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Does high pay lead to high performance? Ask a Manchester United fan....

Ah, football. The beautiful game, where all the drama and intrigue of life is played out in the white-hot furnace of competition. Or, a bunch of whining, overpaid blokes kicking a ball around. Whatever your point of view, football isn’t only good for those slightly awkward, cliche-ridden coffee break conversations. It is also provides the perfect analogy to explore the rather odd relationship between pay and performance.

This year, the two best teams in England by a ridiculous margin were Liverpool and Manchester City: winners of the Champions League and Premier League, respectively. They also happen to be the second and third biggest spenders in the country when it comes to wages.


So, high salaries lead to high performance, then? Well, not quite...

Anyone who watched Manchester United limp into sixth this year might be surprised to hear they are not a local pub team in disguise but are in fact, the highest paid collection of footballers in England. Then there are Spurs, who finished runners up to Liverpool in Europe, yet pay over £100m a year less in wages.

So, what does all this football chat tell us?

Well, pay and performance are certainly linked. But it’s not as simple as paying more to guarantee increased productivity. There are clearly other factors at play and job seekers as well as employers are wising up to the value found beyond a baseline salary.

Take home pay is important. It’s the main motivator in getting people to work in the first place (otherwise we’d all spend our days volunteering, right?). A competitive salary attracts quality candidates and is vital for staff retention, which in turn ensures a more efficient workplace and less time spent on training new staff. It also confers status and enables an individual’s standard of living. But what happens once baseline living costs are covered?

Well, they say money can’t buy you happiness… and there’s growing evidence to suggest it can’t buy you job satisfaction either.

Intangible factors such as challenge, independence and a sense of purpose all boost engagement and raise productivity. So do opportunities for personal growth and advancement, as well as flexible working hours. In fact, these aspects are increasingly being seen by job seekers as more desirable than a higher salary.

And this is where perks and benefits come in.

A recent study found that 79% of employees would prefer new or additional benefits to a pay increase. For 18-34 year olds, the figure is almost 90%. In a world of rapid technological advancement, in which young people are expected to gain skills for jobs which may not yet exist and where the idea of a ‘job for life’ is a thing of the past, it makes sense that they would seek to tailor employment to suit their own needs. Therefore, employers who move quickly to offer these opportunities will thrive.

Big name companies are making themselves more attractive by supplementing traditional benefits such as health care, pensions and paid leave with more creative perks. Netflix recently made headlines by offering employees increased parental leave. Airbnb’s staff receive an annual stipend of $2000 to travel anywhere in the world, and not only do Team Google enjoy free food, they can even bring their dogs to work!

Ultimately, it all comes down to personal choice. Most people might be happy to sign for Manchester United and take home that huge salary. Others may prefer the challenge, camaraderie and sense of purpose offered by Spurs. However, a select few might aim for Liverpool or City, for the best of both worlds and a chance of making history.

If you’re looking for the perfect job or the ideal candidate for your organisation, get in touch with the KennedyPearce team at

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