The Argument for Less Trendy Perks

Gina Deveney
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Employee perks, those benefits that go beyond basic compensation, are no longer limited to large corporations. Small and mid-sized companies are expanding their offerings with hopes of attracting and retaining the best employees. Unfortunately, trendy perks aren't always the game-winners they initially appear to be. Basic employment perks that meet real needs are more likely to be appreciated by a larger number of employees to improve both recruitment and retention of quality workers.

Trendy employee perks are attention-grabbers. Free massages, nap rooms and juice bars catch the attention of job seekers and the media. High-tech firms compete to offer the most unusual trendy perks, and those perks do initially increase interest in a company. New college graduates in particular are quick to apply for jobs where most of their needs are met right at the work site. Human resource specialists even compare work sites with an abundance of trendy perks to college campuses in atmosphere.

On the other hand, trendy perks cost corporations a large amount of money. Oftentimes this money is better spent on basic employee perks with a wider appeal. All employees appreciate more paid time off from work, for example. Everyone needs to eat, and free food tops many lists of popular employee perks. On-site fitness centers make it easy for employees to stay in shape, which decreases sick days. They also provide a place for employees to socialize, which increases employee engagement.

The novelty of trendy employee perks decreases with the length of employment and the age of the employees. Employees with families appreciate better basic benefits, such as fully paid health insurance and subsidized childcare programs. Extending such benefits to spouses and children increases employee retention among those in this stage of life. Employees enjoy the opportunity of exercising with their spouse for free at the employee fitness center after work or occasionally bringing a child to the company cafeteria for a free lunch. Free or inexpensive health-care benefits for the entire family is a basic perk that never goes out of fashion.

Before spending money on trendy employee perks, it is wise to take a look at the company budget and use any extra human resource allowance with true employee needs in mind. A simple employee survey helps narrow down the exact perks employees want. The age and the lifestyle of current employees and those employees the company hopes to attract should both factor into decisions on the types of perks to offer.

Trendy perks attract attention, but quality benefits increase employee retention in the long term. Companies that use employees' wants and needs as the foundation for their employee benefit programs improve employee engagement and recruit workers with a forward-looking focus. Basic employee perks keep employees satisfied in their jobs and grow with them as they mature.


(Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles /


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