The Power of Perks

Up Close & Personal

By Nicole Kittlitz, Candice Rookes and Rae Shungur.

PERKS, we all love them…but really, what are they?  

You know that scene in Good Will Hunting when Chuckie (played by Ben Affleck) attends the job interview impersonating his genius friend, Will (Matt Damon)?  On the way out the door when he asks for a retainer and they all give him the cash in their wallets?  Well, we don’t advise you to do that.  But, a retainer is indeed a perk.

How do we define job perks, how have they evolved over time, how do we navigate them and what does the future hold?  There are more questions than answers, but really, what is important in terms of ‘perks’ is you, the candidate.  Your values, wants and needs determine what a real perk is, and what is more likely just window dressing.  

There are so many reasons why firms don’t just slap wads of cash down on the table when trying to attract us.  Henry Ford doubled the average factory worker’s salary with $5/day for 8 hours of work in 1914, and that impacted entire economies.  But, what about platinum health benefits, yoga, work from home, donuts (not to be downplayed)?  In the world of work, cash, though important, is no longer all that matters.  So, the world of candidate attraction has gotten quite creative.  5 bucks was a decent wage at the time, but there were, literally, no donuts!

Most companies agree that people are their most valuable assets, so, what are they doing to attract them? Company perks remain a major opportunity for most companies; however, most companies aren’t taking full advantage of the appeal of non-monetary benefits/perks for employees.  What will be the most sought-after job perks of 2021 (coming out of a pandemic) we have made a list:

Care and Recognition Gifts: This need becomes more acute as offices shift to virtual work models, leaving employees craving connections and bonds. A care package of snacks and happy hour beverages for a virtual happy hour go a long way!

Employee Appreciation Programs: A simple thank you or compliment can actually change your day. Without in-person interaction, recognition programs can actually make employees happier. Happy people are more productive and that makes your company more profitable! 

Wellness Programs: The pandemic has not only created health issues, it has caused an increasingly devastating mental health and wellness crises.  If a company is providing a wellness program for their employees, this is a HUGE perk. Whether this is a steps competition or a full-blown wellness initiative, people are going to want to get WELL in 2021.

Food and healthy snacks: As more and more employees head back to the office, providing office perks like food and healthy snacks go a long way. 

Vacation and PTO: Clearly this is going to be a huge perk once the world opens up again so if an employer can offer an extra week of vacation or something like summer Fridays off, this will definitely be a WIN!

Paid Sick Days: Moving past the pandemic employers and employees should be promoting a healthy office environment where employees are not afraid to take a day off for fear of losing money or their job.

Flexible Schedule (Work from Home): This is especially important for employees with children. Emotionally, affording employees flexibility in their schedule demonstrates that they are trusted partners not just 9 to 5ers chained to a desk.  Offering scheduling flexibility and the occasional work-from-home day can be a huge BONUS for employees and it shouldn’t cost a dime.

Employee Development Plans: This is mutually enriching, and this goes hand in hand with such things as tuition reimbursement.

Gym Membership: This could also include bringing in a trainer or yoga instructor (once this is allowed again, of course).

Childcare Assistance: Onsite daycare or childcare assistance can be a huge perk for any working parent. Post pandemic, any sort of assistance for the cost of childcare will take a huge load off working parents’ shoulders.

Commuter Assistance: It is a fact that when presented with similar opportunities an employee will take a job with a shorter commute over a long one. If yours is the latter, a little assistance goes a long way. This could look like ride-shares, passes for public transportation, or even shuttle buses; it doesn’t necessarily have to be paying for mileage. 

Volunteer Time: Allow employees some working time to volunteer for non-profit organizations in the community.  For instance, an organization that aligns with the business or localized needs of the business community. 

Business services come to YOU:  Some employers allow service providers to come into the workplace for things like massages, manicures, and dry-cleaning.  These services can save workers time and make them feel better.  

Lunch and learn Sessions:  You can suggest business topics, or topics like social media tools, investment experts, or informational sessions that may have business and personal use.  Employees can bring their own lunch or on occasion the employer could provide lunch.  It offers professional development; team building, and also creates connections.

Stipends: Some organizations are forgetting about office snacks, onsite gyms, and welcome packages, in favour of perk consolidation and personalization.  Companies are empowering employees by providing stipends or allowances that can be used for things such as health and wellness, home office equipment and services, home meal delivery, or continuous learning.  Many companies are offering employees between $400 to $1,500 to set up their home office.  Employers have decided to put money and choice into the hands of their employees so they can get the perks they need and value most.

Whether you are working from home permanently or heading back to the office in 2021, the next couple of years will look very different.  Are the perks important to you or would you prefer a pay increase to provide your own perks?  Talk to your organization’s leaders and discuss what you really value!

So, what have we learned throughout our careers?  It’s a negotiation, it’s a complex negotiation.  Your employment can be a source of great satisfaction when the perks align with your values.  Your spouse’s braces, company paid tuition, being a part of the charity campaign…these all add to that rich tapestry of our compensation.  They serve to create layers of happiness that appeal to more than our wallets.  

At RPI, we discuss this topic daily.  We advise our Clients when their perks aren’t achieving their goals.  When our Candidates are staring at a complex offer with cash, bonuses, parking, car allowances, options, and donuts, we sit down and help untangle the mess, so you truly understand what you are agreeing to.  This is particularly meaningful when comparing competing offers or if you feel as though you are sacrificing on base wage, vacation time or other.  You may not be…but then, you very well could be.  See, it’s confusing!  That is why we are always here to help.