Employee perks certainly have changed over the years. Years ago free tickets to the big game, gift certificates to the hot new restaurant in town or an expense-paid trip to somewhere tropical to the employee of the year were among the methods used by employers to reward and recognize top employees.
Today some of top employee perks include on-site physical therapy and acupuncture at Cisco Systems, free food (along with bocce courts and a bowling alley) at Google, an indoor rock climbing wall and free scuba diving certification classes for employees of Chesapeake Energy Corporation
Employee perks can be a great recruiting and retention tool, especially when monetary bonuses or salary increases are not always an option. It’s also a way an employer shows they value their employees, says Tina Fox, Branch Manager of Accountemps in La Jolla, Calif.
“To attract the best candidates, companies need to ensure their pay is competitive and offer attractive perks,” says Fox. “Offering onsite gyms, dry cleaning, childcare and other perks are attractive because they can help workers handle personal responsibilities and tasks rather than taking time off work to deal with them.”
While larger companies, such as Google, Hershey Corp. , which provides a fitness center for employees, spouses and dependents and General Mills, which recently adopted the FUSE – Flexible User Shared Environment, allowing employees to work wherever they want in the corporate headquarters, may present challenges to small businesses and HR staffs trying to compete with the perks of the larger corporations, it doesn’t mean small businesses can’t compete with those larger employees. Employee perks don’t have to cost a lot of money, too, to keep employees healthy, happy and excited to be a part of your company.
According to a Robert Half Legal survey of lawyers, “flexible work hours or telecommuting” is the top incentive for recruiting and retaining legal professionals, followed by “free or subsidized training or education” and “onsite perks (childcare, dry cleaning, and fitness center).” Many employers are pulling out all the stops to recruit professionals with in-demand skills. According to an Accountemps survey, nearly half (46 percent) of chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed said they are improving benefits in order to attract top talent. Almost as many (45 percent) are raising salaries, and another 42 percent are investing in training and development for promising workers. According to another Accountemps survey, employers offer or plan to offer a number of perks that could aid in their recruitment efforts, including subsidized training or education, flexible work hours/telecommuting and mentoring programs.
The mission of San Francisco-based AnyPerk is to help businesses attract and retain top talent while providing a rewarding work environment. The company states: “We believe that every employee, regardless of company size, should have access to high-quality employee perks.”
Small businesses are stuck in the middle of a talent war that has them competing with corporate behemoths like Google and Facebook – with a percentage of their resources, says Taro Fukuyama, CEO of AnyPerk.
“What’s important to remember is that perks are more than a way for employees to save money; it’s a promise to their employees that they are committed to making work fun and valuable to them,” says Fukuyama. “Whether it’s a 10% discount on movie tickets or an on-site yoga studio, the sentiment is the same. Plus, perks are becoming a part of company’s employer brand, and employers that don’t invest in that will have a harder time in the long run attracting and retaining great workers. “
Below are some employee perks businesses of all sizes can offer, according to AnyPerk.com:
Healthy eats: For a busy professional, healthy eating is nearly impossible. So providing food perks like weekly, catered lunches are a welcomed chance to take a break with co-workers and eat good food. If there are any vegan or gluten-free employees in the office, make sure to stock up the kitchen with snack options they can also partake in.
Babysitting services: Babysitting perks don’t sound glamorous, but providing employees with access to discounted babysitting services or on-site daycare is the simplest way to say: “Thank you” to the busy professional with a family to whom babysitting means a date night or extra sleep.
Pet services: Providing pet healthcare perks or discounts on dog-walking services is the ultimate tug at the heart strings: it’s the company saying, “Not only do we value you as an employee, we care about your family as well.” Ultimately this builds greater loyalty and commitment to the company from the employee.
Home cleaning: Home cleaning services are solely so the employee can relax, feel comfortable at home, and unwind. Again, the company is supporting the employee’s right to relax after a hard day’s work.
Wellness: AnyPerk’s most commonly requested perk – both from HR and their employees – is for fitness. Corporate discounts to gyms and yoga studios are a way for companies to encourage healthy living. Exercise is proven to increase productivity and lower the likelihood of depression – perks to both the company and the individual.
Entertainment: Offering complimentary or discounted movie, sports, or concert tickets are a simple and genuine way for companies to encourage employees to take time to have fun.
But remember, perks aren’t one size fits all, says Fox. Companies should evaluate their perks regularly to ensure they are still attractive to current and potential employees. Businesses can conduct employee surveys to identify which perks they value most. To recruit the best candidates, employers should showcase the perks they offer in job postings and during interviews.
One way to find out what employers may be interested in is to conduct an internal survey. Find out what your staff appreciates and would like. Doing this also increases employee engagement and shows employees their opinion also matters. They become more engaged and that can be as effective as offering cool new perks.
In a 2012 survey of human resources professionals, 80 percent said their companies were focused on employee engagement and 67 percent said the focus on engagement is greater now than it was before the recession. The survey was conducted by global outplacement and executive coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. Several surveys and studies show that when employees are not engaged, they are not only more likely to seek positions elsewhere, but they are less productive and are not motivated to do their best or go beyond their basic job responsibilities.
“As many companies understand, retention is not merely a matter of salary hikes and fancy perks, it is about taking steps to ensure that employees feel that they are valued, challenged, and that their contributions impact the bottom line,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “That is what engagement is about; forming a bond between the employee and the employer.”
No matter what perks are there, the bottom line is, employees want to feel wanted, valued and appreciated.
“It is important to remember that employee engagement is not the same thing as workplace satisfaction. It takes far more than simply providing free coffee and donuts in the break room and an annual company picnic to boost engagement. If you want to win the hearts and minds of your employees, so that they want to go the extra mile for the good of the company, then the company has to demonstrate that it is willing to go the extra mile for its employees. It has to be a two-way street or efforts to increase engagement will fall flat.”
Fukuyama said the line between an employee’s personal and professional life is increasingly blurry, and the best employees are looking for workplaces that support an integrated life. Providing meaningful benefits and perks demonstrates legitimate concern for an employee’s personal well-being, not just their capacity to produce professionally.
“Every company’s most critical asset is its employees,” says Fukuyama. “Whether you’re a fast-growing startup or an industry leader, talent is everything. At a certain point, offering an extra $5k in salary when an employee is weighing competing offers isn’t enough. Employee perks are a great way to show your employees that not only do you want them to work hard, but that you want them to have a delightful experience to be associated with your company.