Main image of article Pay, Not Perks, is What Drives Tech Professionals

The other week, we asked tech professionals if better (and more) benefits were more enticing than a pay increase. They spoke up, and the results are clear: They wanted better pay. This is a valuable insight for recruiters and hiring managers who aren’t sure whether to offer better pay or perks as an enticement to job candidates.

By a margin of 4:1, tech professionals would rather have more pay. But while that may seem fairly cut-and-dry, it’s not.

We posted the survey to both Dice Insights and the Dice Facebook page, and it created a divergence. Via Insights, 35 percent of respondents said they wanted better perks. On Facebook, 15 percent of respondents said perks matter more to them. To that, we have to wonder if context may have been lost in the social-media translation: It’s entirely possible Facebook elicits the drive-by response without the respondent giving the question some deep thought.

Whatever the case, we’re a bit troubled by the results. Not because tech professionals want more money (because, really, who wouldn’t) but because there’s little hope tech pros will get more pay without up-skilling. Our data shows pay for tech professionals has plateaued in general, but adding skills to the repertoire is a smart path forward. By learning some new skillsets, tech professionals are demonstrating value to their employer and the open job market, which can help them earn more over the long term.

Perks are the lower-hanging fruit, though. When an employer won’t or can’t offer more pay, perks are an easy and safe negotiating tactic. Some, such as 401(k) matching and health benefits (or lack thereof), are pretty much non-negotiable for virtually all tech professionals; what the company offers, they’re expected to take, generally with no wiggle room. But manager and employee (or candidate) can negotiate over more time off, or the ability to work from home. Remote work is one of the more sought-after benefits for tech professionals, and most offices have software (such as Slack and a VPN) that make it fairly seamless to work from anywhere you like.

There’s also no middle ground to speak of. Employers generally don’t offer more pay in exchange for employees giving up perks. Even in the rare instances employers curtail remote work, there’s no pay bump for commuting (and possibly investing in a wardrobe).

For employers with big budgets, it’s clear that offering more cash is a very direct, simple way to hire great talent—and retain remarkable employees. For those companies that lack sizable reservoirs of cash, but can offer a variety of perks, things might get a little bit more complicated—some candidates will readily respond to unlimited vacation, etc. in lieu of money, but others might take quite a bit more persuading.