A 401(k) or Improv Classes? Benefits That Matter Most to Employees

Business.com / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

To both attract and retain the best employees, business leaders need to know what matters most to them.

Although employers are required to offer certain benefits, it can be difficult to decide which to expand upon and what types of additional perks to offer.

As noted in this infographic, it’s clear that not everyone has the same priorities when it comes to things like retirement planning and saving for the years ahead.

What matters to some employees may not matter as much to others, and that can make it difficult for employers to decide which benefits will offer the best return on investment (ROI) in terms of both employee satisfaction and the organization’s bottom line.

Here, we’ll take a look at what the research shows, as well as the benefits many employees want that you may not have considered.

Related Article:Employee Benefits: Creative Additions that Don’t Kill the Payroll Budget

The Allure of the Bright and Shiny

In today’s business climate, companies face stiff competition in trying to attract the best and brightest from a talented pool of candidates and many are using nonmonetary perks to try to lure them in. According to a 2015 survey by specialized staffing firm Robert Half, 40 percent of CFOs say they’re more open to considering such perks than before, but they don’t always know what workers want.

By analyzing data from its Benefits Reviews, research firm Glassdoor provided a few insights to help compile a list of the top 20 companies that scored high points for their nontraditional perks.

They included benefits like the one paid year of maternity leave for new parents offered by Netflix; Spotify’s coverage of egg freezing and fertility assistance; Airbnb’s $2,000 annual travel stipend; Burton’s season ski passes and “snow days”; Twitter’s onsite acupuncture and improv classes; Accenture’s coverage of gender reassignment; Facebook’s $4,000 in “Baby Cash” for employees with a newborn; and Google’s payment of 50 percent of a deceased employee’s salary to a surviving spouse or partner for the 10 years following a death. 

Core Benefits Endure 

According to Glassdoor’s Q3 2015 Employment Confidence Survey, 79 percent of employees would rather have new or additional benefits than more money. “Specifically, more women (82 percent) than men (76 percent) prefer benefits or perks to a pay raise. And, younger employees aged 18 to 34 (89 percent) and 35 to 44 (84 percent) prefer benefits or perks to pay raises when compared to those aged 45 to 54 (70 percent) and 55 to 64 (66).” Regarding the types of benefits desired and percentage of respondents who wanted them:

  • Health care insurance: 40 percent
  • Vacation and paid time off: 37 percent
  • Performance bonus: 35 percent
  • Paid sick days: 32 percent
  • 401(k) plan, retirement plan and/or pension: 31 percent
  • Flexible schedule: 30 percent
  • Office perks: 19 percent
  • Employee development programs: 19 percent
  • Tuition reimbursement: 18 percent
  • Employee discounts: 17 percent
  • Gym membership or wellness programs: 16 percent
  • Stock, stock options, and/or equity: 16 percent
  • Paid parental leave: 13 percent
  • Child care assistance: 13 percent
  • Commuter assistance: nine percent
  • Diversity program: three percent

Related Article:Re-evaluating Benefits: How to Determine What Employees Really Need

However, according to the research firm’s most recent analysis, the quality of employer-provided health insurance plans had the biggest impact on employee satisfaction followed by 401(k) retirement plans, and then vacation and paid time off: “Although exotic benefits such as tuition reimbursements and in-office gyms have grown in popularity in recent years, our analysis of the data suggest three core benefits matter most to today’s workers: health insurance; vacation and paid time off; and 401(k) retirement plans.

These more traditional benefits have a large and statistically significant impact on employee satisfaction, and should not be neglected by employers as they consider less traditional benefits.”

What Matters Most

Significantly, Glassdoor says attracting and retaining employees are two different dynamics. While 57 percent of people report that benefits and perks are a top consideration before accepting a job the company’s additional research indicates that culture, values, career opportunities and senior leadership are important in keeping them: “Employees tell us that articulating a prosperous career path for employees, hiring a competent executive team, and maintaining a positive culture appear to be far more important ways to ensure satisfied employees.”

In addition, many employees say there’s something they value even more: open communication. According to a 2015 15Five survey of 1,000 full-time employees across the U.S., 81 percent responded that they’d rather join a company with a culture of open communication over one with great perks. In addition, the results revealed that:

  • Only 15 percent of employees are “very satisfied” with the quality of communication within their companies. 
  • Only 15 percent of employees believe their managers “highly value” their feedback.
  • 58 percent of employees said managers value their feedback only moderately, slightly or not at all.
  • 62 percent of employees share their professional goals with managers just a few times a year or less.

Researchers highlight the often-difficult multigenerational dynamics at play in the workforce particularly the dissimilar communication styles of baby boomers and millennials, and the influence of technology in how individuals relate to each other. As David Hassell, CEO of 15Five, notes, “Clearly, companies have a lot of work to do to foster open dialogue.

Related Article:A Good Investment: How Keeping Employees Happy Benefits a Business

If teams aren’t communicating with honesty, clarity, and respect, then their companies won’t thrive; finding ways to bridge generational divides, encourage honest feedback, and improve transparency will go a long way to boosting productivity, morale, and profits.”

It seems clear that while certain benefits matter a great deal in terms of attracting the best employees the key to keeping them satisfied and within your ranks involves a whole lot more than free meals and an attractive health insurance plan.

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