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Feb 13, 2015

As someone who worked in the San Francisco Bay Area during the dotcom boom, take it from me — employees LOVE perks.

Silicon Valley figured out a long time ago that all the things companies do for employees above and beyond a paycheck can be both a great lure for new talent, but also a great way to retain those you already have in the fold.

Of course, most companies in America don’t offer the kind of perks that Silicon Valley tech firms do, but as some recent research found, that doesn’t mean that those additional benefits above what you pay people aren’t a great tool for attracting (and keeping) top talent.

Perks are “now an important consideration”

Technology Advice just came out with the results of a new survey — titled How Much Do Perks Matter? — and it helped to quantify just how important those extra benefits that companies give really are. Here’s how the Executive Summary of the report put it:

Perks are now an important consideration for employees when evaluating a position. This is especially true for younger respondents, who seem to view perks as more important, and were more likely to prefer perks in place of a standard salary increase.

Overall, companies have ample opportunity to improve their employee incentives. Over a quarter (28.4 percent) of employees surveyed reported that they did not receive any of the perks mentioned in this study. In many cases, employees would be willing to trade a salary increase for highly desired perks. …

If companies can align their perks with employee preferences, they can increase retention and gain an upper hand in recruiting new talent. However, if companies are not going beyond the standard job offer package in order to give candidates and employees what they want, they could be losing out on top talent.”

Key findings from the survey

So, just what did this survey find out about how perks impact a workforce? Here are the key points:TechnologyAdvice Workplace Perks Infographic

  • 56 percent of employees said they would trade a standard salary increase for certain perks.
  • 56.4 percent of respondents said employee perks were very or moderately important when evaluating a job opportunity.
  • Just 9.8 percent of respondents said perks are not at all important when evaluating a job.
  • Flex time or remote work opportunities was the most requested perk, and 31.8 percent of employees said they wished their organization offered this. The other most wanted perks were —
    • Free gym memberships (24.1 percent);
    • Free food or catered lunches (19.4 percent).
  • Nearly six out of 10 respondents (59.7 percent) would prefer to receive a cash bonus for a successful project or business quarter.
  • One in five (21.7 percent) would prefer additional paid time off.

What perks workers have now

I was also interested in the data that focused on the perks and benefits that employees currently enjoy on the job because there are a few surprises. According to the How Much Do Perks Matter? report, here are the perks that workers say they currently have access to:

  • Casual dress code — 46.7 percent;
  • Flex time/remote work — 34.6 percent;
  • Mentoring or development programs — 20.2 percent;
  • Free food or catered lunches — 12.6 percent;
  • Free gym membership — 11.3 percent
  • Recreational games (like ping-pong) — 8.4 percent; and,
  • None of the above — 28.4 percent.

What jumped out at me here is that despite all the talk about the huge growth in alternative working relationships such as flex-time and remote work, two-thirds of workers don’t have the ability to take advantage of that and are presumably working in a traditional office environment. Given all the focus on this, I would have expected the percentage of employees working in less traditional ways to be higher.

Better incentives “can help companies win top talent”

I was also surprised at the notion that mentoring and employee development programs are perceived by respondents to be a “perk” rather than just a good business practice. The fact that only 20 percent of people say they have access to that speaks volumes about the terrible state of talent development in America today — and lack of investment by American business.

This is terribly short-sighted and on a par with the paltry increases we’ve seen in employee pay despite record corporate profits.

Lastly, the paltry number for free gym memberships (11 percent) is a good indication that for all the talk about wellness in the workplace, it still remains an afterthought at best and is not something most companies are doing much about. That should make the EEOC very happy.

Workplace perks are still one of those issues that divide executives and HR leaders. Although some understand the value and want to use such perks as a tool to attract and retain better talent, many others view them as a costly incentive and want to get away with offering as few as possible to simply get by.

The conclusion to How Much Do Perks Matter? addresses this issue, and it is something ALL talent managers need to remember:

Offering better incentives than your competitor can help companies win top talent. However, companies won’t reduce turnover unless they pinpoint the right perks. Most people spend a substantial portion of their lives working, so the quality of their workplace experience is bound to be reflected in the quality of their lives. By offering employees the right perks, companies can increase their worker’s productivity, and win the war for talent.”

Can your boss make you get vaccinated?

The survey was conducted over the Internet by TechnologyAdvice Research between Jan. 20-23, 2015. A total of 486 adults between the ages of 25 and 54, who reported working in an office, were surveyed. They were asked about their current experience with perks, how important such benefits were, as well as what perks they would prefer to receive. Where necessary, results are weighted to be as representative as possible of the U.S. Internet population.

Of course, there’s more than just a survey about employees perks in the news this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • How remote workers get the worst of both worlds. Fast Company zeros in on a growing problem for remote workers. They write that, “People who work remotely full-time fall into a frustrating gap: They’re more likely to log more productive hours than their in-office colleagues, yet they have to work harder than the rest to prove themselves for promotions and recognition.”
  • Can your boss really make you get vaccinated? Measles seem to be running rampant in the U.S. (if you believe media reports), and The Wall Street Journal’s At Work blog raises a good point — can your company require you to get vaccinated? “Vaccinations are an area where employers must tread lightly, said Veena Iyer, an employment attorney with Minneapolis-based law firm Nilan Johnson Lewis PA. Because of federal laws that allow some workers to refuse otherwise mandatory medical procedures, companies can write policies demanding their staffers vaccinate, but must be prepared for exemptions and even lawsuits alleging discrimination or invasion of privacy. Such policies may only be appropriate for companies where a serious risk is present, she said.”
  • Another slap for RadioShack workers. If it’s bad enough RadioShack workers are losing their jobs, but here’s another blow — they may be losing their severance pay too. According to the Dallas Morning News, “Former employees who were counting on severance pay are now in line with everyone RadioShack owes money to: landlords, consultants, suppliers and utilities, not to mention secured lenders. Terminated employees at RadioShack used to walk away with a lump sum based on their years of service. Two months before its bankruptcy filing last Thursday, the company changed its severance policy from a lump sum to weekly or bi-weekly payments until the full amount is reached. Longtime employees who were laid off in December and January were collecting severance when RadioShack filed for bankruptcy. They won’t see another check unless the court grants it.”
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