Perks ≠ Benefits
Remember the days when companies, most memorably the tech start-ups, tried to outdo each other in the forms of office perks and benefits? A CNBC article from 2013 mentioned a few head turners, such as subsidized rents, family trips to Tahoe, helicopter rides and onsite manicures. Why were they offering such outlandish gifts? One reason: competition for talent. When demand exceeds talent, companies will stop at nothing to recruit the people they believe will help take the company to the next level.
One thing we learned over time, however, was that ping pong tables in break rooms don’t induce lasting employee satisfaction. People want more than perks. They want measurable benefits that impact their happiness, health and wealth.
What Matters Most
While recruiting tactics may have shifted in the past decade, one thing remains: talent is still at a premium. Companies must still present themselves as the best workplace option. They are going about it differently, however. Instead of offering flashy perks, they are opting for longer-lasting benefits that aim to incentivize long after the massage has ended.
It’s easy to entice people with trips and fridges full of beer, but if you really want to attract and retain great talent, you have to think deeper. Most people want to know that their employers will support and empower them to grow professionally. When employees feel like they have a voice, that they are contributing to the overall good of an innovating company, and they have a clear path for advancement, they are more likely to be highly satisfied with their job and not have a reason to look elsewhere. Alternatively, if you strip all of that away but offer onsite manicures and Friday airsoft wars, you will constantly have to create new incentives that outweigh the poor work environment.
The Benefits that Work
What are the top benefits attracting talent these days? According to benefitnews.com, companies who offer a good quality of life stand the test of time, such as full-time and part-time flexible working locations, paid leave and flex-time. Profit sharing is another, showing employees that their work and time matters. The better they do at their job, the better the company does and everyone gets to share in that success, not just the people at the top. Of course, insurance coverage is typically high on anyone’s list. Not just any medical coverage but dental and vision, too.
Employees spend the majority of their days at work. They put in their blood, sweat and tears, hoping they will have invested enough to at some point to retire well. A solid retirement plan, preferably with defined benefits and 401(k) matches, is an investment into the future wellbeing of your employees they will notice.
Of course, cash is still king and 54 percent of those asked still say monetary bonuses are highly attractive. It not only pads bank accounts, but it provides an incentive for employees to work towards a goal knowing there are serious paybacks if they reach it. Maybe this kind of benefit will turn the tide of employees being apathetic towards their work. Gartner recently reported that employees giving it their all is at an all-time low, with fewer than 20 percent saying they have “a high willingness to go above and beyond their job expectations.”
Why are employees disengaged? The Gartner survey agrees with the benefitnews.com article, finding apathy stems from a variety of factors, including the perception that there are few growth opportunities, a widening gap between execs and average workers, an absence of significant raises and bonuses, and a lack of rewards.
For IT specifically, the above are important, but equally highly-valued benefits can be slightly less concrete. They want to know:
- The product(s) they are working on and the roadmap
- The technology stack is modern, aligned with their skill set or better yet, will advance their skill set and career
- The leadership team is strong with a good track record
What You Can Do Now
It isn’t easy to quickly change your benefits package. Implement perks that make sense but realize they aren’t a real solution. They are a Band-Aid that may get a smile or high five, but you have to do more to build your benefits package.
Start building your benefits program with the lowest (cheapest) hanging fruit first. Enabling employees to advance in their careers may be as simple as providing training on new technology, promoting from within, and offering a career roadmap so employees can visualize their growth path. Giving employees a voice can be achieved with employee feedback channels, regular input meetings and consistent employee/management check-ins.
Work with HR to develop flexible work hours and locations for employees who don’t have to be physically in the office all the time. These benefits go a long way in satisfying employees’ desire for a balanced work-life schedule without costing the company extra dollars.
Consider directing a portion of the budget to develop strong retirement plans, health benefits and bonus packages. It may take more time and money to establish or enhance these programs, but if you want the best talent to come your way, these are benefits that you will need to compete.
While everyone loves an office happy hour, be sure you balance your perks with benefits people really want. They don’t have to be excessive or overdone, either. Stick to what lasts, what gives them a reason to believe you care about their health, wealth and happiness, and you’ll have talent knocking – and staying.