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$250k starting salaries, bottomless holidays: The war for talent

Woman crowdsurfing at The Outside corporate festival
PwC recently put on corporate festival in the Hunter Valley aimed at its younger workers. (Source: Supplied)

From unlimited holidays to corporate festivals, workplaces are pulling out all the stops in the war for talent.

It’s been a struggle to fill roles across several industries, with SEEK figures showing job ad volumes have been increasing consistently all year while applications per job have continued to decline.

As a result, many companies have been going to lengths previously only seen by the Googles of the world to attract and retain skilled talent, especially workers early in their careers.

Here are some of the sweeteners companies are using to lure workers through their doors.

Corporate Coachella

Consultancy firm PwC has attracted a bit of attention with its The Outside event, a $15 million corporate festival held over four days and three nights in wine country in NSW.

Dubbed “Corporate Coachella”, thousands of the firm’s young workers went along to see art installations, music and entertainment in the great outdoors, as well as listen to speeches by the likes of Paralympian Kurt Fearnley and journalist Stan Grant.

There were also “deep immersive experiences” workers could choose from on topics such as biohacking and cold-water therapy.

Guests at Outside
PwC employees at the Outside (Source: Supplied).

Yahoo Finance spoke to PwC Australia's head of people & culture, Catherine Walsh, about the event and why the company decided to sink so much money into it.

She said the firm felt it needed to go above and beyond to attract staff in a “very challenging environment”.

“So, the market was hot and we had lots of work on and, obviously still with closed borders and the challenges of COVID, we knew that we needed a compelling reason why people should join PwC,” Walsh said.

First, the firm tried to work out exactly what people wanted from a workplace. Walsh said a lot of people wanted more professional development from their employer, among other things.

But the firm didn’t want to deliver this learning and development inside the usual hotel ballroom setting.

“You sit there and, even though you might have great speakers, it's not necessarily very energising, and it can often be quite passive,” Walsh said.

She said an outdoor event in a festival setting made sense.

With the event attracting positive feedback, according to Walsh, and the war for talent showing no signs of slowing down, The Outside is set to go ahead again next year.

Unlimited holidays

Global investment bank Goldman Sachs is letting its employees take as much time off as they want.

But there’s a catch. It’s only senior executives who are allowed to take unlimited holidays, with junior bankers only allowed a fixed amount.

While new for the investment bank, bottomless holidays are not a new invention. The leave policy first appeared in the 1990s, and is now offered at several technology firms such as LinkedIn.

However, there’s a reason only the most demanding workplaces tend to offer this perk. In these types of workplaces, some say employees often feel guilty about taking leave and fear their managers will see it as a lack of commitment.

As a result, some argue employees often end up taking less time off rather than more.

A view over La Malagueta beach in Malaga, Spain, with many people enjoying the good weather in a sunny spring day
Some people end up taking fewer holidays when they have unlimited leave. (Source: Getty)

Still, there's appetite for expanding leave entitlements. A recent survey by Hays found extra annual leave had rocketed up the list of benefits Australian workers wanted.

More than 55 per cent of jobseekers surveyed wanted more than 20 days’ leave, much more than the 30 per cent who wanted this benefit last year.

More money, delivered differently

When it comes to attracting and retaining talent, money talks.

In fact, most employers plan to hand out a pay rise this year to stop staff seeking other opportunities, according to a recent Hays report.

Graduates are now attracting generous starting salaries in many industries.

A recent report by The Aussie Corporate on junior salaries found starting salaries over $100,000 were pretty common, especially in finance, with one trading firm, Optiver, shelling out $250,000 for an entry-level role.

Tech graduates were also attracting decent pay offers. Atlassian offered a junior engineer a $96,000 starting salary.

The report also found sign-on bonuses were becoming increasingly common for grads given the state of the jobs market.

According to Walsh, the job market is expected to remain competitive for the foreseeable future. This means the battle to secure good people is far from over.

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