Which perks work (and which hurt)
In the age of elaborate – and frankly extravagant – perks, it can be tempting to simply throw money at benefits. Funds permitting, you may be lured into following Google’s lead by offering on-site massages and chef-crafted lunches. But is that really the best use of your money?
According to recent surveys, 60% of candidates consider benefits as a crucial element in their job decision process. This begs the question, exactly which perks pay off in the long run? Although most employees are motivated by unlimited vacation and a well-stocked fridge, are those truly the benefits that will keep your workers happy? How about loyal? Productive and fulfilled?
Not all perks are made equal. Find out which benefits work best for hiring and retention – and which ones consistently fall flat.
1. Parental leave
2018 marks the year when Diversity and Inclusion finally takes the main stage, and what better way to foster an inclusive environment than by showing your commitment to your growing community.
This benefit plays especially well with women, 25% of whom report that parental leave forms a serious part of their job considerations. A liberal parental leave policy – above and beyond that which is government mandated – will serve to position your company as fair and respectful to your employees’ needs.
2. Flexible hours
Introducing the holy grail of benefits. At no cost to you, you can give your workers the greatest gift of all – (carefully regulated) professional independence. The value of this benefit cannot be overemphasized; it is highly regarded across ages (everyone from Millennials to Boomers appreciates flex time) and gender, though it’s especially appealing to workers with children.
Crucial to this – entirely free – benefit is judicious planning. Prior to offering flex time, it’s necessary to put into place specific processes and programs to maintain a chain of accountability. Moreover, flex time can mean different things for different employees, so it is important that you are clear and upfront regarding your expectations.
3. Well-stocked kitchen
This is an easy win; with but a small investment, you can please the majority of your workers. Or so you would think. Apparently – despite ample anecdotal evidence to the contrary – a stocked fridge is rarely considered a valued perk.
Benefits that directly contribute to the lifestyle or finances of your employees are those that will ultimately factor into their decision-making processes – be that the decision to take the job in the first place, or to remain loyal to a job after years of service. Otherwise put: while keeping a well-stocked fridge is certainly appreciated, your efforts may be better focused elsewhere.
4. Unlimited vacation
Unlimited vacation sounds great on paper, and if that’s all that you’re looking for – a quick sell to eager candidates – then this benefit may do the trick. Its only shortcoming is its lack of clarity; an unlimited vacation policy always leaves employees asking, how much is too much? How much is not enough?
206 million vacation days were forfeited in 2016. Employees are working longer hours than ever before in recent history, and their productivity is suffering. While unlimited vacation may be a solution, it is your duty to ensure that your employees are actually taking the time they need to recharge.
An unlimited vacation policy with no follow-through will not necessary improve your retention efforts, though it should give a boost to hiring. Such a policy also rids you of a key liability; the need to pay out unused vacation days at the end of an employee’s contract.
5. Team bonding events and incentive trips
It’s well known that a strong company culture makes for happy and productive workers. Though there is certainly a point of diminishing returns – weekly happy hours are simply too much of a personal commitment to ask of employees – generally the more company events you have to offer, the better. Investing your time and money in the people you employ will communicate your gratitude and respect.
An important point to consider: such after-work activities can bleed into family and personal time, an infringement more strongly felt by women. Keep in mind peoples’ personal schedules when organizing after-hour happenings as these gatherings can sometimes inadvertently exclude workers with multiple or familial obligations.
6. Opportunities for professional development
There are a variety of ways to approach this perk – some companies choose to offer a set amount of hours per week (ex: 2 hours) during which time employees are empowered to develop their knowledge on a topic of their choosing. Importantly, this “free time” has absolutely nothing to do with their current job. As long as the employee is learning and actively engaging with something in their industry, the time is considered well spent and valuable to the company as a whole.
Get creative – survey your current workers to get a sense of what they need in terms of professional development. Could they use more training, individualized courses, subscriptions to certain journals or papers? Your workers are a wealth of knowledge – make sure you’re properly mining them for ideas and responding to their needs.