4 Employee Perks That Matter

July 4, 2017




Everyone knows that the battle for talent is fierce, especially in high-demand, niche employment areas like Procurement and Supply Chain. Companies are resorting to all kinds of employee attraction and retention strategies, including suing former high-level employees (yikes) as well as offering more competitive compensation, packages, and employee perks.

We want to talk about some of those perks today, and think a bit more about which ones are actually effective at attracting and retaining talent. Companies in Silicon Valley (as well as some tech hubs further north like Toronto and Waterloo) are famous for an employee perks arms race, where companies try to attract and retain the best people by making work seem more like a place of play than, well, work. Foosball tables, ping pong tables, pool tables, massage chairs, happy hours, snack tables, “unlimited” vacation and other similar offerings seem attractive to employees – and they’re intentionally designed to appeal to millennials based on the misguided perception that millennials would rather play than work – but do they actually retain good talent? Do they actually make a workplace more fulfilling, rewarding, or even fun?

As recruiters who work across a huge variety of industries, we can say that some of these perks amount to gimmicks rather than concrete strategies to make a better workplace. And in some cases, these kinds of perks can actually mask more insidious disorganization and a lack of leadership within a company, showing that a company is more interested in retaining employees with fun activities than by helping them grow their careers and offering accountability. It’s not true across the board, but it’s been known to happen. That’s why our advice is to look beneath the surface of perks to try to identify a company’s culture and core values.

That being said, work perks do matter – for recruiting, for retention, and building a great company culture. But which ones actually matter? Which perks will keep employees happy and send a message that you’re as committed to your employees as you expect them to be to your organization?

Wellness Initiatives

At times, wellness programs can seem like they’re in the more “gimmick” category of company perks, but they do matter. On the more minor side, it includes making sure you have ergonomic keyboards, adjustable and standing desks – “treadmill desks” are gimmicky, but they’re something else that’s worth considering. On the more impactful end are on-site fitness centres, yoga classes, mental health and smoking cessation programs. Beyond showing a commitment to your employees’ overall well-being, these initiatives also pay off. Studies have shown that wellness programs have as much as a 3:1 return on investment ratio.

Comprehensive Health, Vision, Dental insurance

A study in Harvard Business Review asked 2,000 U.S. workers between the ages of 18 and 81 to rank possible benefits when they were evaluating a job offer. 88% of respondents listed “Better health, vision and dental insurance” as a consideration, which was the highest percentage of any listed perk. (For the record, team bonding events were at the bottom). Nothing cuts down an employee’s stress like knowing they have solid coverage for health issues.  It’s an effective way to show your commitment to your employees’ lives beyond the office, and more so than cleaning services or dry cleaning might be.

Work from Home / Flex Time:

More companies are working to increase their appeal to millennial workers, and this is a valued perk for many of them who see more of a blurry distinction between “work” time and “home” time, and value varied workspaces. It’s also valuable to workers who are parents of young children, as well as people dealing with long commutes. But this perk isn’t only beneficial for candidates: more companies are realizing that “time in an office chair” doesn’t always line up one a one-to-one basis with productivity, and are choosing to evaluate employees based on results. Implementing a partial work from home policy (say one day a week) or flex time isn’t feasible for every corporate job, and it’s valuable to have your team in one place, but it’s worth offering if possible. Note: not all candidates see working from home as a bonus. Some prefer having a physical presence in the office because they feel like it helps cut down on distractions. We’ve heard of companies with mandatory work from home policies, and that doesn’t always play well.

Learning and Professional Development

Whether it’s dedicating office time to professional development opportunities (like new forms of software in Supply Chain), subsidizing accreditations, or offering tuition assistance and leave for academic opportunities, this kind of benefit is valuable because it attracts highly ambitious workers who are eager to create value rather than just fill a seat. But it’s more than something to attract and retain the kind of ambitious individuals who are looking to improve their skills – it also gives back to the organization as an investment in your workers’ effectiveness.

These perks might not be as flashy as the juice bars, massage chairs and company hikes that light up some employers’ websites, but they’re core to a positive working culture, and they work. More than that, these “core” perks are often more cost-effective than the flashier gimmicks. But what do you think? Let us know of any truly impactful perks we might have missed in the comments! 


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