Perks are nice, but don’t forget the basics

Fortune magazine recently released its 100 best companies to work for in 2013. Results were based on feedback from over 277,000 employees across 280 companies.

A number of perks and employee benefits were listed as to why it was so great to work for these companies. These varied from free yoga classes to additional paid leave, world-class training courses and even an in-house roller hockey rink!

This year, Google took out the number one spot (if you haven’t guessed already, they’re the company with the in-house roller hockey rink). No major surprises since Google seem to be synonymous with the term ‘Employer of Choice’. This has given Google an invaluable advantage over its competitors by being able to attract the best talent from across the globe.

We couldn’t even begin to imagine how many applications they must receive on a daily basis from their die-hard devotees, who would be knocking down the doors of the Googleplex to join their ranks. What’s more, their existing employees are incredibly passionate about ensuring the success of Google. Clearly they have the art of employee engagement down pat, which shows in their financial results and overall success.

Thinking about your own business, what is it about your company that makes it attractive to prospective employees? Why do your employees think it’s so great to work for your business? (Or do they think that at all?)

In small business (in any business in fact!) budgets are often tight and, as nice as it would be to go all out for your employees, we get that it may not be possible. However, this doesn’t mean you have no options, it just means that you need to be a little more creative and that it’s even more important to know what motivates your employees.

There are likely to be common themes of interest amongst your employees which are great to capitalise on. For example, if you’re in retail and sell apparel, you’re likely to attract fashion enthusiasts to your business. Product discounts are an obvious and great employee benefit but make things more interesting by including perhaps tickets to a fashion show twice a year as an additional perk.

Though these things may sound trivial and unlikely to make a difference, trust us when we say that employees love this sort of stuff! They’re great motivation and engagement boosters and serve as valuable leverage when trying to persuade talented candidates to join your business.

It also makes sense to publicise the perks of working with your business. Highlight them in your recruitment activities including job ads and interviews; include them on your website within your careers section (if you have one); show examples of employees reaping the benefits on your Facebook page. Highlighting the success and competitive advantage of your business is another “employee benefit” – everyone wants to hang out with the cool kids, so don’t underestimate the value of sharing your success and draw attention to it where you can.

One thing to keep in mind is that employee benefits aren’t a replacement for a great workplace culture and effective people processes. Instead they should enhance these.

A friend of ours recently moved to a competitor employer in the technology industry based on their popularity in the marketplace and employee benefits only to return to his original job a few months later. The culture, basic people practices and operations at his new employer were terrible! Three months into the job, despite attending an overseas conference (a perk which he really enjoyed) he still didn’t have a workstation or access to important resources and was given little support in order to do his job well.

With some clever perks in place at your workplace, you might not quite make the ‘100 best companies to work for’ list like Google, but you’ll certainly benefit from similar advantages when it comes to attracting and retaining the best talent for your business.

Janelle McKenzie and Abiramie Sathiamoorthy are the co-founders of E&I People Solutions. Janelle has a hands-on background in HR, her philosophy is all about providing practical solutions that offer businesses real value. Abiramie has worked with a range of different businesses to set up or enhance their people processes with an end goal to help create high-performing teams.

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