Guest Blog by Michael Dunnett-Stone
Michael is the founder of Seed Music – a company that builds musical communities in workplaces. Find out more at www.seedmusic.co.uk
A workplace’s decisions on perks and benefits says a lot about its character. Holding back on perks can give the impression of being cold and brutalist, while opening up the coffers for every option in town seems frivolous and gullible.
It’s quite a landscape to navigate but, in an age when 38% of workers saying they’d consider switching companies (according to research by Payment Sense) to get the perks they want, it’s vitally important to get it right.
Bringing an element of structure to the table is a good place to start. Below are 5 steps to put you on a considered path and some actions you can take right now to get on to it.
Step 1: Think communities
The most valuable asset a company can build through its perks is a sense of community.
A recent paper by the former US surgeon general, Vivek Murphy, draws attention to the disheartening prevalence of loneliness at work. Loneliness is as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, by the way. At work, it leads to poorer quality work, reduces engagement and increases sick leave.
Communities are the antidote.
They are often the most valued, least replicable and best value aspects of a workplace benefits scheme. For many, finding the perks that can build communities is the end goal. For the rest, it’s certainly a good litmus test.
Step 2: Differentiate from competitors
Don’t be a ‘me too’ company. Assuming you’ve got the basics covered, there’s much less to be gained from copying an initiative that your competitor just launched than from carving your own path.
Step 3: Be more like 19th century Cadbury
As I recently pointed out in an article on reaction life, when Cadbury’s set up the Bourneville estate in 1878, it was filling in the gaps that the private sector had left. This approach, rather than replicating what’s otherwise widely available, is key to picking the perks that your employees value.
Think about the impact your spend is going to have on your employees. Try to invest each £1 in providing something that employees value, but would cost them substantially more to purchase. If you spend £30 per employee paying for gym membership, when it would cost them £45 to join, that’s a multiple of 1.5x. Not bad, but not great. If, however, you use your spend to provide something scarce and valuable, it could have multiple times the impact.
My hypothesis is that the best multiplier effect is found by investing in your office facilities – by making better use of the space you’re already paying for. How could you use your space to provide something amazing?
Step 4: Clear up your objectives
Impact is hard to measure. It’s even harder if you don’t know what you’re aiming for.
Just 1 in 6 of those who invest in employee well-being evaluate the impact of their spend (CIPD). That’s understandable, this is not an area that lends itself to measurement, but it is not an excuse for a scatter gun approach.
Even if you don’t have the resources to statistically measure the outcome, having the objectives in mind helps focus your approach. It ensures you have a clear logic for each decision and goes a long way to structuring debate.
Typical objectives include retention and recruitment, as stated by 84% and 83% of companies respectively (Employee Benefits), but be sure to consider those specific to your company.
Step 5: Research
Find out what people want – it’s important. There are two ways of doing this.
First, generic research. Did you know, for example, that Millennials prefer learning benefits to cash bonuses (22% vs. 14%, according to Perkbox). Broad trends are useful in establishing the cultural make up of a workplace, which is a key to getting it right when it comes to deciding on benefits
There’s a helpfully categorised database of trends at www.WorkplaceWellbeingFacts.com, which you can access for free.
Second, specific research. Find out what the actual preferences of your employees are. An internal survey is best, but just speaking to a few employees is a good place to start.
Something you can do right now.
In reality, these steps must be done in reverse order, starting with research and progressing to a logical shortlist. Below is a re-ordered guide to quickly filter out the losers and find the winners.
1) Do your research.
2) Write down your objectives.
3) Scout your competition. Write down what they’re missing.
4) Cross off any of these that are well covered by the market.
5) Circle anything that has the potential to form communities.
6) Highlight those that you could tackle by making better use of your office space.
7) Anything that’s highlighted and circled, check against your objectives from step 2. I’d be surprised if they don’t line up.