Welcome to Benefits on the Fringe, the monthly Recruiter.com column where Jason McDowell covers the most unique benefits today's employers are using to woo talent, as well as advances and innovations in the employee benefits realm.
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Your employees are stressed out. Don't take it personally; it's not all your fault. They have family concerns like weddings, divorces, and interpersonal squabbles to deal with. They struggle with student loan and credit card debt, putting kids through college, and mortgage payments. They live in a world rife with political turmoil, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters. The last thing your company should do is add to that stress.
Yet more than half of employees say their company has a negative impact on their well-being, according to "Expectations vs. Reality: The Widening Gap in Global Benefits," a study by Thomsons Online Benefits. Are your workers saying the same about you?
The Shortfalls of the Reward System
We all love fat bonus checks, expensive lunches, and similar performance incentives. The problem with year-end bonuses, however, is that they lose their luster in the spring, summer, and fall if employees aren't happy with your company's culture. Rewards are a short-term solution. They provide a temporary boost to morale, but don't address real workplace problems.
"Findings from both our latest employer and employee research has shown real momentum for changing the emphasis of benefits away from rewards to well-being and experience ... [in order to] help promote a culture and working environment within which people thrive," says Matthew Gregson, senior vice president of data and analytics for Thomsons.
Focusing on the overall employee experience improves the workplace year-round. When employees are happier in general, they're more productive overall. Rewards, on the other hand, only encourage short bursts of productivity.
The Benefits of Experiential Benefits
That's not to say that rewards are useless, but rather that they should only be one facet of a larger effort to improve employee experience and engagement. Businesses that want to improve employee satisfaction in the workplace should explore the following benefits as well:
They say you can't buy love, but they're lying. Workers love perks, especially ones they can use to improve their everyday experiences. The best thing about such perks is the expense to the company is often minimal. Examples include free coffee and food, discounts on daily-use items such as cellphone plans and gym memberships, and ping pong tables in the break room to help people de-stress. Many companies go a step further, offering massages, on-site healthcare, and even visits from cats and dogs from the local animal shelter.
Employees want all the standards, including fair vacation time, retirement plans, and health and dental insurance. Businesses that want to go the extra mile can explore more expansive options, such as unlimited vacation, matching retirement contributions, and covering larger amounts of healthcare premiums.
Rewards matter most when they aren't the only incentive. Many workers rely on year-end bonuses for holiday travel and shopping, and similar bonuses at other times of the year will surely find uses as well. Of course, direct financial bonuses aren't the only type. Some companies go so far as to make charitable donations on behalf of top performers, offer extra vacation days, provide tickets to coveted events, and more.
A "thank you" goes a long way. Engagement is perhaps the most affordable and most impactful way that companies can ensure employee retention and loyalty. Managers and executives must strive to build work environments where employees are recognized for their contributions. Employees who don't feel engaged usually don't feel appreciated, and underappreciated employees will underperform or quit.
You have a choice. You can be another stress factor in the lives of your workers, or you can be a place your workers enjoy coming to each day. Be the latter. Your bottom line will thank you.
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