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Do perks improve employee engagement?

21 Feb 2020 - Blog

Do Perks improve employee engagement?

Historically, typical employee benefits included pay, annual leave, a pension and the occasional illicitly smuggled pen. Times have most certainly changed. Companies around the world proudly share incentives from the laudable to the gimmicky: puppy leave, free lunch, pool tables, in-office slides, sleeping pods, bring your parents to work day and all manner of memberships and discounts. The list goes on and on.

Of course, perks are increasingly important to support the EVP when recruiting talent.  Millennials and Gen zedders are getting used to a variety of perks as part of the package to woo them. As Lee Biggin, founder and CEO of CV Library, notes,

Candidates hold the power in the current market putting more pressure on employers to pull out all the stops in order to attract, recruit and retain the very best workers.’

Photo credit: GoDaddy

Which perks should employers prioritise?

According to an article by Callum Jones and Mark Bridge in The Times (Stressed-out staff want support not Silicon Valley games) fun activities and monetary perks are actually not the priority for most employees. Indeed, more than 50% of employees identified personal development as an important part of their role.

Mumsnet in 2018 reported that 75% of parents found flexible working more important than perks such as health insurance and gym memberships, and 50% more valuable than a pay rise.

Glassdoor research discovered that rather than yearning for rock-climbing and massages, employees identified time off, health insurance, and retirement plans as the most important.  A more recent survey by Future Workplace, revealed the number one perk by employees to be natural light and outdoor views.

In other evidence collected by Perkbox, the most sought-after treats were book clubs (such as the brilliant Shelf.Help). Perhaps this indicates that whilst technology is all encompassing, employees value a more human, offline experience.

Photo Credit:

So different employees want different things

So what do employees want? The above evidence shows it depends on who you ask,  and the perk you should offer depends on what you are trying to achieve.

Type of Perk Great for…
Tangible benefits & rewards Includes employee discounts, technology, cycle to work schemes, free or discounted company products (e.g. Airbnb provides credit for its properties). Great for company EVP. Discounted/free company products attract fans and can maintain brand advocacy.

However can become an expectation rather than a reward – and the competition to provide ever more impressive ‘stuff’ can be intense.

Work environment


The ‘office’ space – a funky building, or one that facilitates collaboration, communication, is tech enabled, or has private breastfeeding or prayer areas. Great if your staff are ‘office based’, even only some of the time, making it easy and pleasant to do the job. If designed right, encourages the culture and behaviours you want to drive.
Care and support


Innovative employee services such as wellbeing & insurance via Yulife and modern financial advice via Hatch. Great for demonstrating you take wellbeing seriously, valuing staff as a whole person not just an employee.
Fun stuff Activities such as free lunches, massages, recreation such as competitions, climbing walls slides and basketball courts etc. Great for helping staff relax and get to know each other, creating positive team connections.

Competitions like the Global Challenge again promote staff wellbeing.

However Not everyone is sporty, so crowd source other activities or events to appeal to others.

People with commitments outside work – parents, carers, may not be able to join in outside working hours.

Positive company policies Flexible working, dress down policy, bring your dog to work, remote working etc. A focus on people’s lifestyle and personal needs gives companies an advantage in improving staff retention.
Contractual offerings Bonuses, parental leave, childcare support, half-day Fridays etc. are all examples of workplace incentives that can be seen as perks. As with positive company policies, contractual benefits are more likely to engage employees in the long term.

Flexible working at Work.Life. People Insight LOVE our offices here!

Perks won’t solve all your employee engagement issues

Perks can help recruiting and retaining staff and building long lasting, effective working relationships. But – and this is important – companies need to choose the right perks for the right people. If staff are desperate for flexible working, a rock-climbing wall will not help them invest in a company. Perks need to be targeted, meaningful and appropriate. When choosing incentives, ask your employees. The most effective organisations communicate, elicit preferences, then target a range of perks accordingly.

Whilst perks can be brilliant, they won’t fix fundamental issues proven to correlate with employee engagement – such as career development opportunities, leadership with purpose and connection, and supportive line management.  As Jones and Bridge state, “fun facilities could enhance working conditions, but only when employees already have a good deal.”

The engagement model, PEARLTM (Purpose, Enablement, Autonomy, Reward and Leadership) is a great place to start when considering how we engage people and provide the best employee experience. The model encourages us to look at perks in the context of;

  • ‘Do our perks help our employees who are parents feel valued and rewarded?’
  • ‘Are they aligned with our culture, driving the behaviours we want?’
  • ‘Do they help our millennials feel enabled to do a great job?’

Importantly, the model helps us see where perks won’t help – and other strategies must be considered.
Find out more about People Insight’s PEARL model here

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