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People aren’t so interested in pay transparency; they only need this

Where do employees place greater value, beyond pay transparency? As the workforce becomes more diverse and the global market more competitive, understanding what truly motivates and retains talent is more critical than ever. Recent trends suggest a pivotal shift in employee priorities.

Alexandros Pantelakis
Alexandros Pantelakis

HR content specialist at Workable, delivering in-depth, data-driven articles to offer insights into industry and tech trends.


While pay transparency remains a significant concern, access to a comprehensive benefits package is increasingly seen as paramount.

However, the latest reports indicate a shift in what employees value the most. Let’s discover it together.

The growing demand for pay transparency

The conversation around pay transparency is not new, but its importance and the demand for it among employees have surged to unprecedented levels. 

A report by Visier paints a telling picture: 79% of surveyed employees express a desire for some form of pay transparency, with a notable 32% seeking total transparency where all employee salaries are publicized. 

This growing trend is not isolated to a specific demographic; it spans across generations, with GenZ employees at the forefront, advocating for a transparent approach to compensation as a means to build trust and foster a fair workplace environment.

This demand for transparency is deeply intertwined with the notion of equity and fairness within the workplace. Employees believe that open discussions around pay can lead to more equitable compensation practices, effectively addressing disparities and biases that have long plagued salary negotiations. 

Moreover, the willingness of 68% of employees to switch employers for greater transparency—without an accompanying increase in compensation—signals a profound shift in workplace values. 

However, this demand for transparency represents more than just a desire for open disclosure of salaries; it reflects a deeper quest for respect and acknowledgment in the workplace. 

The implications of this shift are far-reaching for employers. In an era where talent retention is as crucial as talent acquisition, the ability to offer transparency becomes a competitive advantage. 

It’s a clear message to current and potential employees that an organization is committed to fairness, equity, and open communication. However, as the data will reveal, pay transparency, while highly valued, is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent. 

The emerging workforce priorities suggest a broader definition of what constitutes a desirable employer, with benefits and perks increasingly taking center stage.

Related: A chat about salary transparency: the shift towards open discussion

The shift towards benefits over pay raises

A pivotal shift is underway in the landscape of employee compensation preferences. According to a survey conducted by Glassdoor and cited by HRD America, an overwhelming 80% of employees would choose additional benefits over a pay raise. 

pay transparency and benefits

This staggering figure highlights a crucial trend: while salaries are important, the value placed on non-monetary compensation is growing significantly. 

This shift underscores the evolving definition of what it means to be adequately compensated in today’s workforce.

The changing preferences can be partly attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has reshaped many aspects of the workplace, including benefits offerings. 

Insights from Robert Half reveal that organizations have been prompted to revise their benefits, with a notable pivot towards health coverage and work-life balance enhancements. 

This adjustment reflects a broader understanding that, beyond the paycheck, employees are seeking support in navigating the complexities of modern life. 

Health insurance, flexible work schedules, and mental wellness initiatives have emerged as top priorities for employees, signaling a shift towards a holistic view of compensation that prioritizes quality of life.

This reevaluation of benefits versus salary increases is not merely a response to global crises but a reflection of deeper societal changes. 

Employees are seeking benefits that address their specific life circumstances, such as child care support, elder care assistance, and mental health services. 

These benefits, often seen as perks, play a significant role in an individual’s decision to join or stay with an employer, highlighting the competitive edge that a comprehensive benefits package can provide.

Comprehensive benefits as a competitive edge

The strategic importance of offering a comprehensive benefits package cannot be overstated. 

Data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in its Employee Benefits Survey illustrates how organizations are adapting their offerings in response to global challenges and evolving employee expectations. 

The inclusion of new, diverse benefits reflects an awareness of the need to support employees not just financially but in their overall well-being and life satisfaction.

Moreover, the PwC Employee Financial Wellness Survey sheds light on the rising financial stress among employees, exacerbated by inflation and economic uncertainty. 

An astonishing 60% of full-time employees report being stressed about their finances, with this concern spanning across income levels. This financial stress not only affects their personal lives but also their productivity and engagement at work. 

By offering resources such as financial wellness programs and coaching, employers can play a pivotal role in alleviating this stress, thereby enhancing employee satisfaction and retention.

The Aon Benefits and Trends Survey further emphasizes the changing landscape of employee expectations, particularly regarding their work experience and well-being. 

With 93% of companies acknowledging these evolving expectations and 95% recognizing their responsibility towards employee health and well-being, it’s clear that the bar has been raised. 

Yet, 67% of employers feel they are falling short in supporting financial well-being and pensions through effective communication, pointing to an area ripe for improvement.

The emphasis on benefits over salary and the role of comprehensive benefits packages as a competitive edge highlights a critical shift in workplace dynamics. 

Avoid quiet quitting with pay transparency and benefits

The State of the Global Marketplace report by Gallup provides a window into the broad spectrum of employee preferences, which extend far beyond base salary considerations. 

With 28% of feedback related to pay and benefits, employees are vocalizing their need for fair compensation, but they are equally emphatic about the importance of benefits like transport cost vouchers, access to quality childcare, and health and wellness support.

The report also ties these preferences back to the larger picture of employee engagement and retention. 

In an era marked by phenomena like “quiet quitting,” where disengagement manifests in minimal effort, the suggestions for workplace improvements often revolve around better engagement practices, culture enhancements, and, significantly, improvements in pay and benefits.

The value of benefits and perks cannot be understated. They offer a sense of security, demonstrate an employer’s investment in their employees’ health and happiness, and foster a positive workplace culture that values individual needs.

The effectiveness of these benefits, however, hinges on communication. Employees must be made aware of the benefits available to them and understand their value. This understanding fosters appreciation and loyalty, making employees more likely to stay with an employer who they feel genuinely cares for their well-being.

Strategic recommendations for employers and HR professionals

As the landscape of employee expectations continues to evolve, employers must adapt their strategies to remain competitive. Here are several recommendations:

Continually assess and adapt benefits offerings: Stay abreast of changing employee needs and industry trends to ensure that your benefits package remains relevant and competitive.

Enhance transparency and communication: Clearly communicate the full scope and value of the benefits package offered to employees. Consider regular information sessions and accessible resources that help employees make the most of their benefits.

Focus on holistic well-being: Expand the concept of benefits beyond traditional offerings to include initiatives that support mental health, financial wellness, and work-life balance.

Solicit employee feedback: Engage employees in discussions about benefits and compensation to ensure their needs and preferences are being met. This can also highlight areas for improvement that may not have been previously considered.

Embrace flexibility: Flexible work arrangements are highly valued by today’s workforce. Incorporate flexibility into your benefits package, whether through remote work options, flexible hours, or compressed workweeks.

Employers who recognize and adapt to these evolving preferences will not only enhance their competitive edge in the talent market but also foster a workforce that is engaged, satisfied, and loyal.

HR professionals, what will be your next move?

Frequently asked questions

What do US workers want now?

Our Great Discontent 2.0 survey report contains a wealth of data revealing how employee priorities in the US have changed since 2021. Learn more here.

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