‘Perk Fatigue’ Is Causing Talent to Take a Deeper Look

In a candidate-short market, companies are increasingly using perks in an attempt to attract and keep employees. It’s becoming a bit of a perk economy, with in-house baristas, massages at your desk and free lunches provided to lure top talent — and it all sounds pretty good on the face of it. Although it’s widely accepted that a good place to work requires more than a ping pong table and drinks on a Friday, many companies have gone over the top with perks that don’t actually add much value to-day-to day job satisfaction. And candidates are starting to notice.

In our recent global work/life report “More than Money,” we found that in markets around the world, candidates are looking beyond the perk talk. They are delving deeper into the role and the company when assessing opportunities and wanting to know more about the nature of the work. Top talent are focusing on whether the work will be engaging, the leaders will be supportive and if they will be valued and empowered to do their best work.

The same research highlights the most effective non-monetary benefits when it comes to attracting and retaining talent, ultimately finding that people don’t stay at a company because of the free lunches and other fluffier perks; they stay because they feel connected to their place of work. If perks can facilitate a feeling of connection, then they provide a benefit — but you don’t need an abundance of extras for that to happen.

Remuneration is necessary and the right perks can have their impact, but what really matters when it comes to attracting and retaining talent?

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As someone who has worked with companies of all sizes and industries to build and grow their employer brands, here are my five key factors for what truly attracts and retains great people:

Coaching and mentoring. According to LinkedIn’s workplace learning trends report, 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career. Coaching that helps your team members to assess their own performance by recognizing their strengths and assist in development is essential to productivity, happiness at work and retention. Providing access to training and development opportunities is also one of the most widely recognized tools to attract top talent.  It is important to take note that when employees are looking to join a new company, they are wanting job stretch and job growth, it’s imperative that this expectation is met through a combination of coaching, mentoring, learning and development both on the job and in the field.

Flexibility. Whether you consider flexible work a perk or a natural evolution of the workplace arrangement, it is becoming more and more accepted by companies and demanded by top talent. Gallup reports that flexibility in time and location are among the top benefits that employees would change jobs for. However, it’s incredibly important that flexibility is embraced and not frowned upon when people enact their flexible entitlement. It’s there to drive engagement and happiness, not judgement. Measure output, contribution, engagement, effort and ambition, not the number of hours spent in an office. It is true that success breeds autonomy and autonomy leads to flexibility for empowered, successful and driven employees.

Communication. Open and honest communication from management teams fosters a positive culture within the business. Would your employees prefer to bring their pet to work or to be kept informed of strategies, directions, and significant changes? It’s a bit of a no-brainer that businesses that involve their staff in business planning and decision making are more likely to have an engaged workforce and retain valued employees. Teammates will also feel a sense of recognition if their views are taken into account and they feel heard. This is one of the most common themes we come across when engaging with customers looking to evolve their internal culture.

Brand and culture. Having a compelling employee value proposition, and a strong employer brand that puts the human front and center is essential for attracting great candidates in 2020. Prospective candidates who feel that they will be able to use their own judgement and initiative to solve problems, and who are provided with a varied work portfolio are more inclined to apply (and stay) with your company. A brand employees are proud to work for that gives them a sense of pride is a very compelling proposition. A recent Glassdoor study has found that people who research their company when job searching are more likely to stay with their employer longer, so it’s essential to ensure that your aspiration lines up with the reality of your brand and culture as reported by your employees past and present.

Recognition and reward. Rewards do not have to be costly or involve additional payments and bonuses. They can be as simple as feedback loops and timely communication about a job well done. Employers should ensure that any rewards provided to colleagues are appropriate to the individual. Not all employees exercise at the gym or are interested in a long lunch with the champagne flowing, therefore discounted gym memberships or extended lunches or dinners are not suitable for all. Figure this out, get to know your people and give them a really good listening to. Similarly, not all employees prefer a high salary if it comes at a cost especially if it means longer hours and less flexibility.

Health and well-being. It is often overlooked, but 89% of workers at companies that support well-being initiatives are more likely to recommend their company as a good place to work. Employee assistance programs that provide access to free or discounted counselling services for employees and their family members is a great start. Likewise, access to a gym membership, or encouragement of healthy eating options in the office and exercise programs are great. But as a company are you walking your talk? Do the managers and leaders of the company encourage these types of initiatives and support a culture of flexibility to engage in health and well being initiatives? This will truly make the difference and improve the health, happiness, motivation and retention of employees.

Our global report “More than Money” outlined how it’s about more than the material stuff. It’s about your company as a brand, a heart, a mind and ambition that will make the difference in attracting, engaging and growing amazing talent in your company.


Ian Tyler

Ian Tyler
Ian Tyler is chief strategy officer and employer brand expert for Talent.

Ian Tyler

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