The landscape of company benefits has evolved dramatically over the past few decades. Benefits that once served as a competitive advantage for attracting talent are now common practice. Workers are expecting more – but it’s not ping pong tables and draft beer they’re after.
Corporate perks by brands such as Google and Facebook have been effective at revolutionizing how we look at workplace dynamics. However, open dog policies and free-flowing snacks are not the main reason someone chooses to stay with a company. In fact, 60% of millennials are predicted to leave their company by the year 2020 (Deloitte, 2017). What your organization does today will impact whether or not that projection will come to fruition for your workforce.
The corporate perks highly sought after by today’s workforce all deal with each employee as an individual. They want to feel like their hobbies are accepted, their values are integrated, and their goals supported within the company they work for. They expect employers to care about and invest in their well-being – which accounts for physical and mental health – to enable them to be the best they can be in their roles.
Some companies may be surprised to learn that it doesn’t require a Fortune 500-sized budget to meet these demands. And more often, the benefits are well worth the cost. When it comes to company perks, here’s what the modern worker truly cares about.
1. Perks that relieve stress
According to a 2014 MindBodyGreen survey, 95% of millennials are becoming more focused on managing or minimizing stress. And 99% of the respondents agree with the statement that “more and more, I’m trying to find balance in my life”. From household chores to raising children, stress is a real problem for today’s worker. That’s why a number of forward-thinking companies have implemented corporate perks to help relieve some of that pressure.
Genentech, a biotech company headquartered in San Francisco, offers their employees onsite services such as a childcare center, haircuts, car washes and even a mobile spa. Johnson & Johnson employees have access to a concierge service to help them run errands while they work. And JibJab Media provides their team members with a weekly laundry service.
Flexibility is a big part of work-life balance. Removing the need to commute is a significant stress reliever as it saves employees both time and money. Coupled with the fact that people are being forced into “extreme commute” situations, you can clearly see how people are exhausted before they even get to work. The simple solution is giving employees the option to work from home.
According to a study at Stanford, employees who work remotely are shown to be 13% more productive than in-office counterparts due to the convenience and noise control afforded by working from home. The same study found remote employees’ had an overall improved level of work satisfaction. Not to mention, the extensive benefits for employers who no longer have to pay for office spaces and supplies, in addition to access to worldwide talent.
But relieving stress isn’t always about getting help with chores and avoiding commutes. It’s about engaging in activities we love. And the following companies recognize that. Basecamp, a Chicago-based web app company, pays for their employees’ hobbies. Basecamp also pays for their employees’ vacation travel expenses. REI gives $300 product stipends to workers for outdoor activities. Medallia in San Mateo, CA offers funding to encourage their people to participate in activities that overcomes a fear.
Supporting your employees’ pursuit for fun and leisure (whether it be by removing the burden of errands, or by directly paying for hobbies) allows them to enjoy their time off work to the fullest. As a result, they return to work energized, happy and ready to perform at their best for a company that they feel cares about them.
2. Perks that offer experiences over things
64% of millennials say they care about company perks and benefits (LinkedIn, 2016). However, the perks they care about aren’t necessarily catered lunches or the latest Macbooks. In a poll conducted by Fast Company, 70% of directors and managers say their employees care more about experiences than things, or at the least a mixture of the two.
Law firm Quinn Emanuel is among the companies providing meaningful perks to their employees. Every year, they offer associates $2,000 to work anywhere they’d like for a week. Another company is World Wildlife Fund – who gives their employees every other Friday off to spend outdoors with their family.
Burton (headquartered in Burlington, VT) employees get the day off to hit the slopes each time two feet of snow falls within 24 hours. Meanwhile, Pandora employees enjoy free in-office concerts and New Belgium Brewing Company team members, who’ve been employed for five years, get to vacation in Belgium for a week.
Today’s workforce seeks jobs that are not just the typical 9 to 5. They want their roles to have meaning, to give them purpose and enable them to make a difference in the world. And that’s where experiential work-supported events come into play. Nearly half of millennials say they would take a 15% pay cut in a job where they could have social or environmental impact (MindBodyGreen, 2014). This level of passion drives optimal creativity and innovation. Google has proven this to be true through their passion projects – where 20% of an employee’s time is spent on projects they care about – which fueled successful products such as Gmail and Adsense.
77% of millennials say some of their best memories occurred during an event or live experience; and 69% believe participating in a live experience or event makes them more connected to other people (Eventbrite, 2014). To attract and retain top talent, this is the type of information employers need to cater to in their benefits and perks packages. Mixing professional and personal lives isn’t always a bad thing. Especially if organizations aim to understand what workers care about and offer services to make them feel supported.
3. Perks that prioritize learning
A lifelong learner should be every company’s dream employee. These employees are highly resourceful, autonomous, and productive problem solvers. They continually strive to grow and expand their skills and knowledge repertoire. So how do you attract, retain, foster and support lifelong learners in your organization? By helping them learn, of course.
Tuition worries is a phenomenon that occurs across all income levels. A 2014 Gallup survey found that professionals ages 18 - 49 report education costs as their top financial problem. Companies like Starbucks address this issue by offering their workers tuition reimbursement that covers an online bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University.
For those whose college education is behind them, student debt is still an area of great concern. In 2016, the average student’s loan debt was over $37,000 (Make Lemonade, 2017). This makes it no surprise that around 80% of millennials have a desire to work for a company that assists with loan repayment (Iontuition, 2015). This message has been received by companies like CommonBond who offer employees up to $1,200 a year to repay student loans.
When it comes to the learning needs of today’s workers, it doesn’t stop at formal education. They’re looking for companies who are willing to invest in their future. For example, food services management company Sodexo offers three types of mentorship programs. Each program varies in how it partners workers with others in the companies from peers to seasoned managers. Other companies such as retail leader Bonobos, invests in extensive training programs that focus on performance management and customer experience.
Some companies support the notion that learning could and should also occur outside the workplace, particularly through meaningful experiences. Deloitte offers two sabbatical programs that employees can take advantage of for personal or professional growth, while getting paid up to 40% of their salary. Other companies have this belief as well. The shoe company Timberland gives its employees 40 hours a year off to spend volunteering, while Premier Staffing is double in its community service allowance.
Helping your people learn goes a long way when it comes to boosting performance and productivity. The takeaways employees gather from these experiences can be applied to their work, whether directly or indirectly. Repaying student loans can help to create more clear-minded workers who are not distracted by the pressures of being in debt. Funding travel and volunteering trips aid in developing employees who are more compassionate and empathetic. These positive outcomes are not only personal, they result in workers who are more efficient, better problem solvers and great teammates.
4. Perks that align with company values
How you treat your employees speaks volumes to your company values. To this point, the type of corporate perks you employ will determine the type of talent you attract. When considering a job, culture and values are the number one thing millennials want to know about your company (LinkedIn, 2016). To understand how your brand is being perceived by both candidates and employees, it’s important to reflect on how your perks align with company values.
An arcade in the office, for example, may mean very little to the average worker. However, for a game company like Zynga, it makes perfect sense. Other companies whose perks align with their values include Airbnb, who provides employees with a $2,000 travel credit each year. Or Discovery whose employees benefit from all expenses paid creativity courses such as dance, improv, and chocolate-making.
Company values should also align with overall work culture and dynamics. For example, if candor is important to your organization, you should establish a system of ongoing check-ins between employees and their managers, encourage constructive feedback, and reward transparency. Perks aren’t just about fun and games. Be purposeful about which perks you choose and mindful of what it says about your company.
5. Perks that promote healthy living
Employees perform their best when the basic needs of their lives are met. Health is at the core of those needs. According to a 2015 Glassdoor survey, 40% of employees value health insurance more than a pay raise. Investments in employee health are also smart business decisions because they benefit the company as a whole. For every $1 a company spends on “wellness” programs, there is a $24 return (NCSF).
To see this statistic in action, take a look at Johnson & Johnson. Their comprehensive wellness programs that invest in employees’ physical, mental and social health have rendered profound results. Among smokers that make up their employee base, two-third have quit smoking; and those with high blood pressure have decreased their blood pressure by more than half. These employee health improvements have translated to $250 million saved on health care costs from 2002 to 2008 (Harvard Business Review, 2015).
The Johnson & Johnson case is not an isolated incident. A study of 185 workers at a company found that over $1,421 was saved per participant after they participated in a six-month cardiac rehabilitation and exercise training program. At MD Anderson Cancer Center, implementing a workers’ compensation and injury care unit reduced the number of lost work days by 80%, saving the organization $1.5 million over six years.
There are also indirect benefits from wellness programs. Company wellness programs help to foster social connections, inclusion and trust between employees. Considering 80% of employees reported working alone due to hostile work environments in 2015, anything companies can do to promote a positive work culture can fuel collaboration and productivity (Faas Foundation, 2015).
There is a long list of companies who have made the business-savvy decision to care for their employees’ well-being. Shoe company Reebok offers employees an onsite gym with free crossfit classes. Facebook provides interns with healthcare and housing. Microsoft employees have access to a $800 fitness stipend. Clif Bar employees get $500 to purchase a bike and race fee reimbursements up to $350. In some companies, health coverage extends to furry family members as well – like in the case of Scripps Health who offers health insurance for employee pets.
Adopting Perks in Your Organization
As you move forward with rethinking or establishing a new corporate perks policy, there are a number of things you can do to ensure the benefits are right for your employees. Adopting perks your team will actually appreciate and glean value from requires time, patience and a lot of listening. This means sending out feedback surveys to gauge employee needs, planning and participating in team lunches and events, and making yourself accessible to field ideas, concerns and questions.
Once you’ve established the scope of the perks, make it known to both your employees and the public. Highlight the benefits on your website, promote it on social media accounts and make sure all prospective candidates and employees are aware of the offerings. Investing in your employees is a great thing – so don’t be shy about publicizing it. Especially if doing so will help you attract top talent to your organization.
The next step is an obvious one, but one that must be said. Follow through on your promises. Creating and advertising corporate perks means very little unless employees can actually benefit from them. There’s nothing worst than an employer who promises one work culture, and gives you another. It’s also important to be aware of the indirect ways corporate perks may start to feel empty to employees. For example, offering an unlimited vacation policy but promoting a culture that discourages taking time off. Employees will catch on and the outcome will be counterproductive.
Some of the most successful companies in history are those who take the time to get to know their employees and create a culture that supports them in a meaningful way. To many, corporate perks may sound like frivolous bells and whistles, but it goes much further for companies who do it right.
That’s why now more than ever candidates are prioritizing work culture when deciding on their next employer. They’re doing research and reading articles such as Inc.’s “50 Best Workplaces” – and for good reason. These are the companies who offer perks such as the ability to telecommute, childcare services, educational opportunities, and more – perks that truly matter. Because of this, they are also the companies who get the best and brightest from today’s workforce.