Employee satisfaction is often the bellwether of a company's overall success, as unhappy workers can have a major impact on a business's productivity, performance and financial stability. While previous generations tended to prioritize salary increases over quality of life initiatives and company culture, shifting workplace demographics have forced many employers to reevaluate their employee retention strategies. Now that millennials account for roughly one-third of American labor force participants, according to the Pew Research Center, businesses have started to adapt their internal practices to accommodate workers who value work/life balance and non-traditional incentives. But what specific "work perks" appeal to modern employees?
Setting the stage
According to a 2019 Business Pulse Survey by SunTrust, nearly half of surveyed employers are profoundly concerned with attracting and retaining top talent. What's more, close to 93% are actively taking steps to recruit qualified candidates and provide them with additional work-related incentives. The shift toward employee-focused retention models have enabled companies to remain competitive in the aggressive labor market, as record lows in unemployment have provided talented job seekers with significant career mobility. In terms of general work perks, Suntrust's survey identified seven incentive areas that businesses are using to improve employee satisfaction:
- Wage increases (45%)
- Expanded benefit packages (43%)
- Flexible schedules and work-from-home opportunities (36%)
- Career development initiatives for current employees (31%)
- Upfront training for new hires (24%)
- Recognition and reward policies (23%)
- College loan repayment and/or savings programs (17%)
The survey also found that many business leaders are prioritizing technical training to ensure their workers can keep pace with emergent technologies. In fact, around 54% of respondents cited slow technology adoption as a key barrier to achieving business goals. The widespread deployment of artificial intelligence and automation has been a particular pain point for long-time employees, but 77% of surveyed companies plan to heavily invest in learning and development programs to help individuals acclimate to new working conditions.
The impact of introducing creative incentives
Despite the trend toward creative incentives, close to 42% of full-time employees are not offered any work perks, according to a 2018 study by Clutch. This provides forward-thinking companies with a lucrative opportunity to attract and retain talented candidates, increase worker efficiency and decrease turnover. Some common nontraditional benefits offered by businesses include:
- Gym memberships and health programs
- Company retreats and team-building events
- Complimentary meals and office snacks
- Membership discounts to retail stores
Although these work perks may seem like minor conveniences, more than half of surveyed employees reported that they provide a better quality of life. "Perks are about creating a culture and environment where we hope we can find that work-life balance," said Lisa Oyler, human resources director at the popular private discount network Access Development, in an interview with Clutch. "If employees are happy at work, they're going to produce more. This leads to higher retention." Of course, companies should still offer employees the traditional benefits they have come to expect (retirement savings options, health insurance, paid vacation time, etc.) alongside these supplementary incentives.
Providing work perks is a simple way to demonstrate a business's commitment to its workers' happiness and long-term well-being, as 49% of employees receiving these benefits believe that their employers are invested in them as individuals. Additionally, Clutch's survey found 44% of full-time workers felt nontraditional incentives improved their physical and mental health. While companies of all sizes can improve employee satisfaction by offering creative work perks, employers should consider prioritizing work/life balance over in-office benefits. A slow-roll approach can help businesses validate the efficacy of their initiatives, keep costs low and secure sustainable results.