When asked whether they would rather have greater working flexibility, thus improving their work/life balance, or 10% more pay, 61% of respondents to the Marketing Employer of the Year survey were in favour of more money - the number rises to 66% among client marketers alone - while 55% would opt for extra pay over the equivalent number of days holiday.
However, these findings do not contradict the notion that people want flexible working and more options for balancing work and home life, according to Stopgap managing director Claire Owen. What they show, she argues, is that most people don't want flexibility until there is a change in their circumstances - if they have children or need to look after elderly relatives, for example. 'I hope this means employers feel more confident to offer flexibility to those who really want it, because they then stay loyal,' says Owen. 'There's no need to be petrified of women going off on maternity leave.'
In general, people who work in marketing have a high standard of living.
They are classic AB consumers: they own their own homes and want exotic holidays and expensive food. Remuneration is their priority until their lives dictate otherwise. Therefore, the companies that perform best when it comes to benefits are those that can accommodate these life changes and vary their options accordingly. They are not doing this for altruistic reasons, though: companies establish their benefits packages to recruit and retain staff.
With money the top priority for the majority of marketers, a standard package has evolved among both client companies and agencies that consists of all or some of the following: pension, private healthcare, bonus scheme and company car. In terms of pay, many of the companies heading the Employer of the Year list have made a conscious decision to set their remuneration in the top quartile for their sector.
Telephone and internet banking service NatWest Primeline, which tops both the financial and non-financial benefits tables for client companies, prides itself on its strong final-salary pension package, while its profit-share scheme can add 10% to employees' basic salary.
Whitbread also performed well in the surveys for both financial and non-financial benefits, but Paula Vennells, the company's group commercial director, argues that it is the non-financial benefits that really attract and retain staff. 'As a business, we pay for a high quality of marketing expertise. We are not necessarily over-generous on financial benefits, but there are huge non-financial benefits,' she says. 'The culture of the company makes it a very exciting and happy place to work. People don't like to leave; if they do, they often come back. The "Whitbread way" was established when the company was founded, and states that our people treat and respect each other.'
Building society Nationwide says it offers a good financial package to ensure it can attract to its Swindon headquarters marketers who invariably want to be based in the South-East. 'Our salaries are very competitive, especially for marketing outside London,' says head of marketing Luis Marino. 'We also accelerate people toward a "target salary" very quickly, so as soon as they are delivering at an acceptable level, the salary accelerator kicks in. In some cases, people have seen a double-digit increase.'
Financial remuneration is also at the heart of glue London's offer. In the past couple of years, the five-year-old new media agency has separated its benefits into short, medium and long term. 'The annual profit-share scheme with a performance-related bonus is our key medium-term benefit, with share options for the long term,' says Mark Cridge, glue's managing director. 'The annual share option scheme means a third of the company is allocated to be distributed to staff.'
Yet Cridge is acutely aware that, especially in new media, share options have a tarnished reputation. 'The share option has been much-abused, especially during the dotcom collapse. We only put the scheme together two years ago, and really it is cash in hand that's crucial,' he admits.
The sector in which a company operates can have a major impact on the benefits it offers. Financial services firms, for example, can offer employees better deals on many of the products they sell, boosting their financial packages considerably. Nationwide offers staff subsidies for mortgages and discounts on its other products, as well as the more typical company car and private health insurance. It also allows staff to buy and sell back up to a week's holiday a year.
As one of the biggest players in the incentive business, it is hardly surprising that Whitbread's Leisure Vouchers form part of the company's package. But Vennells believes the company and the sector are bigger draws for employees. 'Emotions are more naturally tied up in the hospitality business, as it is a face-to-face industry, and people get a buzz from that,' she says. 'Everybody is touched by something Whitbread does - 10m adults use it every year,' she says. 'It does deepen the relationship and attachment to the company if you can enjoy the business you work in.'
The number of hours a marketer spends at the workplace is a key component of the work/life balance.
Flexibility at work can cover a number of options, from the more common working at home and part-time contracts to term-time and compressed-week arrangements. There is also the issue of extended time off. While maternity leave is a given and study leave is becoming more commonplace, sabbaticals are still relatively rare, although many of the top-performing companies in this survey, such as Whitbread, do offer them.
Some companies - mostly agencies - have put flexible working at the heart of their culture. Jilly Forster, managing director of The Forster Company, a social and environmental communications agency, has put respect for employees' family life high on her agenda, ahead of more conventional benefits - the agency does not offer company cars, health insurance or share schemes. Among the agency's 26-strong workforce, there are three pregnant women and four people with young families. 'My children are grown up but I remember how difficult it was being a professional and running a family,' she recalls. 'Everyone works hard, but family life needs to go on, so we're sympathetic to those realities.'
For Logistix, an agency that specialises in communicating to children, balancing work and family life is crucial. 'We offer above-standard maternity and paternity packages, with three months' full pay for women,' says managing director Vicky Kinasz.
The agency's efforts to offer the right work/life balance are not restricted to those with young children. 'We have a "get out of work free" card, so if someone has put in extra hours or really pushed themselves, they can have an extra day's holiday,' Kinasz adds. 'But some staff don't want extra holiday - they would rather be pampered. So we might send them and their partners out for dinner or to the theatre.'
Primeline has also offered perks according to the circumstances and preferences of its staff. 'People can pick the benefits they want, be they lifestyle items such as shopping vouchers or computers,' says head of marketing John Wills.
Procter & Gamble, meanwhile, has recently been testing different work patterns to try to reduce the barriers to flexible working. One change its marketing department has made is to make sure meetings are in the middle of day so they are not awkward for staff coming in late or leaving early.
The more varied the benefits on offer, the more likely a company is to improve the quality of life for all its employees. After all, subsidised gym membership or nutritional training will not appeal to everyone. But sometimes it is harder to identify exactly why an employer is considered good, as issues of wellbeing can go beyond the obvious.
Action for Blind People's head of marketing and public affairs, Paul Werb, attributes the organisation's success in the survey of non-financial benefits to the charity's culture. 'It is very inclusive and democratic, with everyone involved in decisions,' he says. 'We also operate a no-blame culture. As long as the team member has made their best effort, if something goes wrong, that's fine. If we're not making a few mistakes, we're not pushing hard enough.'
Agencies often have the upper hand over clients when it comes to company culture, although as they grow, that can be difficult to maintain. In tune with The Forster Company's social positioning, all its employees are given half a day a month to do volunteer work or to go on 'seeing is believing' visits, such as trips to prisons and refugee centres. This way, staff keep in touch with the issues they may work on.
Company culture, of course, is also the result of relations between staff. The golden squirrel trophy up for grabs in Logistix's conker championship couldn't be classed as a financial or non-financial perk, but it is a reminder that, benefits aside, those companies where employees interact and socialise together are perceived as happier and healthier workplaces.
61% would choose more pay over flexible hours
The Marketing Employer of the Year survey was completed online. To validate their entry, respondents had to submit their email address; this ensured that there was only one entry per respondent. Responses were based on a five-point scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree. To qualify, a company had to receive at least five nominations, and performance was determined by the average score for each question. For more information, contact Stopgap on 020 8332 7656 or visit www.stopgap.co.uk.
TOP 10 CLIENTS FINANCIAL BENEFITS
1 NatWest Primeline 91.2
2 Whitbread 88.0
3 Campbell Grocery Products 86.6
4 Emap Active 86.1
5 O2 (UK) 83.8
6 SAP UK 83.3
7 Lever Faberge 81.9
8 Procter & Gamble UK 81.4
9 Virgin Mobile 79.6
10 Reed Business Info 79.5
TOP 10 AGENCIES FINANCIAL BENEFITS
1 Carat 86.1
2 Redmandarin 85.8
3 glue London 79.0
4 Logistix Kids 78.3
5 Shine Communications 77.0
6= Salt 75.6
6= Lloyd Northover 75.6
8 Dynamo 75.0
9 MCBD 74.5
10 Wunderman 74.0
TOP 10 CLIENTS NON-FINANCIAL BENEFITS
1 NatWest Primeline 92.1
2 Action for Blind People 88.3
3 Procter & Gamble UK 87.4
4 Nationwide 87.1
5 Whitbread 83.0
6 Virgin Mobile 82.4
7 Reed Business Info 82.2
8 Mencap 81.6
9 SAP UK 80.1
10 Hasbro UK 79.6
TOP 10 AGENCIES NON-FINANCIAL BENEFITS
1 The Forster Company 89.8
2 Redmandarin 89.7
3 Carat 84.6
4 Lexis Public Relations 81.8
5 Logistix Kids 80.7
6 Go Direct Marketing 79.9
7 Liquorice 79.8
8= Research International 77.3
8= LoewyBe 77.3
10 Yellow Submarine 77.0
This article was first published on Marketing