Beyond salary, what keeps employees loyal, engaged, and motivated are the perks that an organization offers. Some, such as health insurance or paid time off, are relatively common and expected in most industries. Other perks might only appeal to certain groups, such as people with pets.
Managed correctly, perks can strengthen the connection between an organization and its employees and play an important role in an organization’s culture.
The Strategic Value of Perks
A perk, otherwise known as a fringe benefit, is something extra you’re given because of your job. For many employees, certain perks (such as healthcare and retirement plans, bonuses, and paid time off) may be as important as salary.
Well-chosen perks can help attract and retain more high-quality employees and set your organization apart from competitors. When job candidates and employees talk to friends and professional acquaintances about their jobs or job-seeking, they tend to emphasize the perks.
Match the Perks to the Culture
Different industries and organizations have very different histories when it comes to perks. Engineers at tech startups might expect free meals, foosball or ping pong tables, and services that make their lives easier, such as free dry cleaning. Frontline workers at a fast-food restaurant might be thrilled to get paid time off and money to help pay for their educations.
The perks that offer the greatest value to an organization will vary, depending on the culture, the company focus, and the type of employees and demographics they recruit. It’s important to start with a cultural survey or assessment to understand what people in the organization would value most, and it’s also important to understand the context of the external environment.
Keep in mind that the goals of perks are not just to attract and retain good workers, but also to strengthen a sense of connection to the work they’re doing and their level of fulfillment.
The culture needs to feel authentic. Recognition needs to be equitable. Anything offered to employees needs to be aligned with—and embedded in—the culture, and recognition needs to be personalized.
How to Choose Perks
Understand what the workforce needs, and personalize recognition for each individual.
For some people, flexible hours might be especially important. For others, family leave might have a greater impact. Many organizations are starting to offer student debt assistance—we’ll match whatever you pay off, up to a certain amount — but not everyone has student debt.
An excellent example of a perk that aligns with the culture and strategy of an organization: Chewy allows people to bring their pets to work. For a pet care company that focuses on nutrition and wellness, this benefit supports the mission, and people who work there tend to value that perk. For a company that focuses on financial wellness, bringing pets to work might not be valued as much.
With COVID, some perks have become much more popular, including:
- Flexible hours. Working when they want. People want the autonomy to do their jobs when they want to do their jobs, not necessarily within a 9 – 5 schedule.
- Remote work. It seems most people are happier when they have control over their working hours and environment. Many people have also shown they’re more productive.
- Paid family leave. This tells people that the organization values employees’ families and the need to take care of their families.
Wellness. Meditation, weight loss apps and programs, fitness subscriptions. Now that people are working remotely, an on-site gym might not be as important.
- Professional development. Tuition reimbursement, the opportunity to attend webinars, and meetings that support professional development goals remain important.
- Support for mental health. Providing support for mental health and social well-being through mental health policies and programs, such as telemedicine offerings, is important. What can you offer to employees so they don’t have to leave their homes to get help? Some companies are encouraging mental and physical health by rewarding employees who meet certain milestones.
- Free food. This benefit remains popular among on-site employees. For people who are remote, some companies will deliver food to their homes during meetings. Such gestures still seem appreciated. Will they retain people? Maybe not, but they will help with the culture.
Another perk that’s growing in importance is unlimited paid time off (PTO). There seems to be a trend, especially among Fortune 500 companies, to tell employees, “Take all the time you need; we trust you’ll get your work done.”
Unlimited PTO can create a potential disconnect, however. In some cultures, it’s looked down upon to take vacation days. Unlimited PTO won’t work well in a workplace where not taking time off is considered a badge of honor.
This perk could also backfire in an organization with low employee engagement, where people may take advantage of the policy. Make sure perks don’t drive negative behaviors.
The key is to survey employees and uncover what perks they’d really value.
The Lindenberger Group can help organizations identify the most meaningful perks, as well as share insights from other organizations and industries. For more information or to discuss your HR needs, please contact us at 609-730-1049 or send us an email.