ADVO Group interviews Mark Farrar, Chief Executive, AAT


A recent study commissioned by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), the qualification and professional body for vocational accountants, discovered that the majority of employees prioritise a range of elements over salary concerns. In our latest interview, we gain a fascinating insight into the research with Mark Farrar, Chief Executive at AAT.

Tell us some more about the study.

We were interested in finding out people’s attitudes towards work and what motivated them. So we surveyed 2000 people across the UK to find out what their real thoughts are. We found that many factors outweigh the pay cheque, such as relationships with colleagues, self-worth, and the nature of the job itself.

Do you think initially reading the headline of ‘Britain’s workers value companionship and recognition over a big salary’ would be surprising to most people, or do you think most people would instinctively believe this to be the case?

When we first initially think about work, we assume salary will be one of the most important factors. However, when we really drill down into it, happiness is really the most important thing. People spend the majority of their day at work and to be in an environment with friendly colleagues where they have job satisfaction is key to this.

Are there any employment factors that respondents reported as being desirable that surprised you for how highly they were valued?

I’m not sure I was surprised. However, I was pleased to see feeling challenged and learning new things featuring high on the list. I think it shows that no matter your age, or what stage you’re at in your career, there is always something new to learn.

What are some of the key lessons that you think employers in general could take away from this study?

Employers can look at how best to create a harmonious environment and recognise the important of team building. It’s also important to notice signs of stress and ensuring their staff feel they can speak up if they’re affected by stress. At AAT, we take our employee’s wellbeing very seriously and offer initiatives such as flexible working so colleagues can maintain a work / life balance.

Do you think interpersonal issues such as companionship at work have become more valued over time or do you think these factors have always remained a high priority for employees?

People have always appreciated companionship at work and many of us have made lifelong friends through previous jobs. I believe what has changed though is the importance businesses put on companionship and recognising that employees who enjoy their jobs make more productive employees.

Do you think the prioritisation of earnings could continue to fall on this list or do you think there is limit on far down the list it could rank?

Earnings will always be important because they allow us to live our lives. However, studies of Generation Y or Millennials show what they want from work is much different from Baby Boomers. Their priorities include working in a flexible environment where they’re allowed to be themselves (as opposed to Baby Boomers who prefer a clearer demarcation of work and personal life). It will be an interesting as the new generations come through and the Baby Boomers retire to see if this impacts on how the importance of earnings are viewed.

Are there any ways you think that employees can gain a representative view of the workplace culture or management styles etc of a potential new employer before accepting new positions? (E.g. questions to ask during interviews, things to look out for in the office)?

I would advise initially identifying what your priorities are when looking for a new job and building your search around that. As much as the interview is for the employer to scope out whether you’re right for the role and organisation, it’s also very much for you to use the process to decide if it’s right for you. As an example, if your priorities are around learning and development, I would ask about what training opportunities are available. If you want to work in a particular environment, I would also ask what their management style is and what the organisation’s culture is like.

The figure of only 15% of respondents actively disliking their job seems encouragingly low. Do you think this figure has the potential to decrease further in future?

The economy recovering and there are more opportunities out there so employees have more choice. This is why AAT always encourages people to take control of their careers by retraining or via other methods, to ensure ultimately they find something that fulfils them.