Perks can keep employees happy

2004

In all of the many surveys that show why an employee stays or leaves a company, 'perks' are not usually high on the list. But they do add to employee morale, and as we ought to know by now, happier employees are usually more productive and more willing to go the extra mile.

Perhaps most important to employers is finding perks that have meaning but do not cost an arm and a leg.

Sometimes it’s easier for smaller companies to provide perks, but larger companies can still do so with relative ease.

For example, one high tech company that employees about 6,000 people in Southern California keeps free soda and juice drinks available for all its employees. Also, it’s not uncommon to see pizza and huge salad bowls in their break rooms on Friday afternoons. In this company where the average salary is considered very good, an extra couple hundred dollars per employee is a small price to pay for reducing stress and adding convenience.

In Paterson, Washington, Watts Brothers Frozen Foods also provides free sodas and every Friday is known as “Donut Friday.” During the spring, summer, and fall they hold barbeques every other Friday afternoon. Company controller Lauri Roberts says they also do birthday cakes for everyone’s birthday. “Anything to do with food, they like,” says Roberts.

Such food events also get employees talking, and often it’s during these more informal times that workplace problems get solved.

Another perk I’ve heard about is flexible benefits. For example, let’s say your spouse works at a company that offers better health insurance than the company you work for, and you elect coverage on your spouse’s program. A flexible benefit program might allow you to decline your personal health care benefit in favor of other perks, such as “pet health insurance” if you have a pet, or perhaps membership at a health club.

Some companies are providing in-house daycare for those with youngsters. It keeps kids close to mom (or dad) and reduces the number of days the parents take off. If the child is close by, the parent feels more secure (and fewer sick days are used).

Other perks include free car washing. There’s nothing like showing up to work in a dirty car, then coming out at the end of the day with your vehicle all washed and waxed. On perks like these, it isn’t even necessary for the company to pick up the whole tab. Even if the car wash is only subsidized by the company, it can be considered a great perk.

Kathleen Rankin, an insurance agent for State Farm Insurance in Boise, Idaho, has ongoing games in her office to keep things fun. “They’re perks everyone likes,” she says. “The games revolve around everyone’s regular job descriptions—they’re a way to keep fun on the job.” Her four employees regularly win gift certificates to the local shopping mall.

Bottom line, inexpensive perks can be icing on the cake to make happier employees. For good reading along these lines, I recommend Follow this Path: How the World's Greatest Organizations Drive Growth by Unleashing Human Potential by Curt Coffman and Gabriel Gonzalez-Molina. But as a heads up, the authors point out that it is company cultures–not the organization itself—that unleashes human potential which, in turn, drives organizations.

Essentially, perks can keep your employees - and in ripple effect, your company controllers - pretty happy.

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About The Author

Dan Bobinski
Dan Bobinski

Dan Bobinski is a training specialist, author, and an accomplished keynote speaker. He's been providing management and leadership training to Fortune 500 companies as well as smaller, regional concerns for more than 20 years.

Older Comments

Thank you for this article. I am a supervisor in a small business and am looking for ways to keep my employees happy. Some of these were good ideas, the key is being creative. I am going to have my employees fill out a short survey on things that they like, hobbies, how they spend their free time etc. This may give me a better idea of what to 'perk' them with. If you have any other comments, please e-mail me. Thanks.

Ryan Oklahoma City

I was an employee at a very small company (12 people in the entire office). They didn't offer insurance or terrific wages, but they did offer perks. Upon hire, I was allowed to pick any available office chair in the building that I wanted. The ones that were there weren't great (or so my manager said) so they purchased a nicer new chair for me. All employees could choose the type of pens they preferred and the colors of post-its. If you wanted a white erase board or a cork board in your office, they would supply that for you. They held a pot-luck at lunch-time on Thanksgiving, and gave you an extra day off occasionally (Holidays on a Tuesday or Thursday would give you a day off on that Monday or Friday, if you chose-or you could work if you chose). The manager was very sensitive to the mood in the office as well. If she sensed trouble brewing, she would speak to the parties involved and diffuse the situation immediately. Her door was always open.

Insurance would have been great. A higher wage would have been nice, too. But, having a place that cares about whether you are happy in your job was worth taking the hit.

Angela Idaho