The war for talent is back. As the jobless rate fell to 5.5% in the three months to March, the UK is enjoying record levels of employment but across some of the key sectors and professional disciplines demand for talented people is outstripping supply.

Organisations who want to hire marketers, HR and IT practitioners to support their growth will not only find good people thin on the ground but can expect them to be more choosey about the kind of business they join. In this world of limited labour, organisations recognise that they need to make themselves as attractive as possible to prospective employees.

Salary is, of course, critical but things have changed significantly in the way people look at prospective employees since the last time the jobs market was this buoyant.

One big change is the kind of organisations that people see as attractive employers.

The old assumption that a big employer would offer an unrivalled environment to thrive is now redundant. For the new generation of talent looking for their first or second jobs, start-ups and small businesses are the place where they see an opportunity to thrive. Greater autonomy, faster progression and a flatter, more passionate approach to management play a role too.

Ideas about what makes an attractive benefits packages have changed too.

Google and the other tech giants have been conspicuous in their creative approach what they offer their staff – from food to health checks. A recent article I saw in Real Business showed that smaller firms and start-ups are going even further in providing non-traditional benefits to create a great place to work: from free toiletries to dogs-to-work days. Benefits are now very much reflective of the culture of an organisation.

Our annual research which we published at the turn of the year showed employers were aware of this challenges and ready to act: around half (51%) planned to change their benefits packages in order to attract and retain talent; around a fifth (19%) said they would increase benefits spend.

This focus on the role of benefits is good to see. However, the changing expectations of employees tell us that they expect organisations to go a lot further than offering a bog-standard set of benefits. They want to be excited by what’s on offer, they want them to be accessible and they want them to fit with the way they live their lives.

I think this presents a tremendously exciting opportunity for organisations to look at their culture, personality and what makes them different as a business and create an approach not just to reward but also to recognition which captures the exciting spirit of the start-up.

Those that embrace this approach can expect to thrive in the war for talent. The organisations which focus on doing more of the same will be the ones who get left behind.

I am the sales and marketing director at employee benefits provider Edenred. You can find research and insight at or follow me on twitter @andy_philpott.

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