Employers that offer the right set of workplace perks can realize benefits to their business and their workforce.
Take, for instance, an increasingly common and inexpensive option: flexible work schedules.
Flexible work schedules reap benefits for both the employee and employer, such as:
- Productivity increases. Not only are employees given more control over how they put their time in, they’re also provided an environment of autonomy. That autonomy can lead to higher productivity.
- Employees can become less stressed. When given the latitude to attend to common life matters and return to work afterward, employees know they don’t have to compromise their professional life for their personal life. This can lead to a more positive perspective on their jobs.
- Absenteeism can decrease. Rather than take time off or call-in for work, employees could move hours around to manage events or other appointments.
- Employees can make decisions resulting in healthier and happier outcomes. By having healthier and happier employees the quantity and quality of work performance is better than an unhappy employee
- It builds trust. Employees feel involved in having autonomy to have a flexible work schedule resulting in employers benefiting from employees who feel valued.
And note that this workplace perk doesn’t cost the employer a dime.
While this option isn’t ideal for every business, there are a number of workplace perks that can be implemented that benefit both the business and employees.
So where do you start?
Understanding benefits versus workplace perks
You may be wondering: What differentiates benefits and workplace perks?
Both are a crucial part of your comprehensive human capital strategy, but they’re not interchangeable terms.
Benefits are what many companies offer to employees as part of their compensation package – to entice top talent and in some localities because it’s required by law. These things have become so commonplace that employees expect them, such as:
- Health insurance
- Dental insurance
- Paid vacation and sick days
- 401(k) retirement plan
- Disability insurance
- Life insurance
- Workers’ compensation
- Unemployment insurance
On the other hand, perks are company-wide extras that elevate your benefits and compensation package and set it apart.
Perks demonstrate that your business goes above and beyond to keep employees happy, and that you value them as people with obligations, goals and needs that exist beyond their jobs. These are benefits that are unique to your workplace and help to convince others that working for your company is an unmatchable experience.
Some examples of sought-after perks (which vary in cost and complexity):
- Employee assistance programs
- On-site wellness programs or facilities
- Learning and professional-development opportunities
- Technology offerings (for example, phones and laptops)
- Reimbursement for continuing education or certifications
- Assistance in paying off student loans
- Flexible scheduling (for example, implementing condensed work weeks or allowing employees to work remotely)
- Paid volunteer time
- Matching charitable contributions
- Matching 401(k) contributions
- Casual dress code
- On-site childcare or scholarships to help families cover these costs
- On-site workout facilities
- Relaxation areas
- Game rooms
- Collaboration spaces to encourage teamwork and creativity
Emphasis on value
When you think of workplace perks, the emphasis on value to the employer and employee must align.
Your workplace perks should be valuable to your employees and, by extension, add value to your workplace. This doesn’t mean that perks have to cost a lot of money – but they do need to impact employees in a meaningful way.
If your employees think of your perks as nice-to-haves but not essential, then these aren’t things that add value. Your employees simply won’t care enough, and your efforts will have been for nothing.
And perks aren’t about just slapping a few quick ideas together to appease people. The selection of workplace perks calls for thoughtful analysis.
How do you know whether the perks that your company provides meet your employees’ needs and make sense for your business?
Start with these considerations:
1. Define your goals for the perk program.
What results do you want from your perk program?
For your workplace, what does success look like? How will you know when you’ve achieved it? In what time period do you want to accomplish your goals?
Be as specific as possible and put your goals in writing.
For example, you might know that you want to boost employee morale and productivity. So, whatever workplace perk you decide to implement should try to achieve that goal.
2. Review your core values and business strategy.
Any perks that you decide to offer should align with what your company considers important and values most.
For example, does your organization encourage work-life balance? Perhaps enabling more scheduling flexibility is a great way to show employees that you back up your words with action.
Your company’s perks should also support your short- and long-term business strategies. For each perk you adopt, there should be a clear connection between it and the strategy.
3. Survey employees.
The best way to understand what your employees consider valuable workplace perks is to ask them directly.
Try to figure out what issues they’re facing in their personal or professional life. If you see a trend across many employees, then you can work to address it.
Depending on the size of your workforce, you could interview each person on your team personally, or you could distribute an email or paper survey.
Keep in mind the benefits associated with the latter option:
- Greater likelihood of receiving more honest, objective feedback (face-to-face communication can make employees more guarded and worried about offending you)
- Employees have more time to consider their opinions and issue thoughtful responses
- Possibility of enabling anonymity if desired
- List the perks your company currently offers (if any), and ask employees how they feel about them. This will help you pinpoint what should be eliminated, continued or changed.
- Ask each employee to rank, in order of importance, the top three to five perks they’d appreciate most at work. This will prevent the number of options from spinning out of control and will assist you in more quickly grouping and narrowing down the most popular responses.
- Advertise a prize drawing from among survey participants to encourage participation.
4. Perform a competitive analysis.
Identify your main competitors, and research what they offer as perks to their employees.
Remember, these are companies with whom you’ll vie for the same talent.
For recruits and employees alike, what your company offers as perks needs to match or exceed your competition in value.
5. Examine your budget and conduct a cost-benefit analysis.
Once you know what your employees want and you understand what makes sense in terms of your business values and strategy, consider whether certain perks are feasible financially.
Questions to think about:
- How many perks can you reasonably offer?
- How much will they cost to bring to fruition?
- Can you afford them without negatively impacting other crucial business investments?
- Do the benefits of the perks outweigh the costs?
- What is the likely return on investment?
Even if you have a smaller budget, there are creative ways to implement a low-cost, high-value perk program.
Furthermore, don’t overlook other ways to recognize and reward employees for a job well done, or provide certain incentives that boost morale. Alongside a perk program, you can let your employees know that you care about them and appreciate them.
6. Weigh the pros and cons.
Yes, you have the potential to boost employee satisfaction and enhance your company’s reputation.
But you also should think through some of the pitfalls that some perks could have on your company. For example:
- Could the implementation of a perk impact business operations? For how long? (For example, could it require the temporary closure or any other disturbance at your office?)
- Might there be any unintended consequences?
- Could employee productivity be affected?
- Are there additional or ongoing costs to implement a perk beyond initial costs?
- How could employees abuse the perk?
- Is there any potential negative impact on customers or partners?
Once you’ve considered these issues, decide whether a perk is ultimately worth it.
7. Document and communicate your perks.
Any perks you commit to delivering should be documented in your employee handbook alongside benefits. This formalizes your perk package and establishes consistency across your organization regarding what’s available.
You also need to advertise new perks. After all, perks can’t serve their intended purpose if they’re a secret. Make a formal announcement to employees. Then start listing perks alongside benefits in job postings, and mention them in your recruiting outreach.
Remain in regular communication with employees about any updates or changes to your perk program, as well as any other benefits.
8. Periodically evaluate the perk program.
You should review your perk program annually to confirm that it’s still worthwhile and adding value to your company. Much like your other workplace policies, perks are a dynamic offering and subject to modification as circumstances require.
- Do any internal or external factors call for changes to the perks you offer?
- Now that a perk has been put into practice, are there any ways to improve upon its administration?
- Have there been any unanticipated consequences or unforeseen costs?
- Have there been any changes in what competitors and companies operating in the wider industry offer as perks?
As part of your review, you may also want to follow up with employees and confirm that they use the perks and find them to be beneficial.
Summing it all up
Workplaces perks shouldn’t be superficial, fluffy rewards that just seem like fun ideas. Rather, make them a valuable part of your benefits package that delivers a clear ROI by enhancing your company’s appeal to current and prospective employees.
In selecting perks, consider employee preferences along with necessity, cost, alignment with business strategy and values, and drawbacks. To be most successful, they must meet the human needs of your employees and make sense for your business.
For more information on how to attract and retain smart, high-performing employees with competitive benefits and workplace perks, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to employee benefits.