employee perks

Employee Perks Might Not Be As Effective As You Think They Are

All the perks in the world can't fix your retention problem if employees are feeling dissatisifed.
Employee Perks Might Not Be As Effective As You Think They Are
Image credit: Thomas Barwick | Getty Images
Guest Writer
COO, Sotheby's International Realty Affiliates LLC
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In the spring of 2018, staffing firm Robert Half revealed that 64 percent of the professionals it had surveyed still believed that changing jobs every few years benefited their careers -- and one can imagine that growing companies hearing of this took a collective gulp.

Yet this challenge to retention is hardly new: Conversations around employee retention resurface every few years, along with new suggestions on how to combat it. The most recent remedy companies have employed is perks and benefits -- ranging from the conventional to the more creative.

Johnson & Johnson, IBM and Accenture are just a few of the companies that offer something you may not have heard of: breast milk shipping. Others are helping to support employees caring for aging relatives. Still others are providing free breakfast, lunch and dinner, or building convenient, connected workplaces. Some have even started incorporating chatbots and intelligent assistants to help not just customers but workers -- they deliver personalized learning opportunities for those workers.

Of course, employers can always offer more -- more benefits, money, showy additions that sound good on paper. But the real key to creating the kind of long-term investment that increases retention is to build a sense of genuine excitement and empowerment. And the ways to do this are actually quite simple. These are my tried-and-true ways to foster these feelings on teams.

Related: Why Prioritizing Company Culture Is the Key to a Successful Acquisition

1. Allow employees to choose their own adventure.

A little trust can go a long way when it comes to building employee satisfaction. HubSpot was recently named the third-best tech company to work for (coming in only behind Facebook and Google). One big reason for its high score was that it has adopted flexible work hours and locations. Employees can choose to work from wherever they are most productive -- and the company trusts they will get their work done. Similarly, Salesforce is heralded for its flexible work environment, particularly among parents who need to leave the office to care for their children.

When you give employees more flexibility in their workday, they will ultimately enjoy a healthier work-life balance; and this benefits the business. A study in the City University Research Journal corroborates this as well: When people feel good, they give you their best work.

2. Respect employee individuality -- and the chain of command.

It's important to fill a team with smart, talented people, but it is equally important to let them do what you hired them to do. Whenever I onboard new teammates, I set that expectation up-front. I tell them: “We all work really hard. I will expect a lot out of you, but you will get a lot out of me in return.” That empowers people to own their work and results.

Related: Delegation 101: How Entrepreneurs Can Boost Employee Productivity

I believe the best way to create a sense of purpose in employees is to continually offer them opportunities to use their unique skills. And along these lines, a Namely survey confirmed that the most important factor leading to workplace satisfaction isn't perks at all; it is a sense of purpose. In fact, 57 percent of employees surveyed desired “meaningful work” above all else. So, remind employees that you hired them for a reason: Their particular skill set fills an existing hole in your team. Then, get out of their way. Doing so will allow these new employees to bring their whole selves to work and will inspire their self-confidence more than programs or benefits ever could.

What’s more, avoid the temptation to flatten the chain of command. I am all for having an open-door policy for people to tell me about their weekend and to build rapport across the team. But when it comes to new project ideas or decisions, make sure you’re not encouraging people to come directly to you, when they have a manager who should be making that decision. Managers have put in the time and know their department, so make sure they feel that respect and ownership, too.

3. Stop, drop and recognize.

Everyone is busy, and a packed work week makes it easy to overlook what is happening on a day-to-day basis. But we cannot take for granted that our people will show up and do their job every day. This is particularly important when things are at their busiest.

It is crucial to carve out time in your week to acknowledge the work that employees are putting in. A survey from O.C. Tanner noted that employees are more productive when bosses notice and acknowledge their good work: 37 percent of respondents in the survey reported that personal recognition not only matters, but also encourages regular, higher-quality work.

Related: The Best Way to do Employee Appreciation Day Is More Than Once a Year

Take the opportunity to include shout-outs for employees, even for small wins. For example, I like to write personal thank-you notes to acknowledge my employees' many talents. (I even keep thank-you cards in my bag so I can write them when I have a few minutes to spare.) And, when employees show promise, demonstrate that the company believes in their talent, by providing new opportunities that will help grow their skills and sense of recognition. Send employees to a conference or sign them up for a course they have indicated interest in.

And perks? While they may be nice and part of your strategy to show employees you value them, the best way to keep employees around is to focus on elements that make them genuinely excited to walk in the door every morning. This also goes for companies whose main workforce is independent agents and not traditional employees. Because retention is retention. It’s a simple equation: Hire well, trust and empower these individuals to be their best selves; then show them you appreciate that they are doing so.

Satisfaction is the key to keeping employees on board for the long term.

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