Depending on whom you ask, company perks are either an invaluable piece of both talent acquisition and retention strategies, or they’re a nice bonus — definitely good to have, but not as important as, say, salary, or office culture, or great management. I myself have dealt with plenty of irate readers in the comments on posts I’ve written about perks. Some have told me I was crazy to imply that perks could ever be more important than salary (even when I was simply quoting other people who said that…); others say I’ve failed to accurately portray just how important perks really are.
My point is: perks are a pretty divisive topic on the Internet. (Maybe everything is a pretty divisive topic on the Internet.)
But perhaps the topic of company perks will be a little less divisive now, thanks to new research from business-software consultants TechnologyAdvice. In a recent study, TechnologyAdvice asked, “Do perks matter for employee retention?” The company found that it looks like they do: 56 percent of the employees surveyed by TechnologyAdvice said that perks were “very or moderately important when evaluating a job”; an equal percentage of surveyed employees said they would trade a salary increase in exchange for certain perks.
“Perks just offer intangible benefits that money doesn’t,” says Jenna Puckett, technology analyst at TechnologyAdvice. “Additional paid time-off spent traveling or visiting family, professional development that helps you become an expert and perhaps obtain a higher position, or even free lunch so you don’t have to wake up early and pack a meal: these are all intangible benefits that add to job satisfaction during a career.”
And satisfaction, we know, is key for both attracting employees and retaining them.
Puckett also notes perks can help employees feel more appreciated and maintain healthier work-life balances: “Let’s use a flexible work schedule as an example. Simply knowing that doing your job well is more important than the exact hours that you work can be a huge … relief for employees. Having the reassurance that you can leave early for a doctor’s appointment, for instance, and not be required to schedule it two weeks in advance provides peace of mind.”
Employers Can Take Advantage of TechnologyAdvice’s Findings to Attract and Retain Talent
So, based on TechnologyAdvice’s report, what’s an organization to do, exactly? How can companies use this advice to their benefit? Puckett suggests that employers approach company perks in one of two ways: offer the perks that talent asks for the most, or offer the ones that talent has the hardest time finding.
“Flex time and remote work [are] the most desirable employee perk[s],” Puckett says. (According to the study, 31.8 percent of employees want them.) “[They are] still rare enough that offering [them] can differentiate a company from its competitors. If the nature of a company’s work does not require everyone to be in one place at the same time, moving to a flexible, results-only workplace should be seriously considered. This can help workers of all ages achieve a healthy work-life balance.”
Or, as mentioned above, employers can also try to entice candidates and keep current employees happy by offering more uncommon — but still desirable — perks.
“Free food or catered lunches, a free gym membership, and recreational games are relatively scarce, so these perks should be considered by companies looking to differentiate themselves,” Puckett says.
But What If We Can’t Afford Those Things?
Does your company lack the resources to pay for employee lunches? Does the nature of your industry preclude work-from-home policies? Fret not: you can still give your employees the perks they want. Just start by asking them what they’re looking for.
“Surveying your workforce can be an effective way to make sure you’re offering the most worthwhile perks,” Puckett says. “Throughout this process, companies may discover that their employees prefer perks that are actually free or relatively simple to adopt, like a casual dress code.”
If employees ask for things that aren’t quite doable for your organization, you can still meet them halfway. For example: can’t offer remote work opportunities? Puckett suggests letting employees choose the hours they come into work and creating schedules accordingly — “Perhaps with a set of core hours to retain some structure,” she adds.
Likewise, if you can’t afford to pay for employee gym memberships, you can still bring affordable health and wellness initiatives to the office, like lunchtime walking clubs or weekly kickball leagues, Puckett says.
Ultimately, giving your employees the perks they desire is a matter of listening to what they want and getting a little creative with implementation — not so much a budgetary issue.
“If you simply ask your employees what perks they would like or what motivates them, then you’re already ahead of the nearly 30 percent of employers not offering any of the perks our survey covered,” Puckett says. “Depending on the results you get, there are always creative ways to show that you appreciate, respect, and trust your employees. The biggest mistake would be to never ask or try to develop a perks program.”