Perks are powerful, but they’re not a magic formula for retention.
This year, Etsy endured public scrutiny after new investors balked at the lavish perks offered at its Brooklyn, N.Y., headquarters.
Along with offering a community loom and crafting classes, the company had also renovated its office for $40 million, which included adding irrigated walls to grow plants. Though these perks might reinforce the cultural values of the organization, investors questioned whether they distracted workers from achieving overall business success.
Etsy’s perks-driven culture is part of a trend toward offering sweeteners to woo talented employees. In recent years, some companies have proudly shown off their go-kart tracks, basketball courts, giant slides, concierge services and on-site acupuncture to make the case that they are a “great place to work.”
However, as companies consider how to entice employees, it’s crucial to avoid racing after trends that initially attract workers but will ultimately fail to retain them. Perks may be alluring at first, but companies must ensure they’re not overlooking the fundamental benefits and perks that most job seekers actually want.
Employees would switch jobs for these benefits and perks
According to Gallup’s recent State of the American Workplace report, employees categorically say they would be willing to leave their current job for one that offers “greater flexibility and financial rewards.”
Gallup research indicates that most organizations offer some level of the benefits that job seekers are looking for, such as health insurance, paid vacation and 401(k) accounts. Nevertheless, employees say they’d leave a job for more cash and flexibility.
This suggests that many employers are underdelivering on perks. You might already have the benefits your employees want—just not at the level they would like.
There are also some benefits and perks that employees are seeking but many companies don’t offer.
Based on Gallup’s research, today’s workers want to be able to work off-site full time (35 percent) or even part time (37 percent), though few employers offer that option. In addition, employees would also prefer financial benefits, such as profit-sharing (40 percent), pensions (51 percent) and monetary bonuses (54 percent). That’s what they’d be willing to change jobs for.
Although there are many reasons why employers are not able to provide these kinds of benefits, there is sometimes a gap between what employers offer and what employees want.
How to evaluate your perks and benefits
Many organizations are thinking about taking more comprehensive care of their employees. In doing so, leaders must consider that workers today are looking for employers that offer a total rewards package—one that supports the lifestyle they want to have today and in the future.
Where should employers begin? There are four essential questions to ask:
1. Do your benefits and perks align with your culture?
Do your workday, your culture and management philosophy dovetail with the perks you offer?
We at Gallup regularly hear from employees who were initially attracted to an organization that offered an array of flashy perks, and yet they ended up rarely having the time or the freedom to use them. Unused pingpong tables, basketball courts and fitness centers serve as a reminder of the life the employee was promised but was unable to access due to a heavy workload.
A better investment of time and money would be to survey employees to understand which benefits and perks are most rewarding, which drive the highest retention rates, and which benefits, if offered, would be warmly received.
2. Do your benefits and perks account for employees’ changing needs?
Life changes affect every part of traditional benefits packages, from child care to health care to retirement programs. To retain exceptional talent, employers must offer a total job package that takes care of employees over their entire career and through different stages of life.
If not, employees may reluctantly leave for a new, more accommodating employer.
3. Do employees know what your perks and benefits are?
Again, employers may offer the desired benefits and perks, but employees are still stating that they would be willing to leave their current position to receive a higher level of the same benefit. Companies should keep taking a pulse on these needs and adjusting when possible.
Gallup has also discovered that, despite available benefits and perks, many employees are unaware of them or do not remember all their company offers. It may be time to reintroduce underused perks to your team or find better ways of sharing information about them. Perhaps a lengthy document is not the best way to communicate different offerings?
Some companies are implementing company apps, videos and surveys that help serve up information based on an employee’s specific needs and interests.
4. Is flexibility part of your total perks and benefits package?
Companies should determine how they offer benefits and perks that allow for autonomy and flexibility in how work gets done. Not all companies or positions can offer the same level of flexibility, but employers must think of employees as busy individuals with rich lives and keen social interests outside of work. Giving talented individuals the freedom to live the life they want ultimately drives better performance.
Keep in mind that flexibility isn’t just about time. Consider other ways people can change their routine and control their day, such as job sharing, casual dress and optional collaborative workspaces.
Retaining world-class talent requires long-term thinking
Most employees do not leave a job for benefits and perks alone. Pay, management and career growth remain the top reasons for leaving a job, but a competitor’s benefits are more attractive when employees are less engaged at work.
Unfortunately, most employees in the U.S. are either not engaged (51 percent) or actively disengaged (16 percent), and nearly 51 percent of employees, regardless of their engagement level, say they are searching for a new job or watching for openings.
The goal for employers should not be to keep up with the hottest trends in job perks. Rather, focus on cultivating and caring for workers in every aspect of life, throughout each phase of their career. A comprehensive, thoughtful selection of benefits and perks should support the attraction, retention, performance—and growth—of exceptional, world-class talent.
Annamarie Mann is Gallup’s employee engagement and well-being practice manager. A version of this article was originally published on Gallup.com and has been reposted with permission.