Employee benefits: the changing face of company perks

employee perks and benefits
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The millennial workforce has different priorities and concerns to previous generations, so it stands to reason that the perks companies offer to engage and retain them should change too.

Many would agree that company perks and benefits can make all the difference to employees today, especially creative or valuable ones. Whether it is the opportunity to further your education and learning, to take a sabbatical, volunteer for charity work or to receive discounts and rewards that financially support wellbeing, fitness and/or mental health, perks can be a very powerful draw for new talent today.

Interestingly, what constitutes a ‘perk’ today is very different to what it might have been ten or even five years ago and many businesses need to redress these so-called employee benefits and instead look at how they can support their employees better.

Simply telling someone they can work from home once a week, is not a company perk. The emerging younger workforce possess some amazing potential and deserve a little more genuine care and consideration when it comes to creating benefits that are relevant and will really make the difference in the long term.

Perks should be relevant

Companies need to start by rethinking how they can better support and nurture employee development and boost loyalty to the business and the wider team. If team culture and morale is low, no amount of ‘perks’ will change that.

So much is written about the millennial generations today and sadly so much of it is either inaccurate or deeply patronising, which is hardly productive or supportive for the working environment.

There is a different work ethic and work/life balance that is expected today. It is no longer a perk to finish work early on a Friday, to work from home, or to work flexibly.

When we consider what constitutes a ‘perk’ today, we need to appreciate that the rising generations are far more globally and environmentally aware than the previous ones. They are evidently more socially conscious, highly intelligent and have high levels of ethics and standards. The perks or benefits that companies offer their workforces today need to reflect those attributes in the widest sense.

If we take a moment to consider how younger employees are struggling with basic things like getting onto the housing ladder, it brings up other issues associated with the corporate environment today. People are struggling to fit into a rigid workplace landscape which frankly no longer works, and many are trying to build platforms of their own as a result (i.e. the rising gig economy).

A generation faced with barriers

The new generation is coming into the current work environment with more barriers to financial stability that any generation has arguably faced before. Companies will need to look at how they can support them (not just financially) but how they can take on more strain and give employees the freedom to grow and develop as they need to.

Across the pond in the US, companies are now helping young talent to get onto the property ladder and are developing platforms to help people develop their lives and their careers – perhaps this is where the real ‘perks’ lie? It’s time for us to ditch the worthless ‘perks’ that no longer bear any resemblance to a benefit and focus on the real things that will make the impact.

Physical rewards and perks still have an important place in the workplace today if they are fit for purpose. People like to feel ‘cared about’ that they make a difference and that they are considered.

A return to properly invested pension schemes would be a good start too. Coaching and development in some of the more old-fashioned life skills may also provide the support needed. Imagine companies investing in the physical building of networks and real relationships between people, peers and friends.

Another even greater ‘perk’ for the workforce would be a focus on the redevelopment of mind-sets that are accountable, that encourage failure and freedom - a chance to learn, to grow and to make mistakes along the way.

Working from home is not a perk

There is a different work ethic and work/life balance that is expected today. It is no longer a perk to finish work early on a Friday, to work from home, or to work flexibly etc. It is also not a ‘perk’ to have a lunch break every day (it’s a right). In recent years, as companies have become more transactional the lines have become very blurred in terms of what is actually a real benefit and what is simply ethical and right.

That said, physical rewards and perks still have an important place in the workplace today if they are fit for purpose. People like to feel ‘cared about’ that they make a difference and that they are considered.

Companies can support that philosophy by offering their employees discounts and dining cards for top restaurants, holiday and travel discounts, the creation of in-house experience centres (a step further from the old in-house travel agent).

Mentoring and coaching must not be underestimated in terms of value and reward for talent, especially investing in support from external professionals that can further support career development. As always, greater investment in quality training is a big plus for individuals today.

Creating a legacy for success

Mental health and wellbeing is also another big area of focus for corporates today, so ensuring that you provide adequate support and opportunities for people that alleviate stress, encourage a relaxed environment and show a considered approach to their overall wellbeing at work will go a long way to demonstrating greater duty of care.

The rising younger generations will soon be taking the lead in businesses for the future and it is the investment made now in supporting them and creating valuable and relevant perks that will create a genuine legacy for the continued success of our businesses. There is genuinely so much talent potential that is bursting through but they need support in a different way to the past.

Want to learn more about this topic? Read Managing the wellbeing needs of a multigenerational workforce.

About Chris Sheppardson

Chris Sheppardson

Chris Sheppardson founded his own business in 1998 and today oversees a number of businesses and activities that range from one that supports the hospitality industry, entrepreneurs to International Executive recruitment to publishing (www.epmagazine.co.uk) to M&A activity to leadership development.

Chris also founded a charity in 2008 to support the diversity agenda – The One and All Foundation and is a trustee and patron for a number of charities and bodies. Chris is also a published author with books in a range of fields including sport’s history, hotels, leadership and entrepreneurship ans is a BA Hons graduate from London University.

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