Employer Branding

What Benefits Do Employees Really Want?

A new trend that’s been hitting the workplace in recent years is extreme employment perks. From in-house yoga classes to free lunch, companies in many industries are going above and beyond when it comes to providing employee incentives.

However, these perks don’t come cheap. Some professionals wonder whether extreme incentives are being provided at the expense of more practical benefits like higher pay, more vacation time and better health insurance. We’ll take a look at what type of benefits employees really want, and how you can make sure you’re providing the best perks for your workplace.

Perks? What perks?

If you’re looking around your office and wondering where the free massages or free gourmet meals are, you’re not alone. Most average businesses don’t offer those kinds of extreme perks. So – where are the perks? Think Silicon Valley. Big companies in tech pioneered extreme employee benefits, and they’ve continued to lead the way in recent years.

Google employees get massages, free childcare and places to nap, while people who work for Scripps Health receive health insurance for their pets. AOL focuses on perks for parents, with services like prenatal classes as well as access to onsite daycare. Workers at Netflix, Best Buy and Evernote get unlimited vacation days. Those employed by Dropbox have Razor scooters to zip around the office more easily, not to mention fresh-squeezed juice, yoga classes and a made-to-order stir-fry bar.

To attract the top talent, a number of companies are also beginning to offer game rooms that include physically and mentally engaging activities. People can take an hour to play foosball, darts, pool, or video games. They can bowl, play ping pong, or start a pickup basketball game. One extreme example? Employees at Quicksilver’s Huntington Beach can take time off during the workday to go surf.

What employees really want

These extreme perks certainly don’t hurt – after all, no one is going to say no to free lunch. But are they what employees really want?

According to Entrepreneur, employees really value more basic perks. They want great medical insurance, including dental and vision plans. They want generous life insurance and retirement policies. Paid vacation time, sick time, and flexible scheduling are also important benefits.

What else do employees want? Opportunities for professional development and continuing education. Salary raises and bonuses. More vacation days, and discounts on products and services.

While most workers won’t turn down a free trip to a fabulous ski resort or lunch from a gourmet restaurant, employee surveys report that these over-the-top perks aren’t the reason people show up to work. A 2014 Mercer survey reports that employees attach the most importance to extra time off and fatter paychecks. Adding money into retirement accounts and decreasing healthcare costs also made the top of the list. Less important? Gym memberships, financial planning assistance and tuition reimbursement.

What you can do

Companies use perks to keep morale high and employee turnover low. Elaborate benefits also impress top potential applicants, as well as help companies appeal to a larger pool of job seekers. The key? Making sure you’re providing the benefits that your employees want – not what you think they’ll want.

Think of your unique workforce and what they value. Do you employ a lot of working parents? They’ll likely value childcare, paid time off and other related benefits. Young people, on the other hand, may be more attracted to “fun” benefits like exercise classes or games.

The only way to tell what your employees really want? Ask. Before implementing a new benefit or perk, poll your employees on what they want. That way, you know you’re spending your money on things your employees really value. They’ll be happier – and you may even find yourself saving money.

Have you ever worked at a company with extreme benefits? What benefits and perks do you value most?

Author: Abby Perkins is Managing Editor at Talent Tribune, a blog dedicated to all things HR.

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