In the age of hybrid work, employee experience means more than just perks. Source: Unsplash/Disruptiv.

Harvard Business Review

Employees want to like the company they work for. Here’s how to improve their experience

Harvard Business Review
5 minute Read

Human resources leaders commonly assume that for a company to stand out as a great place to work, it must deliver competitive perks — everything from skills training to pet insurance to foosball. New research finds that this view is outdated: engagement and retention don’t correlate with benefits. Employees have begun looking beyond material offerings and assessing how they feel about the company they work for — and that requires a different approach.

Fortune 500 companies spend more on benefits and perks than ever — almost $2500 a year per employee, on average. But a study by the research and advisory firm Gartner, comprising global surveys of 5000 employees and more than 150 HR leaders, reveals that employee engagement has been flat since 2016. For example, just 31% of workers say that their company offers something unique. And only 23% of HR leaders expect most employees to stay with the firm after the pandemic ends.

“Companies have been engaged in an arms race to offer the best perks,” says Carolina Valencia, a vice president in Gartner’s HR practice and one of the study’s authors. “But once basic needs are met, people are more powerfully motivated by feelings than by material features. Employees today want to be treated as people, not just workers.”

That doesn’t mean companies should switch out all their employee offerings, the researchers say. What’s needed is a change in emphasis: instead of building a portfolio of ever-increasing offerings, benefits managers should focus on a “human deal” that makes employees feel cared for financially, physically, and emotionally. The need for such a shift is particularly acute given the dual crises in many countries of the pandemic and civil unrest. In Gartner’s survey, conducted in January 2021, 47% of employees reported that their stress was higher than anything they’d previously experienced in their careers, and only 37% agreed that their organization understood what they needed in their personal lives and for their families.

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