When a highly qualified job seeker has to choose between offers, and all other things--salary, office location, type of job--are relatively equal, how do you help ensure that candidate chooses your company? With perks, of course. Perks are the bonus conveniences that sweeten the pot and let people know your willingness to "go the extra mile" for your workforce. But how do you know if they're working for you?
Here are four reasons your perk payoff might be less than perfect:
1. You're not providing the unexpected. If an employee expects a certain benefit, it's not a perk--it's just an expectation. And you have to meet expectations first. At Jobvite, before we moved offices, we were within walking distance of a Caltrain station and lots of restaurants. After we moved, and we weren't as close to those things anymore, we opted to have catered lunches and pay for employees to Uber or take a cab from the train to the office. Are those perks? Not really. Our employees had an expectation when they signed on that they'd be able to easily commute and grab a meal, and we were making sure that we continued to meet that expectation.
If your so-called perk is something that everyone in your local market is offering, something that--if you stopped offering it--would almost seem like a takeaway or pay cut, then it's not a perk. A perk is an unexpected benefit or reward, so you first need to be keenly aware of what top candidates expect to receive in your market before you can go above and beyond those expectations.
2. You're assuming you know what employees want. If you've ever opened a birthday present and felt let down because it wasn't what you wanted, then you know what it feels like to be given a perk that has no value to you. Good perks, like good gifts, come from understanding what provides value to the people you're trying to appreciate--and that requires having a relationship based on respect. You have to listen to your employees' points of view and make an authentic effort to offer something that matters. If you're going to offer free food and drinks, that's great--but find out what people want. Don't assume you know. You might think kale salads are all the rage, but then come to find that your engineers just want pizza. And be prepared to have options. For example, we discovered that while our sales folks love to play ping pong, the Customer Success team likes PlayStation. So we got both games, and then some, because we asked people what they wanted. Often, you'll find that the value of the perk is less about the thing itself than it is about demonstrating that you listen to and respect what your employees have to say.
3. You're spoiling everyone. Of course, just like with children, you don't want to create a situation where your employees expect to be given what they ask for every single time. A culture of entitlement defeats the purpose and value of the unexpected perk. Try to remain sincere and creative in what you offer--and you don't always have to spend boatloads of money. If you see your employees or candidates regularly struggling with work/life balance, for example, try to provide some basic conveniences that ease the burden, like grocery delivery or dry cleaning or telecommuting options. And don't let your perks become too rote. People appreciate sincere surprises, so rotate your perks to keep things fresh.
4. You're not evolving your perks over time. Ultimately, you need to remember why you are offering perks in the first place: to attract and retain talent. It's your job, therefore, to take stock of what you offer and see if it's working. How do your perks stack up next to your hiring and retention metrics? How do your perks align with the results of your ongoing employee feedback process? Base your perk offerings on real data, keeping in mind that what worked yesterday might not work tomorrow, and what works for one team might not work for another. Like your product line, perks have to evolve, too. So does a company have to provide perks? No. Should they if they want to compete? Definitely. But while what you offer will depend on your market, your employees, and your company's own metrics, how well it works will depend on how well you listen and evolve.