Pet insurance? A never ending flow of gourmet snacks? Free financial advice? Lucrative companies such as Google and Facebook are well known for providing staff with enviable perks and employee benefits that are sometimes eyebrow raising. Music streaming company Spotify even reportedly offers to cover the cost of egg freezing and fertility assistance for employees, which can cost more than $10,000.
So are there benefits in offering brow percolating perks to retain staff?
Loss of staff means loss of their knowledge base, potential damage to client relationships, and an inevitable stretching thin of resources while new staff are being sought, which often leads to even more employees jumping ship.
In a Capita Insight report, 69% of respondents said they’d be more likely to stay with an employer that offered good benefits.
But what kind of employee benefits are we talking about here?
$1 coffee pods for the Nespresso machine may have your work experience student exclaiming at their good luck, but for the most part, use of a pod machine isn’t going to stop an employee leaving if they aren’t happy in their role.
1. Tailored employee benefits
Appealing employee benefits need to be tailored to the needs of your employee.
In fact, 59% of Australians surveyed described flexible working arrangements, and the ability to work from home, as the most appealing benefit they could be offered — according to data collected by Survey Sampling International on behalf of Seek. Incidentally, health and wellbeing programs, and free food were ranked the least appealing to Aussie employees, at 14% and 12% respectively.
A one-size fits all approach is not compatible with the diversified working environment of today. Whether for part-time students, dual-parent working families, commuters from outer suburbs — the flexibility to fulfil the individual needs of your employee can help to retain staff in unexpected ways.
For example, CNN tech reported, “Longer maternity leaves can help companies retain female employees. After it bumped its maternity leave from 12 weeks to 18 weeks, Google said new mothers were leaving the company at half the rate they did previously.”
In a report commissioned by Davidson Asset Management (DAM) in the UK, 82% of employees surveyed said they believe employee benefits packages should change as their personal priorities do.
In the same report, younger staff interviewed were more likely to rate benefits such as childcare, while older employees were more likely to value private medical insurance and superannuation.
A good benefit needs to be adaptable: tailored to fit like a nice suit, and able to be adjusted over the years, to keep up with the changing needs of staff.
2. A good office culture is an employee benefit in itself
Culture in the workplace is a less tangible, quantifiable aspect of employee benefits than sick leave or superannuation, but it’s equally as important. Employees benefit from being in a safe, comfortable, purpose-driven environment where they feel valued. And the company benefits too — CultureIQ describes a good workplace culture as “your biggest tool in preventing turnover”.
“You have to build a great culture,” according to Christopher Nassetta, CEO of Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Inc. (a top 100 company in Glassdoor’s annual rankings of the best places to work).
In an interview with Glassdoor, Nassetta explained: “You can have the greatest strategy in the world, but without the culture to support it, you can’t get the job done.”
Office culture grows on personal relationships, which is one reason why the Friday afternoon beer has long been an institution in Australian workplaces. It’s a chance for staff to relax a little, and get to know their co-workers. Making an employee feel connected and valued at work creates a loyalty that goes much deeper than just free beer.
It might not be detailed in the job offer, but personal time and attention from management or supervisors is also an important workplace provision. Little things like celebrating employee achievements, enquiring after their family, or even making team pet photo calendars, helps staff form connections, and may just stop an employee from storming out the door.
4. Lose the fine print
“A strong, relevant and well-communicated employee benefits package not only helps employers make sure they get the pick of employees at recruitment, but can also help them retain happy, engaged and committed workers.” (Italics ours) — that’s according to Unum Group, an insurance company who provides employee benefits for a third of Fortune 500 companies worldwide.
Communication is key. There’s not much point in having flexible benefits, and appealing perks to lure and retain staff if they aren’t aware of what’s available to them.
87% of employees interviewed by DAM (mentioned earlier) responded that they believe it is the employer’s responsibility to explain how they can get the most from their employee benefits package.
Commenting on this outcome, Zuleika Fennell — chief operating officer at hospitality group Corbin & King — explained there is often a lot of confusion around benefits, with money seeming more tangible to many employees. She explained it’s up to management and HR to “educate employees on this journey”.
While locking down vehicle bonuses and child care reimbursements are tangible, immediate returns, Fennell explains: “[Staff] need benefits in terms of looking after their financial future and security, particularly for those with families. They live hand to mouth and need to think more about the future.”
Flexible, tailored employee benefits that are clearly communicated, and that contribute to a healthy office culture will help to prevent rapid staff turnover and be ultimately beneficial for management and staff alike.
And if there are free muffins and coffee pods in the break room it surely won’t hurt.