The offer of flexible working is set to become a key competitive advantage for businesses.

According to the Hays Salary Guide, a survey of 3,500 organisations and more than 3,800 employees, only 28 per cent of workers are satisfied with their current employee benefits.

The most in-demand non-financial benefits in Australia are regular flexible work practices, career progression opportunities and training.

In tandem with expectations that there will soon be a salary expectation gap, with skilled professionals believing their performance is worth more than their current wage, this is likely to mean Australians will soon be moving jobs based on package benefits.

“With the value of salary increases set to be minimal, reviewing and rolling out additional benefits can help bridge the salary expectation gap, allowing employers to reward staff when they don’t have the salary budget to do so,” Hays Australia managing director Nick Deligiannis said.

“The challenges of the past year prompted many skilled professionals to pause and consider what they truly value in their life and career. As a result, certain benefits have become increasingly important to staff attraction and can help an employer stand out from others to secure the top talent.

“With most employees dissatisfied with their current benefits, there is also an urgent need for organisations to review packages to retain top talent.”

Of those surveyed for the Hays report, nearly 80 per cent wanted flexible work, in terms of working hours, the location of work and working practices. This is unsurprising in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, where most workers were forced to work from home, and many discovered the benefits of doing this at least part-time.

A Hays report late last year found that most Australians would prefer a hybrid working model, with a mix of remote and in-office time.

More than 60 per cent of those surveyed say that this would be the most productive working model.

In the new report, more than half of those surveyed said career progression opportunities is one of the benefits they are looking for, with 50 per cent also wanting internal or external training.

Nearly 45 per cent of Aussie workers want ongoing learning and development, while 40 per cent want more than the standard 20 days of annual leave.

A fifth of those surveyed wanted mental health and wellness programs as part of a benefits package.

In line with the report last year, nearly 60 per cent of those surveyed said they will look for a role with hybrid working when they do their next job search, and more than 40 per cent of people expect to be doing this within the next 12 months.

The option of flexible work was a key reason why many of the companies listed by LinkedIn as the best workplaces in Australia received the gong. This included Google parent company Alphabet, which offers flexible work for all of its 2,000 employees in Australia.

The Hays Salary Guide found that only 12 per cent of Australian companies surveyed will award pay increases of more than 3 per cent, despite nearly 70 per cent of workers saying that this pay rise would accurately reflect their individual performance.

“The value of salary increases is driving a wedge between employers and employees,” Deligiannis said.

“This is creating a gap between what employers will offer and employees say they are worth. This divide must be managed sensitively if employers are to retain staff and attract new talent in short supply.”