Almost all top organizations agree that people are their most valuable assets. What they fail to realize is that for today’s employees, salaries are more of a threshold than a scorecard or checklist. In fact, there are many more effective and efficient ways to keep your talent happy and engaged. Employee benefits and perks remain a major window for most companies, who aren’t taking full advantage of the appeal of non-monetary profit for most employees.
A recent industry study revealed that 48% of employees would weigh company benefits and perks, including the availability of snacks, in their decision to find their next job. This is also true when working with temporary employees since these perks/benefits will more than likely determine if they stay after the assignment is done.
But what company perks really matter to the employees? If salaries don’t always move the needle forward, what does? The answers might surprise you…
Using data from a recent Glassdoor survey, we’ve compiled a list of the best employee perks and benefits that propose the biggest bang for your buck into the infographic below.
The Top Employee Perks:
- Health Insurance
- Vacation/Paid Time Off
- Performance Bonuses
- Paid Sick Days
- 401(k), Retirement Plan and/or Pension
- Flexible Schedule
- Office Perks
- Employee Development Programs
- Tuition Reimbursement
- Employee Discounts
- Gym Membership or Wellness Programs
- Stock Options and/or Equity
- A Diversity Program
1. Healthcare Insurance
40% of employees across the globe say that they value health insurance more than a pay raise.
The reasons for this are multiple. Of course, until very recently, there was no affordable public health insurance option available, and the only practical way for most Americans to afford insurance was through their employer.
Employer-sponsored coverage is still usually much less expensive than public or private insurance.
But most of all, there is peace of mind that comes with knowing that you and your loved ones are covered in the event of a major accident or illness, as you really can’t put a price tag on that.
There are perks that come with health insurance and benefit the employer's side as well. Companies profit from reduced absenteeism due to illness (thanks to free or nearly-free preventive/medical care), as well as higher engagement due to the fact that employer-sponsored health insurance gives employees a sense that they are cared for and recognized.
2. Vacation / Paid Time Off
It has been said over and over again that time is our most valuable commodity.
Studies have shown that once our basic needs are met, experiences contribute to our long term happiness and contentment much more than material things. And thus most employees value vacation or paid time off over a salary raise.
Many companies have accelerated this idea to its logical extreme and instituted open vacation policies and summer Fridays off.
While it may seem implausible, companies like Netflix and Austin-based Umbel have learned that an unlimited vacation policy can have a wider range of benefits, including more efficient and productive employees.
Don’t be misguided – an unlimited or “open” vacation policy doesn’t mean that employees can take off for six months and still collect a paycheck. Rather, companies that adopt these policies allow employees as much PTO as they need to rejuvenate as long as they meet deadlines and produce results.
Aligning your vacation policy with results rather than basing it on accrual can have a long-lasting effect on your organization’s overall culture.
Moreover, an organization’s open vacation policy signals to the employees that their employer trusts them to keep projects on track and deliver results while being free to take all the time off they need. This trust gives rise to a feeling of mutual respect between the organization and its employees, and the result is a much more balanced and productive workforce.
3. Performance Bonus
As we’ve demonstrated so far in our writings, the effectiveness of monetary incentives (particularly salaries) has its limitations. However, that doesn’t mean that monetary incentives as a whole don’t work.
The key is to connect monetary rewards to the emotions that keep employees motivated and engaged in their work.
Performance bonuses are a fantastic way to do exactly that. By tying the reward to results, performance bonuses give employees a sense of recognition, ownership and control.
It helps to motivate them in their tasks, and gives them a concrete ownership stake in their role. That is, if they perform and hit their goals, they will receive a reward – one that they both earned and deserve. Performance incentives engage and motivate employees and attract qualified new candidates.
4. Paid Sick Days
Similar to Vacation or Paid Time Off, paid sick days give employees back their most precious commodity – their time – while also letting them know that they are cared for and recognized.
An added benefit? It sets the right tone to keep your workplace healthy during cold and flu season.
And that’s a public health threat! The National Partnership for Women and Families states,
“People without paid sick leaves are 1.5 times more likely than those with paid sick days to report going to work with a contagious illness like the flu or a viral infection.”
This issue creates more problems when workers without paid sick leave work in restaurants, stores, and other public places where they interact with lots of people in addition to people in the office. By doing so, contagious employees stay away, and your workplace is much less likely to be decimated by widespread diseases.
And offering sick days isn’t specifically about physical health. Some recent research measured the psychological distress of employees working without paid sick leave experience. The results were astonishing! Workers without paid sick leave felt considerable psychological distress, and that distress hindered their daily lives. Offering sick days might just keep employees well in body and mind.
5. 401(K) Plan, Retirement Plan and/or Pension
Again, for many employees, peace of mind is irreplaceable and precious.
Particularly, those who were working during the financial uncertainty of the Great Recession of the late 2000’s, financial security is a premium benefit.
And as it turns out, most employees have strong feelings about their retirement benefits and plans. Almost 31% of employees who don’t receive retirement benefits from their employers or organizations are thinking about switching jobs.
Many employees find personal finance and financial planning a bit of a headache, and appreciate when their employers help them with their finances and plan for the future. 401(K)s and other retirement plans are suitable, automatic ways to do just that.
Employers can step their savings game up by subsidizing employee savings, either matching or partially-matching the contributions employees invest into their retirements.
6. Flexible Schedule (work from home)
Flexibility is increasingly becoming a desired and cherished perk for the modern employee, who is trying to balance a sea of personal and professional responsibilities, including education and familial responsibilities.
It’s especially relevant for employees with children at home. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, both parents work in almost 60% of the households with children in the U.S.
A flexible schedule – including the ability to work from home – is a necessity for these families, who need to be able to juggle between multiple responsibilities.
Ultimately, a flexible schedule leads to a better quality of life. Employees don’t feel the need to sacrifice their career in order to focus on their family or education – and vice versa. This bestows more long-term value than a salary ever could.
7. Office Perks
As we’ve discussed in this blog so far, work-life balance is a thing of the past. In fact, it’s an intrinsically flawed concept. The term “balance” implies that “work” and “life” are contradicting each other, perpetually at odds.
In our eyes, “work-life integration” is a much more appropriate description.
Increasingly, the expectation – especially from Millennial employees – is that you should be able to be your true self at workplace.
Fraction of this new attitude is the idea that the office should be an enjoyable place to be. That’s where engaging and unique office perks come in.
Why do they matter, you ask? Because when you spend the majority of your time in your workplace, it would be quite nice if that office was, you know… a place you actually want to be.
One of the simplest and easiest perks to provide is good food.
A recent Harvard Business Review study stated that employees “typically consume one or several meals plus snacks during their work hours.” This means that the food options available in the workplace matter a whole lot to the quality of the average office employee’s diet, and by extension, their overall health.
Employees will appreciate the effort and gesture. Companies like Google are famous for offering healthy, gourmet-quality food choices that their employees love. Access to healthy snacks in the office will make for happier, healthier, and more productive employees in the organization.
Focusing on employee health isn’t just a nice gesture, it’s also good for business. Companies who invest in health and wellness actually save money in the long run by curbing healthcare costs and reducing productivity-loss due to illness and ill-health.
This message will also foster loyalty and strengthen the overall employer-employee relationship.
8. Employee Development Plans
Lifetime employment is no longer possible (nor desirable), and that means both companies and their employees ought to engage in a mutually beneficial relationship designed after a “tour of duty” in the military. In fact the relationship is moving away from a transactional model and toward one that’s focused on the growth of both parties in general.
What does this mean, you ask? Well, it implies an acknowledgment that the tenure of the average employee is likely only going to be 3-5 years and that the company is responsible for the personal as well as professional growth of the employee during that time.
Employee Development Plans are a perfect way to reflect this changing dynamic and ensure a mutually enriching and healthy relationship.
In our economy, where job-hopping is the norm, employees need to constantly augment their skillsets, and hence employee development is priceless.
9. Tuition Reimbursement
Tuition costs have exploded the roof, in the last decade. The latest shocking figures by the College Board reveal a 26% increase for tuition and fees for four-year private institutions and a 40% increase for four-year public colleges.
The numbers for graduate and professional programs are just as disheartening, with the average tuition for a Top 20 Business School setting you back with more than $100K in total, and a comparable law school education costing upwards of $50K per annum.
But the actual kicker is the opportunity cost of not working for 2-3 years, which nearly doubles the actual cost that was spent.
The beauty of tuition reimbursement – and why it’s so highly valued by so many employees – is that it reduces both the real and opportunity costs. Employees can simultaneously work and go to school, saving almost doubly in tuition fees and the opportunity costs of being unemployed.
10. Employee Discounts
Depending on your organization’s business, discounted access to your company’s products or services – or “dogfooding” – can be an exhilarating perk for employees.
The term dogfooding comes from the concept that a company with a good product should be able to “eat its own dog food,” and the practice can make employees feel valued and involved.
Many tech-companies choose to beta test their products internally in the organization first, killing two birds with one stone: employees feel included and “in the know,” while product managers gain invaluable feedback as they get their product ready with the final touches, for launch.
Hence, entertainment companies like Discovery Communications hold internal premieres of anticipated programs before they air for the general audience. Again, the effect is to make your entire workforce feel included in the process and to express gratitude for their contribution towards the final product.
11. Gym Membership or Wellness Program
Imagine this: you work in a typical nine-to-five cubicle farm.
You put in a solid 9-10 hours per day at a desk in your demanding, high-stress job. Each day leaves you physically and mentally exhausted. You have a gym membership, but your travel makes it hard to workout in the morning, and by the time you reach home, you are usually too exhausted to fidget.
Sitting for too long at work brings with it a host of negative long term health side-effects, including increased risk of cardiovascular, muscle related issues and cancer, as well as incurable conditions like Type 2 diabetes.
As an employer, the effect of the sedentary demands placed on workers includes increased health care costs and a less productive workforce. But many organizations have found ways to fight this trend.
ORganization 23andMe, go a step further, providing onsite gym and workout space, and motivating their employees to engage in physical activity throughout the day. In addition to offering daily onsite fitness sessions that include yoga, Pilates, and strength training, the organization also makes treadmill desks available for their employees to use.
Integrating daily or weekly or even monthly voluntary exercise activities during work hours signals to employees that their employers care about their physical as well as mental health and wellbeing, and this strategy will actually pay portion in the long run by shaving healthcare costs and keeping employees healthy, proactive and productive.
12. Stock, Stock Options and/or Equity
Similar to performance bonuses, stock options, and equity give employees a real sense of ownership in the success of the business and thus organization as a whole.
This helps cushion the emotional connection between employees and their work that’s so important for creating an engaged workforce.
Employees have a sense that their working life isn’t a mere 9 to 5 transaction, but that they are working to create something bigger than themselves – and that they’ll be eventually rewarded for their success.
Employees with equity experience profits that go beyond just owning equity.
13. Paid Parental Leave
It’s an unuttered fact that career success often comes with tradeoffs and difficult choices. Professional men and women often feel like they have to choose between a demanding career and a rich, happy and contented family life, and delay in starting their families in order to focus more on the former.
Unfortunately, the organization’s gain can be the employee’s loss, as some couples may experience fertility problems as a result of waiting.
These choices often go unacknowledged by employers, but a few smart companies have developed programs that allow efficient work and family lives to coexist.
In a bid to attract more top women, Apple recently made it to the headlines by announcing that it will be providing complimentary egg freezing services for its female employees. And many companies, including Microsoft, Zomato, etc, offer extended maternity and paternity leave that go above and beyond the minimum requirements.
Such paternal benefits send a clear signal to employees that there are more important things in life than work, and investing in them is yet another way to nurture a culture of respect between the employee and employer.
Employees will be less stressed, more loyal, and ultimately more efficient and productive in return.
14. Child Care Assistance
As we’ve already seen, both parents work in the majority of households with children in the United States. This implies that childcare is non-negotiable for millions of workers.
Childcare costs can add up quickly, and anything to reduce the burden will be valuable.
And getting child care assistance from companies may be the only way some families can afford child care and plan to grow their families. In other words, many parents don’t even come close to earning enough to send their children to care.
15. Commuter Assistance
It’s not a secret. Most of us spend way too much time commuting.
Between rideshares, passes for public transportation, or even shuttle buses, there are a number of ways companies in which companies can finance commuting.
All things being equal, an employee will prefer a job with a short commute over a long one, any day.
Commuter assistance can go a long way towards helping them in improving their quality of life and is, therefore, a perk that moves the needle forward when it comes to hiring and retention.
Despite all this, only a little over half of the companies actually offer professional development programs to employees.
Today’s employees (especially the millennial generation) have become accustomed to being catered to, and high-end perks are increasingly expected among employees with the most in-demand skill sets. And while it might seem difficult to keep up with the Joneses, there are simpler ways to create an environment that even the most jaded employees will appreciate – ones that don’t include higher salaries.
Keep in mind that 56% of employees say employee perks and employee benefits are very important when analyzing or evaluating a job. Investing in the right employee perks can help you cultivate the culture your organization needs to succeed and will help your bottom line down the road.