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Attracting employees to work at your business is about much more than just offering them a dollar amount and a job description. Especially in today’s competitive hiring marketplace, you need to offer more than just the basics to attract the top performers in your industry to work for you. One of the best ways to attract and retain those valued employees and motivate them to do their best for your business every day? It’s employee perks - they can help your company win! Let’s explore the kinds of employee perks you should consider offering, why perks work, and everything else you need to know.

What are Employee Needs and Expectations at work?

Hiring, retaining, and motivating employees is one of the most important things your business can do to succeed. That’s because your employees are your greatest asset. Keeping them satisfied at work helps them stay engaged in their roles and prevents too much expensive turnover from happening. But what makes employees satisfied at work? Sure, a competitive salary is very important - you won’t even get an employee in the door without that.

But there are other needs employees have as well. When those needs are fulfilled, and employees feel valued and secure, they’re freer to focus on doing great work for you. That’s where employee perks come in. They offer a way to let employees know that you notice and care about their needs and desires - and that can make a big difference in your workplace.

What are Employee Perks and Benefits at Work?

Employee perks are benefits and extras that your business offers to your workers. You can offer them perks that improve their quality of life, ensure their needs are cared for, or just brings happiness and joy. The most common companies perks and benefits today, according to research by Robert Half, include:

  • Health insurance
  • Paid time off
  • Dental insurance
  • Retirement savings plans
  • Life and AD&D insurance
  • Flexible work schedules
  • Remote work options
  • Paid parental leave
  • Employee discounts
  • Time off for volunteering

There are many more potential perks out there - as the workplace culture of extensive perks spread from Silicon Valley startups out to the rest of the world, companies have increasingly started competing by offering lots of perks to employees.

Why are Employee Perks Important?

What all these kinds of perks have in common is that they make employees feel valued and appreciated. Many of these perks save employees time by allowing them to work when, and where, they prefer. Perks like parental leave can allow them to spend precious time with their families without sacrificing their careers. And helping employees pay for health insurance and save for retirement shows you care about their all-around well-being, inside and outside of the office.

And employees have increasingly come to expect that their employers provide these perks and benefits. A U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation study found that "more than half of millennials (56%) agreed that a quality benefits package influences their choice of employers, and 63% say that benefits are an important reason for staying with an employer."

If you’re not offering rewards & incentives at the same level as your competitors or other businesses in your area, you’re going to find it’s much more difficult to hire the best employees. Why would they work for you if they get a better all-around option somewhere else? And again, it’s not just about the perks themselves - it’s the message sent when you offer (or don’t offer) them. Employees want to feel valued, and perks are a great way to say you care about them.

Employees also want to be treated today like they’re people, not just cogs in a big corporate machine. Acknowledging and supporting their lives outside of work, and helping them to balance work with their family life, personal time, and health, helps them feel like they’re whole people to their employers instead of just faceless workers.

Best Employee Benefits and Perks at work

So with the importance of offering perks in mind, which ones are right for your employees? It’s not reasonable to offer them everything (unless you’re Google or Goldman Sachs), but there are a few perks that employees tend to value most. Of course, don’t be afraid to personalize your perks and benefits offering to your employee base - SHRM notes this as a top trend for perks in 2020 - but starting from these basic and much-appreciated top five perks will start you off right.

1. Flexible Work Arrangements

Employees are looking to balance work and life, especially the millennial generation. And with long commute times and little time at home, this can be challenging. Offering flexible work schedules so employees have control and autonomy in when they work, and sometimes where they work from, is highly valued. And it lets them contribute when they’re most productive, and allow more freedom in their days to get things done.

2. Paid Parental Leave

Most of your employees will likely become parents at some point or another, and they will still want to maintain their careers while also spending time with their families. Balancing all of this for new parents is very challenging and can lead to a lot of stress for employees. Helping them to take the time they need to bond with their new arrivals while still keeping their career on track is a perk that helps retain both current and potential parents.

3. Wellness Programs or Gym Memberships

This perk is especially popular with the millennial generation, who love to maintain their health and wellness. In today’s very busy workplace, it can be hard for employees to keep their health up and remain active when they’re working long hours at a desk. Discounts on gym memberships or in-office wellness programs (or both) can help support employees who want to stay healthy while working hard.

4. Learning and Development Opportunities

If you’ve hired the right people, they’re going to be thirsty to improve and expand their skills so they can keep excelling at their jobs. Helping them achieve this is beneficial for them because they feel valued when you invest in their career development and skills. But it’s also a win-win because having highly-skilled employees who are staying on top of trends in your industry can help your company win too.

5. Time Off for Volunteering

This perk is becoming more common as companies seek to help their employees give back to their communities. For example, Fidelity Investments has a program called Fidelity Cares® where all employees get a day off to join a service project in their communities together. It helps build connections between teams, as well as provides much-needed services and attention for causes in the areas where Fidelity has offices. As more and more workers seek to work for companies that do good instead of just making money, providing time off for volunteering is a great way to show that your organization truly cares.

Winning the Workplace Culture Wars With Empuls by Xoxoday

The workplace culture has changed pretty significantly in the past decade. Employees are looking for much more than just a paycheck from their jobs - they have seen the perks offered by Silicon Valley firms take root at all kinds of businesses. And they increasingly want access to at least some of those perks themselves.

And in today’s highly competitive hiring environment, you can’t afford to be left behind by offering few or no perks - or offering the wrong ones. Investing in the right employee perks for your business means finding out what your employees truly value and building your perks and rewards around that.

How can you find out what perks and benefits your employees want? Surveys are always a great choice for gathering opinions from all levels of employees at your company. You can run quick pulse surveys from Empuls by Xoxoday that will give you insight into employee priorities and needs, and use the extensive data and KPIs generated from those responses to make informed smart decisions.

For example, offering parental leave options if your employee base is over the typical child-bearing age is not going to make much of an impact. You should do your research before you start expensive and extensive programs. And when you do offer the perks your employees truly care about, they will be delighted and much more likely to stay at your company for the long term.‍

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Kathleen O'Donnell

Kathleen O'Donnell LinkedIn

Kathleen is a freelance writer and employee communications and culture expert, with 6+ years of experience in corporate internal communications.