Benefits

5 Steps to Help Keep Perks & Benefits Fresh and Employees Happy

Maximizing benefits

Dr. John Sullivan’s recent TLNT posts about Facebook that included a discussion of their fabulous perks were pretty impressive:

  • An extended six-week boot camp onboarding with the employee’s choice of a job at the end;
  • Internal job transfers chosen by the employee at end of one year;
  • Free food;
  • Happy Hour every Friday;
  • 21 PTO days and unlimited sick time;
  • A reward (allowance) for living close to work.

The problem with perks

Typically the companies that offer these creative perks are young and filled with young employees. Many are high tech and their profits are sky-rocketing. They grow rapidly, and there is nothing but blue skies and happy days ahead.

Friday beer bashes and free food have become commonplace, so many companies continue to try and differentiate themselves by offering more creative goodies. Being competitive is not enough — they really want to stand out in the market.

The problem lurking in the shadows, though, is how to keep perks exciting and motivating while competing with the company down the street that offers even more tantalizing ones.

When first offered, perks are met with great excitement, but over time they’re taken for granted. They’re no longer special. They aren’t perks anymore … they’re benefits that are owed. They’re:

  • Taken for granted;
  • Everyone gets them;
  • People get them just for showing up;
  • Have been in place for a long time;
  • Are just like those offered by every other company

How to keep things fresh

Here’s another problem with perks: When a company suffers a bad time financially, some of these perks may be cut. The bottom falls out. Revenues drop, profit dwindles, the stock plunges, shareholders get grouchy — and financial measures may have to be taken. The CFO gets his hatchet out and starts to chop.

Perks cost money. Although employees may not find them exciting anymore, they have come to expect them. If you drop them, what effect will that have on engagement and retention?

What’s a company to do?

Here is a process that might work:

  1. Keep perks “fresh” by replacing them, for example, every year or two. By the time employees get used to them, they change.
  2. Get employee input on what perks they value most. Have them provide a laundry list.
  3. Have management assess the viability and cost of each. For example, having an on-site swimming pool might be on the list, but it would be costly and zoning regulations might not allow it.
  4. Every year or two, the viability and cost list mentioned in No. 3 is revisited by employees and revised. New perks are selected and take the place of the old ones.
  5. In tough financial times, let employees decide which perks can be eliminated. Let them put the perks in rank order and, depending on the amount of money that needs to be cut, remove the last 3, 4, etc. that are listed.

Helping to keep employees engaged

This process hopefully would accomplish two things:

  • It would keep perks fresh and exciting in the employees’ eyes; and,
  • Employees would be involved in the process.

I think going through this would create a positive experience for employees. The more a company can get it’s employees’ input on what perks they value most, and the happier employees are, the less it will have to worry that employees will walk down the street to another employer.

Granted, perks are certainly not everything that keeps employees engaged and committed. Perks are not even in the top five.

But with all the items on HR’s “need to worry about” list, this is one you might possibly be able to check off.

Jacque Vilet, President of Vilet International, has over 20 years’ experience in International Human Resources with major multinationals such as Intel, National Semiconductor and Seagate Technology. She has managed both local/ in-country national and expatriate programs and has been an expat twice during her career. Jacque has also been a speaker in the U.S., Asia and Europe, and is a regular contributor to various HR and talent management publications. Contact her at jvilet@viletinternational.com.
  • Piers Bishop

    Whatever you do to keep the perks fresh, there are some more important things you can do in workplace to keep the staff onside. They relate to more fundamental factors, which may be why perks don’t appear in the top five things that keep employees engaged.

    Some of them aren’t discussed in our culture, and we’re not normally even conscious of others, so they go unnoticed, for good or bad. If you get these right, though, work itself becomes a perk, something that is self-motivating and sustaining. People go to work because they want to, to do their best for company, customers and colleagues.

    If you ever worked in a job you loved, that you hoped would go on forever, it will have had many of these factors in place – probably by accident. Work environments and routines that are designed with innate motivation in mind are the places where people turn up on time, take fewer sick days, treat each other and the customers well, and put in their best efforts because they want to.

    Since Daniel Pink put an end to the assumption that motivation equals money, we need something else to get people excited about work – understanding human needs is ever such a good place to start.

    Piers Bishop
    http://www.performancereviewpro.com