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David Pugh


Managing Partner

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What employee benefits are currently being hyped?


In March 2016, Google yet again, topped the Fortune 100 best companies to work for listings. Benefits such as free organic meals, unlimited snacks/refreshments, personal fitness classes, nap pods and enhanced healthcare with virtual doctor consultations makes it the firm everyone wants to work for.

But are these perks – viewed by Google as crucial employee benefits – the key to talent management?

In its 2014 Global Workforce Study, Towers Watson asked employees who hoped to be working for another company within a year, what their employer could do to keep them. 79% said “increase their salary,” followed by 57% who called for “an improvement to their benefits package.”

So what improvements can employers make?

1. Workplace redesign

People who can choose where and how they work are more motivated and productive, so flexible working is a must. However, Empirica research shows a quarter of people would take a salary cut for a better designed workplace.

Fast connectivity, quiet areas, open-plan environments and spaces promoting interaction, innovation, healthy living, engagement and fun are a necessity, not a perk.

Consider slides, climbing walls, gaming rooms, ball pits, mood lighting, even bee-keeping on the roof! They all engender collaboration.

2. Free refreshments

According to the Visa Working Day Spend Report workers spend just over £10.50 per day on coffees, breakfast, lunch and snacks.

Minus weekends and holidays, this equates to over £2,500 per year.

Firms that fail to provide free coffee, tea, breakfast cereals, juices, fruit and meals/snacks may find this oversight a future deal breaker (a design firm recently surveyed workers and found a personal barista was second on their wish list, runner-up to a slide).

3. Enhance wellbeing

Get Britain Standing reports workers sit for an average of 8.9 hours per day. Sitting at a desk for over four hours a day causes stiffness, back pain and muscular problems and it can disrupt blood sugar levels.

Provide treadmills, exercise bikes, stand-up work stations, sit/stand stools and chairs, balance boards and on-site massages. The British Council for Offices reports 45% of workers have a stressful commute so install bike racks, showers, changing rooms and lockers.

Colour, art, greenery and outdoor space are wellbeing contributors so maximise natural light, hang sea/landscape murals and bring the ‘great outdoor’s indoors.

Design areas with astro-turf, deckchairs, picnic benches, beach hut meeting rooms and a water feature/aquarium.

If there’s outdoor space, plant trees, design walkways, eating/exercise areas, a bbq terrace, go-kart track or in the case of Google, a pool on the roof.

4. More financial support

A 2015 Lemonade Reward survey showed 42% of UK workers worry about their finances daily.

In the US, savvy employers offer student loan repayment benefits, making campus recruitment easier.

Alongside student debt payments and salary loans, consider travel, pet and gadget insurance, clothing allowance advances and app-based financial education (an Open University and Share Radio survey found 81% of employees want personal finance help from their employers, yet only 7% receive it).

5. Help with everyday essentials

Nearly a third of the Fortune’s best companies to work for (32) offer concierge services and a growing number provide virtual doctor consultations.

Employees with busy lifestyles appreciate help with everyday tasks such as food/gift shopping, pet care, dry cleaning, booking tradesmen, holidays, entertainment and doctors’ appointments etc.

There are financial savings too – soft service consultancy Arena 21 says staff who organise their personal lives while at work cost the UK economy £180bn a year.

6. A shorter working day

This year’s CIPD absent management report suggested operational demands take precedence over employee wellbeing and working long hours is seen as the norm.

Over 70% of UK workers put in more than 40 hours a week and 11% log 60+ hours. In Sweden, employers are trialling six hour days.

At Toyota in Gothenburg this has been in place for 13 years; the Company reports happier staff, a lower turnover rate and an increase in profits. Isn’t a shorter burst of activity more beneficial to employer and employee?

7. Sabbaticals and holidays

Sabbaticals ranging from a week to a year are popular in the US and typically offered to employees with five or more years of continuous service.

Unlimited holidays, offered by brands such as Netflix, LinkedIn and Virgin, convey trust in employees.

When US firm Mammoth asked workers to identify their most valuable benefit, unlimited vacations ranked third behind health insurance and a retirement savings plan, higher than vision/dental insurance and professional development. 

8. Pet power

Pet firm Purina says 82% of UK workplaces do not allow dogs, yet 50% of employees would like to bring them to work.

The benefits are clear; a study in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found dogs were a calming influence and reduced stress levels.

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University reported people who bought pets to work had higher morale and employee performance.

They’ll also keep you active and are great for colleague bonding (a puppy or kitten room was third on the wish list for design firm workers). Bring your dog to work day is on 24 June.

9. Intergenerational care

Researchers from Griffith University, Australia, are considering a model whereby an early learning childhood facility is next door to a respite day centre.

They say it could delay cognitive decline in older people, while providing stimulus for infants.

The US Department of Labor confirms demographic trends will ensure intergenerational centres become increasingly popular with workers who have young children and elderly relatives.

10. Keep it personal

Offer gifts linked to the firm, its culture and/or customers. New employees may appreciate the latest phone, Fitbit or personalised pair of designer trainers.

Thank employees for a job well done with an all-expenses paid weekend away, designer items, nights-out, cinema tickets or shopping vouchers. 

These improvements are talent management fundamentals. A tired-looking workplace and traditional benefits of a pension, life assurance, healthcare and gym membership will simply not cut-it with Generation Y (Millennials) and the soon-to-be-employed Generation Z.

They want to work for and will remain loyal to firms who demonstrate they’re ahead of the pack with vibrant, ‘wow-factor’ workplaces and benefits to match.

Employers have a choice; be viewed as mediocre or ‘beige’ and so fail to attract and retain the talent they need, or enjoy basking at the other end of the colour spectrum with a workplace and benefits’ package that anticipates and fulfils employees’ future needs. 

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David Pugh

Managing Partner

Read more from David Pugh

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