Do Creative Employee Perks Matter in a Tight Labor Market?


My buddy Josh Bersin lights the world on fire with his research and insights about the world of work.

Last week, he gave us the 15 coolest perks to hit the office in 2019.

Pawternity sounds cool. Who wouldn’t want a 23-and-me for your dog? Spa services and nap rooms sound trendy and interesting, too. But an employer that pays you fairly and gives you meaningful time off — the kind of space where you’re allowed to untether yourself from mobile devices — doesn’t need to give you free beer and fertility coaching. You could do all of it for yourself.

Do Perks Matter in a Tight Job Market?

People keep telling me that creative perks matter in a tight job market, and I’m not sure they’re wrong. Historically, most jobs suck. Recruiters sell you on a disingenuous employer brand that never fails to disappoint. So, if you have to work, you might as well pick a job that gives you some fun perks on the side.

But I’m not sure we’ve tested the benefits and limitations of perks properly. Why not allow for more self-determination in the benefits selection process? Why not give employees a real option to choose their perks?

Some companies allow employees to choose their benefits from an a la carte menu, but the offerings are pre-determined, tax-friendly to the employer, and based on favorable relationships with vendors. I’m not saying those choices are wrong; however, we live in a world where many professional workers can’t afford a $500 emergency in their lives, and it would be great to offer a stipend and allow your employees the option to choose between an additional retirement contribution, an extra student loan payment, or free beer.

They might not choose what I would want, but it would be a nice experiment to test whether creative perks are a bigger draw to talented workers than ongoing financial security.

Can HR Fix Perks?

Sabbaticals and spa rooms are smashing — and I would die for a massage right about now — but those items are activities, not benefits or even perks.

If HR wants to fix work — and I think they do — they can start by being teachers and advisors. We can create a self-sufficient workforce that makes good decisions about money, savings and retirement. And our primary mode of teaching is through the implementation of policies and programs that prioritize physical, emotional and financial health.

We can make a difference by helping employees choose a lasting financial legacy instead of misapplying those funds to build a nap room.

Again, pawternity tests sound fantastic, but we’re collectively shortchanging an improved version of our future if we don’t grab the $99 bucks that’s being given to the dog DNA vendor for this “benefit” and apply it to a financial program that enhances our lives.

Because if we’re not working to create a better future for ourselves and our families, I don’t know why we’re working at all.

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