Rules of Attraction: The Changing Face of Company Benefits

These days, top professionals expect much more from their employers than pensions, healthcare and company cars - and businesses in their turn are laying on ever more extravagant perks as part of innovative talent strategies.

But do discount policies and away-days really improve productivity, or are they just a load of Silicon Valley nonsense? In this article, we’ll take a look at the new breed of employee benefits, from share schemes and shopping vouchers to free food and remote working.

What are company benefits?

Unless you’re doing work experience (or are a particularly bad negotiator), an employment contract will usually set out what your duties are as an employee, and what salary you can expect in return. Company benefits (also known as ‘employee benefits’ or ‘benefits in kind’) are all the extra perks that employers throw-in on top of salary to make the overall employment package more attractive.

Of course, there are various ‘extras’ that employers are required to supply, such as paid holidays, sick leave and workplace pensions, but company benefits are those which are not mandated by law.

For instance, all employers are legally obliged to give full-time staff 28 days’ paid annual leave per year, including bank holidays, but some may choose to ‘gift’ staff additional day off, perhaps on their birthday.

Why bother?

So why do companies go through the hassle and expense of administering these benefits? Well, there are two primary reasons: firstly, to attract the best talent. All other things being equal, a decent benefits package can often be the deciding factor when a candidate is deliberating between job offers from two organisations (especially in competitive industries such as finance and IT).

The second (and ultimately more important) factor is employee retention. Company benefits play a major role in making staff feel valued and cared about, which in turn leads to greater company loyalty and encourages staff to stick around for the long haul.

Moreover, financial benefits such as bonus schemes and free healthcare enhance the economic security of employees, meaning they’re less likely to look elsewhere in the hope of improving their circumstances.

How have company benefits changed?

Businesses have long been using company benefits to lure in new talent and keep current staff happy. Traditionally, company benefits have included things like flexitime, bonus schemes, ‘dress down Fridays’ and company cars - but such perks are coming to be seen as ‘run of the mill’ in today’s job market.

Improvements in technology and an increasingly digital job market have meant that remote working has become a real possibility, and many companies now allow employees to work from home some or all of the time. Changing social norms also mean that many businesses (especially in the creative industries) allow casual attire all day, every day.

And rather than an annual ‘Christmas do’, it’s common for modern organisations to have a whole calendar of social events, ranging from pub quizzes and games nights to activities like go-karting and paintballing.

Indeed, in July 2017, the Opus team descended on the wilderness of Chew Valley Lake to attend the inaugural Opus Fest - a day of summer celebration in recognition of our recent achievements, and an opportunity to say thank you.

As you can see, fun was had by all:

The Christmas party itself has also been given a promotion, with awkward meals out and photocopier misdemeanours increasingly being replaced by lavished themed events, activity weekends, and even trips abroad.

The trend towards ever-greater employee satisfaction also means that offices themselves are changing. Many modern workplaces now boast ping pong tables, bean bags, artificial grass, and even swings and slides. Dog-friendly offices are also increasingly popular.

In fact, an entire industry has developed around the provision of company benefits, with firms like Perkbox and Staff Treats offering staff discounts on high street shopping, utilities and travel for a fixed monthly fee.

But why are companies so keen to spoil their employees in the first place?

The Google effect

As with so much in the modern business environment, Silicon Valley firms have set the trend. Keen to attract the very best workers and to portray themselves as forward-thinking, technology giants like Google are renowned for their cushy working environments, which include free shuttle services, office bowling alleys and - possibly best of all - free gourmet lunches.

Originally picked up by the ‘cooler’ firms around the world, indulgent company benefits are becoming increasingly commonplace - and as the standard is raised ever higher, companies lay on more and more freebies in order to get ahead of competitors. The result is a sort of benign arms race in which employees are the beneficiaries.

But is it worth it for the employers? Luckily for workers, the answer seems to be, ‘yes’. According to a survey by Glassdoor, almost 80% of workers would prefer new company benefits to an increase in pay, while 57% said that they consider company benefits one of the most important factors when deciding whether to take a job.

A motivated workforce usually results in greater productivity, so such employment packages appear to be win-win all round.

At Opus, we’re committed to helping employers build the perfect team, and are experienced at advising on company benefits packages that turn heads. If you’d like to hear more about our talent strategy solutions, please contact us today. Alternatively, if you’re intrigued about the company benefits on offer to Opus staff, why not enquire about working for us?

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