The list of potential employee benefits that organisations have offered their workforces has increased almost exponentially in recent years. Professionals have gone from being granted a defined pension benefit in the mid-20th century, to having an often-dizzying plethora of options such as breakfast clubs, gym memberships and more at their disposal. Creative pay-related benefits though, are not so common. Are businesses missing a trick using their company payroll processes as an employee benefit and that can help attract and retain top talent? I’d say so.

It’s no secret that Pay On-Demand or Earned-Wage Access (EWA) solutions have been rising in popularity – we’re living in turbulent economic times, and pay and financial-related benefits are regularly ranked as the top factor that professionals want to gain from their employer. Our own research has shown that two thirds of people are finding that being stressed about financial obligations and bills is a big problem – so whilst offering access to company gyms and other more modern perks is nice, it doesn’t help pay the bills. In order to help navigate the rising Cost-of-Living, soaring inflation and various other costs that have spiked in recent years people need access to their earned wages in a quicker and easier fashion. Employees are crying out for greater control and management over how and when they can get paid and to have the power to access their wages as and when they earn them, whenever they need them.

However, it’s not just professionals that are battling with rising costs, businesses are too – and you would have to work hard to find many employers that are willing to splash the cash at the moment, particularly on increasing permanent headcounts. With 75% of the global workforce looking to change roles businesses need to be more creative to retain top talent, and that’s where many are missing a trick by focusing on ‘creative’ benefits when a more simple and arguably effective solution is available.

Payroll can often be seen as just a formality. Staff need to be paid, systems are set up to ensure this happens and little thought is given to it beyond that. But pay processes are a hidden gem that should be driven by innovation as just much as any other business function is. Pay On-Demand solutions are a prime example. It works with a company’s existing payroll and time and attendance platforms to calculate or estimate the employee’s earnings to date and enable staff to access their accrued income outside of the traditional monthly payday schedule, providing access on a 24/7 basis, via a mobile app.

This demand for a more modern payroll structure is clearly needed and wanted by workforces across the globe. A study we carried out found that, since October 2021, the number of withdrawals per month of earned wages has more than doubled and the average amounts withdrawn have dropped from £97 to £66. This suggests employees are increasingly and more regularly accessing money they’ve already earned as and when they need it and are feeling more comfortable using the solution on a more regular, day-to-day basis. This seems to span different earning groupings, with professionals from a range of salary brackets utilising the service to pay for regular bills, and unexpected costs, rather than for major purchases – almost as a ‘digital atm’.

The need for quicker access to financial resources isn’t only being driven by the challenging economic environment, it’s more deeply embedded than that and will almost certainly outlast the lull we’re in at the moment. By 2025 65% of the workforce will be formed of the ‘millennial’ generation. This group have largely grown up with technology at their fingertips, with paperless transactions being the norm, and expect quick access to their finances via online banking apps and other technology. They’re used to having solutions when they need them and frankly, the traditional and antiquated payroll systems that many firms still adopt just do not fit with their modern way of life. As consumers, not just employees, they want instant gratification and have similar expectations from their employers – fast and flexible payments and a seamless, digitally consumerised experience.

Most importantly, offering Pay-on-Demand and Earned Wage Access services to current and potential staff can help steer them away from loans or credit card payments when unexpected costs arise. In conjunction, employers that use these solutions will be seen as both ahead of the curve and putting their employees first. By adopting EWA consistently across the business, regardless of country or department, it can not only become a highly effective tool in attracting and retaining top talent it can also, more importantly, help employees with their financial wellbeing. And, from a process point of view, it improves the accuracy of time and attendance records as employees have to fill in timesheets, also making off-cycle payments quicker and easier to execute.

The recruitment and employment market is currently in a volatile position and, since the pandemic, professionals have shown less loyalty to their employers and are now more willing to switch roles if they think the grass may be greener. Their skills are more in demand as a result of the growing skills shortages and various other factors and employers are working harder to source and secure the people they need. By being innovative and creative and really understanding what your talent wants from an employment contract, you will not only make your organisation more efficient but also become a more attractive potential employer, enabling you to get ahead of your competitors.