Top 5 employee benefits and perks

Nick Stanley
by, Nick Stanley

We spend a good proportion of our waking hours at work. Smart employers have realised that making your workplace an enjoyable, comfortable place to work makes great business sense.

Having happy, healthy employees means greater productivity, better employee retention, and higher company morale. Your business will also be more attractive to other highly-skilled workers.

A good way to create a positive, productive work environment is to offer your team attractive benefits and perks as part of their employment package. Benefits are a clear demonstration to employees that they matter and that the company wants to see them succeed.

That doesn't mean you need to turn your workplace into a bastion of cool with bean-bag breakout areas, foosball tables, and bottomless candy bowls. Some of the most attractive employee benefits are pragmatic and straightforward.

Let's examine the 5 best benefits you can offer your people.

1. Pay increases and performance bonuses

A study by workforce management company, Kelly Services, of the benefits offered by New Zealand’s large businesses found that salary increases and performance bonuses were considered the most effective benefits for attracting and retaining employees.

While there is no legal requirement to give pay increases (unless your employee is paid below the minimum wage), scheduling in regular evaluations that are tied to raises and bonuses will give your employees incentive to perform, and enable you to keep your most skilled people longer.

Incentive plans that pay in shares in the company are a great way to offer your people a stake in the business.

This not only provides a way for them to share in the company's success, it also gives them a lasting reason to help create it.

2. Work-life balance

More than ever, people want to maintain a balance between their working life and the other activities that matter to them, such as family and leisure time, community activities, and personal development.

Research by Diversity Works NZ found that 69 percent of professionals rate work-life balance, including flexible working, as their top priority when seeking a new role.

Exactly what work-life balance means to each of your people will be as different as they are, and certain measures will work better for some roles more than others, so it pays to provide a range of options to choose from.

It may be flexibility in working hours and location, part-time contracts, or the ability for workers to scale their hours up or down when they become parents, get older, or want to further their studies.

It does take some faith (and flexibility) as an employer. But offering options that improve your employee's work-life balance shows you trust them and in return you can expect increased commitment and productivity, higher job satisfaction, and reduced absenteeism.

3. Professional development

People value the ability to develop their career and increasingly expect the company they work for to provide an environment that encourages learning and progression.

For the most part, NZ businesses are good at this. While companies surveyed by Kelly Services rated paid training and development as the 3rd most effective benefit for attracting and keeping employees, it was the benefit they most commonly offered their people.

By working with your team members on development plans, you will provide a clear path for them to grow with the company.

Again, offering various options will enable your employees to select the things that work best for them. For some it may be gaining formal qualifications. For others it may be attending workshops or hearing from inspirational speakers.

4. Increased leave

Beyond the paid leave that all permanent workers are legally entitled to, many companies now give their staff more than the minimum and also provide other leave options.

Giving extra days of paid leave for staying with the company for a predetermined period improves employee retention. Offering longer periods of paid or unpaid parental leave encourages parents to return to the company. Giving people time off to pursue charitable or volunteer work shows you support their values and the wider community.

It's about demonstrating to your employees that they matter. By showing them you are willing to go above and beyond, they will be much more likely to reciprocate.

5. Discounts and freebies

This is is a broad category and could cover anything from discounted health insurance, travel, or gym memberships to providing free food and espresso coffee.

Travel expenses – especially if your business is in a city – can be a major cost for your people, so providing lease vehicles (not just cars), parking, or public transport subsidies can be a big plus.

Many companies offer their own products at little or no cost. It may not cost much to the business, but it may mean a lot to your workers. It will also give them first-hand knowledge of the products or services the company provides to its customers.

Other popular benefits to consider

  • Health and wellness programmes, including personal health checks, flu shots, and nutrition and work-life balance seminars.
  • Retirement and savings planning.
  • Confidential counselling.
  • Social perks, such as organised events and outings, regular lunches, and Friday drinks.

Provide options

Your workplace doesn't need to have slides for getting between office levels like Trade Me does, but you should ensure the benefits and perks you offer are of value to your people.

Understanding your workforce and providing a menu of benefits that people can customise will enable you to better enhance their working lives.

The popularity of different benefits changes over time too, so keep checking with employees to see if you are offering what they expect.

But make sure you can afford any benefits and perks in the long-run. Failure to follow through will leave employees feeling they have been short-changed.

Be clear and fair

If you are proud of the way you treat your people, let others know of the benefits of working for your company. It will help attract potential employees.

But remember: all the perks and benefits in the world won't count for much if your workers don't feel you value them, treat them well, or they don't have any direction in the job.




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