Posted on: 26 May 2015
Benefits: the joy and fear of standing out
“We want to use our benefits to stand out; what do other companies do?”
As a consultant I have heard this numerous times. Most companies want their benefits package to be attractive and help differentiate them from the crowd, yet there is a real reluctance to try something new that isn’t already ‘standard’ in the sector.
This fear of standing out is ultimately driven by the fear of getting it ‘wrong’. Imagine you introduce a free bag of laundry washed every week for every employee and no-one used it or you make the office a dog-friendly environment and it turns out half the office hates dogs and employees start leaving in droves!
The joy of standing out
How many people have now heard of Virgin offering unlimited holidays to their employees? That’s free advertising which boosts the company’s profile and helps establish them as an employer of choice for people looking for their next role.
Think how hard it is for companies to recruit staff from Google, where employees have a day a week to work on whatever projects they think would be beneficial to the company, or from Netflix where they have ditched the formal 9 to 5 and instead allow employees to work the time they think they need to get the job done? Will other companies offer that kind of flexibility?
How to find your stand out benefit
Successful ‘quirky’ benefits or employment practices tend to be focussed on something the organisation knows its employees will value. To get this right you need to make sure that you engage with employees before you launch something, rather than present a fait accompli. To do this you need to answer these two questions:
Who are your employees? What do they really want?
You need to find something that will have a substantial impact on them personally in a way that isn’t necessarily an obvious direct benefit to the company, other than their increased engagement and appreciation.
To get to the bottom of this you first need to review your employee population and figure out who they are; younger or older; single or settled; raising a family or raising hell at the weekend? This will give you clarity on the personal circumstances of your people and avoid offering something which is unlikely to be taken up.Secondly, and most importantly, ASK. Many companies seem reluctant to talk to employees and find out what they would value or be interested in, but how will you know what they will truly value and what would be a success if you don’t get out and ask? Find out about their leisure activities, what they spend time on that they wish they didn’t, or what they wish they could do, but can’t. This will help you find a common pain point that you can try and make easier for them.
But what DO other companies do?
Okay, fair enough, everyone needs a little inspiration to get started. You can find a variety of lists of unique or quirky benefits via a quick online search, but I would broadly categorise these into the following:
Time off – whether this is unlimited holiday (Virgin), no formal working hours (Netflix), or time off for volunteering (1 week per annum at Timberland) this allows employees to take control of their time and find a balance that works best for them.
Services – this could be a free bag of laundry, a house cleaning service, or a bag of groceries. The main aim is to take some of the drudgery out of the employees' lives and free up their non-working time to give them more leisure time to relax.
Education – most companies are supportive of courses that provide benefits to them, typically with clawback, but some companies offer a substantial fixed amount which employees can spend each year on any course they like whether language courses or singing lessons; this encourages and supports employees to follow a passion.
Leisure – these are the more obvious benefits but providing benefits which encourage employees to make greater use of their leisure time, either through free massages, free shopping vouchers, or ‘holiday money’ to spend while on holiday.
Finally, if you are looking at doing something different or innovative with relation to benefits or employment practices remember that they are trying to do exactly that; be innovative and different.
If you would like help finding your stand out offer, or would like support in reviewing your benefits package, then Innecto Reward Consulting can help.