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Pay vs. Perks: The Best Ways to Engage Employees

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A ping pong table in the office may sound like a great perk. But, is it actually a benefit? Does it create an environment where employees truly feel valued or does it do exactly the opposite?

Robby Slaughter, a principal with AccelaWork, asks this very question in a recent article he wrote for the Small Business Expert Forum. In Pay vs. Perks: The Best Ways to Engage Employees, he opens up about his thoughts on office perks and how they can actually diminish the message of value brought to employees.

No doubt you’ve heard about of offices with the “cool” factor. Maybe you’re allowed to wear jeans or the company brings out beers on Friday afternoons or there’s a foosball table or a unlimited snacks in the break room. Some people might see these as office perks intended to make workplace fun. But often, these extras are purposefully designed to keep people in the office for longer hours. And many employers use these perks in lieu of higher pay to attract potential employees.

This realization is hard to argue against. After all, everything costs money right? When products and/or services are introduced and made available in the office, it stands to reason that the money for those things has to come from somewhere. Chances are, these unnecessary perks directly affects payroll. Now, you may say to yourself, “what’s so wrong with having perks that makes the office fun and at times, less stressful?” And the quick answer is, nothing. Sure, it’s not the worst thing in the world to have a free onsite gym or cafe at your fingertips. No doubt, these things are definitely enticing to those seeking a new job and/or staying satisfied in their current role.

office perks

© Flickr user christianodendaal.

But, as we’ve discussed on The Methodology Blog before, these perks may not only diminish overall financial compensation, but they can potentially increase the amount of time spent in the office.

Yet, it’s important to recognize that drawing a distinct line between fancy amenities and fruitful benefits can help capture the long term satisfaction desired in a career. In this regard, consider for a moment that certain factors for achieving positive work-life balance can help in determining what the solid perks in a job should be:

Assess the corporate culture
While it’s convenient to have a state-of-the-art fitness center on-site, someone who will pick up and deliver your dry cleaning every week, or round-the-clock access to a fully stocked game room, perks like these can make it easy for employees to spend a lot more time at the office than they might otherwise . . . If you believe you’ll thrive in this type of corporate culture, great — though don’t be surprised if sometimes you’ll need to bring a toothbrush and change of clothes to the office.

Look beyond bright and shiny things
Your heart may skip a beat when a potential employer says you’ll never have to pay for breakfast, lunch or dinner in the employee cafeteria — or that you can bring your dog to work. But as the hiring manager runs through the list of all the nifty perks the company provides, are you also hearing mention of things such as “professional development opportunities,” “tuition reimbursement” or “performance-based bonuses”?

Evaluate the rewards of the job itself
It’s easy to be persuaded by the promise of generous perks and pay when you’re evaluating a job offer. But it’s critical to also consider whether you’d thrive in the company’s workplace culture and whether the position would be rewarding to you professionally. Would the role challenge or inspire you? Would it provide a platform for growth and allow you to learn new skills or deepen your expertise? Trust your gut instincts if you sense the job will leave you wanting, and remember that no incentive can truly compensate for an unfulfilling employment situation.

To achieve genuine satisfaction among employees, companies should place value in those areas that enhance employee opportunity and growth. For example, provide employees with the freedom to work and create as they see fit. Why not give them the chance to mold and change and innovate? These perks are different. They may not provide a free lunch or coffee break entertainment. In the large scheme of things, they do extensively more than that. They empower us. As Slaughter concludes in his article for the Small Business Expert Forum:

The best benefit you can offer is a fair wage for fair work. Don’t worry about controlling when, where, or how people get their job done. Give your team freedom and show them respect.

That’s what employees need, because employees are people.

And an amazing thing happens when you’re not worried about perks and instead give people space to explore, discover, and produce. Those naturally interested in doing something great will prove themselves automatically. It becomes abundantly obvious who can’t be motivated without someone watching their every move or giving them gold stars.

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Ashley Lee

Ashley Lee

Ashley has been working with the AccelaWork team since 2008. She is a communications expert with a background in corporate work, and a graduate of the University of Dayton with a degree in Public Relations. She lives in the greater Indianapolis area with her husband and four children. Ashley enjoys jewelry, fashion, and coffee.
Ashley Lee

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