving external training and only 47% say they receive on the job training.

Culture is important as workers look to improve work-life balance

Our report found culture was rated the second most important factor when deciding whether to stay with a company, or accept a new role. Over half (56%) say they would take a pay cut to work for an organisation that offers a more diverse and engaging culture, in a bid to improve work-life balance amongst other aspects.

Less than half (46%) of workers in the sector rate their work-life balance as good or excellent, compared to 51% of the rest of the UK workforce. Over a third (34%) said the main benefit of improving work-life balance would be less stress, and improved overall wellbeing, reflected in the fact that two-thirds would be attracted to work for an organisation which restricts out of hours working such as checking emails and taking calls.

Interestingly, analysis of the interview process found employers need to work harder to express and highlight their workplace culture, to set themselves apart from competitors. 78% of employers said they discuss culture during an interview, but this is at odds with employees, as only 62% agreed culture was discussed.

Prioritise the complete package, but remember communication is key

What we can take from our research is that employees working in health & safety want to know what employers can offer them, and be empowered to make selections that can best suit them. Professionals are also aware of their market worth, therefore more effective communication from employers is needed, especially to differentiate from the competition during the interview process.

A combination of culture, career progression initiatives, and benefits is key to securing top talent, alongside offering a good salary package, however this must be communicated not only throughout the recruitment process, but also throughout an employee’s career.

Caroline Binns is a Director for Hays Health & Safety and recruits interim HSE professionals across London and the South of England. Hays Health & Safety recruit HSE professionals nationally, across the UK for permanent, temporary and contract roles across all industry sectors. Contact – Tel: 0207 259 8724 or email: [email protected]  

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Andy Rennie
Andy Rennie
6 years ago

I for one have never taken a role based on salary alone. I have looked at the Company and their commitment to health and safety, what they offer from a work life balance. I have got it wrong in the past as well. But i also look at how long the senior Management have been with the Company. That gives a real indicator on the Company’s culture. these are just important to me as the salary, sometimes more so.