Employees like the opportunity to engage with co-workers.

Trendy employee perks like alcohol are less desirable than other extras. (Photo by U3144362, from Wikimedia Commons.)

When It Comes to Employee Perks, Trendy Is Out.

What kind of employee perks are you offering?
A study from Oregon State University, cited in HR Dive, has found that at least one trendy workplace “extra” probably isn’t doing recruiters much good: Companies that tout in-office happy hours and other opportunities to drink alcohol can turn off certain job candidates.
And those candidates who are fine having drinks on the company tab don’t care enough for it to make a real difference in whether they take the job. So unless there’s good reason for drinking to be a significant part of your corporate culture, there’s little benefit to plugging alcohol among your employee perks.
In fact, research in general has shown that most job candidates aren’t interested in flashy, hip, or faddish employee perks. The savviest candidates — in other words, the ones you may well want working for you — see through the hype. Wellness programs, another fashionable perk, are often more popular with employers than with the employees who are supposed to take advantage of them, another HR Dive post notes. The post suggests that customization — finding ways to mold perks more closely to employees’ individual needs — is key.
Indeed, what both current workers and job candidates want are employee perks that demonstrate an employer’s appreciation for them. As we’ve mentioned, appreciation is about seeing people as individuals and treating them as more than just their job titles. Really, your whole hiring process should be designed to show appreciation for candidates, HR Dive points out:

If a recruitment process lacks personal interaction, applicants may assume that, once hired, they’ll be just another cog in the wheel. And that’s not a great impression to give if you’re looking for employees who can stand out.

And the employee perks you offer should be in line with that philosophy, as well. Rather than trendy, your perks should be aimed at recognizing that employees have a larger life beyond the time they spend working for you.

The Most Appealing Perks Go Beyond Work

What workers want are employee perks that help with life balance.

Caregiver leave and flex-time are what workers really want.

So what employee perks will resonate with job candidates? In February, CIO looked into the perks that rated highest with always-in-demand tech workers. Massages and even dogs in the office failed to make the list.
Instead, employees put telecommuting, or the ability to work remotely, high on their lists. CIO cited some striking research:

Some 36 percent of respondents say they’d take a 10 percent pay cut to be able to work from home at least half the time. Another 17 percent would give up 11-20 percent of their income, while 10 percent are willing to take drastic cuts of 21 percent or more to be able to work elsewhere.

Another desirable employee perk is caregiver leave, which men are seeking more often than ever before:

“It’s incredibly common in today’s workforce that employees have to take time to care for their relatives and/or parents — even elderly friends. And those employees’ careers have been impacted negatively,” says Rob Deubell, vice president of TruSense. “Women have historically done the bulk of this type of caretaking and have been more negatively impacted, but we see the gender roles start to change and shift as we look at the generations. What we also have to consider, and why this type of leave is so important, is that the average amount of time spent doing this kind of caretaking is 20 hours a week. And that’s not counting time spent caring for children, which doubles the demands,” he says.
Offering time specifically to meet caregiving demands other than for children is going to become an imperative, Deubell says, as the number of people over 55 grows.
Companies offering this type of leave benefit can expect to fill available roles 23.5 days faster than those that don’t, according to Textio’s analysis.

Family leave and adoption leave made the list, too, along with performance-based incentives and an on-site gym (perhaps the one wellness perk with a clear material draw).
A 2017 Harvard Business Review article had similar findings — after better health insurance, what most job candidates and employees wanted were perks that gave them greater flexibility and better work-life balance. Again, this seems to come down to wanting more time for the things that matter outside of work:

A majority of respondents reported that flexible hours, more vacation time, more work-from-home options, and unlimited vacation time could help give a lower-paying job an edge over a high-paying job with fewer benefits. Furthermore, flexibility and work-life balance are of utmost importance to a large segment of the workforce: parents. They value flexible hours and work-life balance above salary and health insurance in a potential job, according to a recent survey by FlexJobs.

A Forbes post by job coach Ashley Stahl from 2016 makes the same case, and notes that employers have good reason to offer the kind of employee perks that will keep their workforces recharged and ready to serve:

There are only so many hours in the day, and the more time that an employer demands of its employees, the less time the employee has available to spend pursuing their own interests and hobbies or with family and friends. And those extra hours aren’t necessarily worth all that much to the employer anyway, yet it causes the employee to build resentment and risks burning them out. Employers should ensure they are enabling—or at the very least, not preventing— employers from having rewarding and fulfilling lives outside of the workplace.

In short, it’s not complicated: Job candidates aren’t looking for something exciting or fancy from you. What they really want to know is that you see them as full, dynamic people who have cares and hopes and dreams outside of work — and if they work hard for you, that your employee perks will reflect their needs.
And of course, if you’re looking for other ways to show your appreciation for employees, checkout our free resource, “The Ultimate Guide to Employee Gift-Giving,” today!

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