Forget office perks: This is what your employees really want

Appical Team
Jessica Heijmans
January 30, 2023
min read
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The tight labor market has caused companies around the world to compete for top talent. To win this battle, many organizations are offering special conditions, such as ski trips, free meals, and other perks. But is this what employees really want? We spoke to Great Place To Work's Commercial Director Wencke Ester-Lorber to get her views.

"We are currently in the middle of a 'war on talent,'" begins Wencke. "Everyone is looking for people. But then when I look at my LinkedIn feed, I see that many organizations offer attractive 'perks' to entice people to join them. Examples include ping pong tables, office dogs, unlimited vacation days, fun get-togethers and ski trips.”

What many job postings lack is an answer to the question: what kind of house are you joining? In other words, what is the culture of the company? What are the norms and values and how do we interact with each other? Many companies think that if you have your perks in order, people will come automatically. But you have to turn this around: make sure you have your house in order, the extra benefits will follow later."

Wencke spotted two shortcomings in companies:

1. Attracting talents under false pretenses

One of the primary reasons why employees do not remain in a company for long is because their expectations are not met. Many companies create a hype to attract potential employees. But once employees start, they might discover that the job or company does not match what was promised.

"So-called challenging projects actually turn out to be boring, and the flexible work policy is in reality far from flexible. The unlimited vacation days sounded like a nice perk, but you can’t use them because your manager doesn't want you to take days off." Not what you expected!

"We are dealing with a market where employees are in charge. As a result, people tend to move on quickly if expectations are not met, leading to an increase in costs. From recruitment fees to retraining expenses, these costs can quickly add up when the employee in question departs.”

2. Not listening to employees' needs

It is important that companies understand the needs of their employees and take into account the different wishes that people have. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case.

"A clear example of this disconnect between employers and employees is seen in Elon Musk's order for his employees to return to the office, while employees are increasingly asking for flexibility." In fact, almost 90% of employees do not want to return to the office full-time (Miro). It is essential to keep these needs in mind when drafting work policies and vacancies.

At the end of the day, it's not about the terms of employment at all. Great Place To Work research shows that only 9% of respondents choose an employer because of the terms of employment. "The majority of employees are motivated by belief in the mission, job security and a good work-life balance."

So what do employees want (to know)?

Aren't good working conditions important at all? They certainly are. Salary and other conditions such as flexible working hours and hybrid working remain important. But you make the difference with culture and being a good employer.

"Of course, everyone wants something different in the workplace. But fundamentally it doesn't differ that much: everyone wants above all to be able to be themselves. That means being the same person both at home and in the workplace, having confidence and feeling safe to express yourself. And making mistakes along the way? Sure!"

Focus on the culture of the organization

"It's also important to make clear what the core values are. Which behaviors are valued and which are not. How do people treat each other? And explain what this means “in practice”. For example, what is meant by the term 'competitive'? Does it mean that you don't settle for low performance? Or that you occasionally freak out if you don’t achieve what you wanted?”

"But also: how does each employee contribute to the company’s mission? And how can people develop? People are looking for a place where they can be themselves, where there is flexibility and where they feel they are really contributing."

Tell the real story

"You can attract talent with attractive conditions, but if you're not essentially a good employer, employees will leave in no time. If you want employees to stay longer, you need to pay more attention to telling an honest story."

"What are the growth opportunities within the company? What kind of company culture is there? What impact are you making as an employee? Tell this to the candidate. But above all, don't make false promises!"

As an employer, don't focus on the perks, but explain what you stand for, offer security and think about the needs of your employees.

> Read more on how to become a good employer

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