Does Ireland offer enough incentives to attract top talent?

We have a good educational system and stable politics but taxes and housing are issues

JP Morgan’s new building in Dublin’s Capital Dock can accommodate up to 1,000 staff. Even assuming that only half of its ultimate workforce are new to the city, that’s still a lot of people looking to find homes in a capital struggling to meet current housing needs.

Accommodation, or the lack of it, is fast becoming an issue for growing companies that need staff and have to look outside Ireland to get them. And it's not just a long-stay problem. Finding hotel rooms for corporate stays has become "a total budget nightmare", says the chief operating officer of a multinational company with a significant operation here.

“We have people flying into Dublin for meetings from all over the world, and we can’t get runs of two or three nights in one hotel so executives are having to move during their stay which they don’t like.

“We are also being charged through the nose for rooms, with some hotels exploiting the situation and looking for up to €300 a night. This is not a cost most companies can sustain. We’re also seeing problems with our overseas contractors whose organisations are giving them an accommodation allowance of maybe €100 or €120 a night. Try finding an hotel room in Dublin for that.”


Semi-conductor technologies multinational Xilinx, which employs 350 at its Europe Middle East and Africa headquarters in Citywest, Co Dublin, has 17 nationalities working there. It regularly recruits from overseas, and also transfers employees to Dublin from its international offices.

Relocating to Ireland

The company's global vice-president for human resources, Libby Gribben, says the company puts a lot of investment behind its incentive packages to ensure it gets the pick of the talent.

“Xilinx has a very attractive package for those relocating to Ireland,” she says. “We use an external provider to co-ordinate the move which includes sourcing rented accommodation or a serviced apartment for a period of four weeks when they arrive. They also have a hire car for a month. We cover shipment of their worldly goods and a month’s salary to pay for sundry expenses.”

Gribben says a real “wow” factor when it comes to attracting staff (both Irish and overseas) is the company’s share participation scheme. “RSUs (restricted stock units) are granted to all new hires. The number of shares varies depending on someone’s grade level on joining. The RSUs vest at 25 per cent per year over a period of four years. Once vested the shares are owned by the employee and can be sold at any time. RSUs are also granted to high performers during annual assessment. These RSUs vest in the same way. The shares are taxed, of course, but they can still represent a substantial sum of money in addition to someone’s salary.”

Gribben says adding to the company’s appeal as an employer is its generous bonus scheme. “It has a multiplying factor that means an employee will benefit as an individual if they do well, but equally they will benefit if the company as a whole performs strongly. Other standard provisions are paid health insurance and a direct contribution pension.”

Key hires

Asked if these incentives are proving enough, Gribben says: “We will hire around 100 people in 2017. Of this number we have 20 key hires to fill in analogue design, which is a highly specialised area. We opened the search in April and now have nine of these roles filled.”

Shona McManus, CEO of Osborne recruitment, says "generally speaking Ireland has sufficient employee incentives to compete for top talent".

“A good educational system and a safe and politically neutral environment are key attractions. However, our tax rates and housing issues are potentially problematic.

“Top talent will often align their job requirements and their lifestyle requirements. So, comparing ourselves against the US, for example, Ireland offers two to three times more annual leave.”

McManus says typical incentive packages now applying in sectors such as the talent hungry pharma industry include top market salaries, pensions with an employer contribution, career development, promotion opportunities, educational schemes, healthcare cover and 25 days’ annual leave.

“We are also seeing companies that cannot compete financially making up for it with a more holistic approach to the workplace and offering people a particular culture and values, flexibility, purpose, learning, development and experiences as an alternative.

“It has never been easier to find people, but equally, it has never been more challenging to engage and retain them,” McManus says.

Growing areas

"We are seeing candidates receiving approaches from the UK, New Zealand and Australia, as well as the Middle East and Canada. Equally our clients in growing areas such as cyber tech are now sourcing candidates from as far afield as India, China and South America. While not the most in-demand language, we have noticed a definite increase in companies looking for Mandarin and Cantonese speakers in Ireland."

One of the key areas where Irish employers need to buck up is in offering share options to staff, according to Gill Brennan, CEO of the Irish ProShare Association.

She says Ireland is at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting talent post-Brexit due to its low level of employee share incentives.

“Current tax measures in this area lag the UK and our EU competitors, and we have a short period of time to remedy this.”

Brennan adds that there is also a commercial imperative for employee ownership. Companies with employee financial involvement are between 5-10 per cent more productive than those without.