When he was looking to tighten the bonds with employees and reward them, Kevin Hollis of Belmont Health & Wealth in Dartmouth, N.S. came up with two new days off. These aren’t just vacation days. They’re volunteer days; one to help out with any charity of their choosing and one to work on a group project (such as a food bank).
Hollis knows his team, like his company, places importance on giving back to the community, so he did something to make it easier, on company time. “It tells people we’re not just here to work, and the bottom line isn’t all that matters,” says Hollis. “It’s about creating a positive environment, and that’s what keeps people here.”
Businesses are seeking any number of imaginative ways to forge that environment. The perks stem from asking the right questions and understanding your workplace demographics. Start with the questions. How do we make employees’ lives easier? Help them face challenges? Inject fun? Give them a boost to reach their goals?
Some perks revolve around reducing chores, such as providing dry cleaning or an in-house chef. Other opportunities fuel learning, such as covering the costs of professional accreditation, tuition subsidies or scholarships for children of staff. Still other strategies reward staff for referrals, whether sales leads or job recruits. Then there are social events that can double as bonding and team-building experiences: employee sports, getaways and tickets.
Know your employee audience. Young parents might be particularly thankful for flex time. Recent grads might appreciate assistance paying off student loans, after they’ve worked a certain period. Older employees, on the other hand, might enjoy the option of part-time work as a way of easing into retirement.
Kandy Cantwell, managing partner at Montridge Financial Group in Vancouver, says perks can build in the necessary variety. For instance, benefits packages can have menus, such as extra dollars for health and dental, a daycare subsidy, or spending towards a gym membership. The choices can change annually, so they’re always tailored to evolving needs and interests.
The little things we do lead to the behaviour that contributes to positive results.
Consider whether a reward actually adds value or is more of a burden. An awards appreciation night is a nice touch, but maybe not if it’s a stuffy affair on a Friday night that forces an employee to get a sitter. Cantwell adds that some physical perks can seem cool at first like a pool table or beer fridge but can lose some sheen if the employer lacks an overall friendly culture.
Caroline Kugelmass, president of Excel Benefit Consulting in Calgary, says building loyalty can come at little or no cost. For example, she makes a career coach available to staff. Career growth can also happen by putting people on projects outside their realm. That can broaden perspectives all around, and build skill levels.
When staff members feel acknowledged and appreciated, with perks designed for them, the impact can far outweigh the gesture. Hollis says, “They just feel good about the organization. The little things we do lead to the behaviour that contributes to positive results.”