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Are you in sync with the perks your employees want?

While many companies are in step with the benefits employees look for, perks like compressed schedules and telecommuting are still lagging.

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It’s critical for employers to offer perks to attract and retain talent in this hiring market, but what kind of perks matter to employees?

According to a recent survey by staffing firm Robert Half, workers want:

  • Flexible work schedules — 88 percent
  • Compressed work week — 66 percent
  • Telecommuting — 55 percent

Instead, many companies are offering perks like employee social events and on-site amenities.

“At 2.0 percent, Madison’s low unemployment rate is indicative of a particularly tight hiring market where job seekers are receiving multiple offers,” notes Jim Jeffers, metro market manager at Robert Half in Madison. “As a result, candidates are in a position to request more benefits, perks, and incentives from potential employers.”

However, it’s important for employers to understand the key differences between benefits, perks, and incentives, explains Jeffers:

  • Benefits — assistance with basic needs — noncash — not tied to performance (e.g., health insurance, retirement plan)
  • Perks — special privileges — typically noncash — sometimes tied to job performance or seniority (e.g., telecommuting, workplace wellness programs)
  • Incentives — motivational rewards — usually cash — tied to job performance (e.g., bonuses, profit-sharing plans)

What are the most sought-after perks, incentives, and benefits?

Workers surveyed by Robert Half said they prefer these top three perks: flexible work schedules, compressed workweeks (four 10-hour days, Monday through Thursday typically with Friday off), and the ability to telecommute. Many companies offer flexible schedules, but less than one in five offer shorter workweeks or remote work options, Jeffers says.

Still, companies are in sync with workers on benefits: health insurance and paid time off were the most sought after by workers, and they are the most common benefits offered by businesses, notes Jeffers.

Bonuses were the most wanted worker incentive (77 percent), and 44 percent of employers offer them, according to Jeffers. Profit-sharing plans and sign-on bonuses are also sought after by job seekers; however, only 33 percent and 19 percent of companies offer these incentives.

Jeffers says for employers who want to better attract and retain professionals but don’t quite have the budget to raise salaries, nonmonetary perks and benefits can be an effective and competitive tool.

“Companies that offer the extras show that they are concerned about their staff’s well-being,” says Jeffers. “For example, many perks are geared toward improving work-life balance and businesses that offer these perks send the message that they want their employees to have a life outside of the office. A compensation package isn’t the only aspect of helping employees feel valued — a positive corporate culture can be used as an effective retention tool.”

Jeffers offers the following tips for workers and job seekers on how to negotiate compensation and perks with employers:

  1. Do your homework. Employees and job seekers should research trends in compensation packages using a salary guide before starting the conversation with employers on it.
  2. Time it correctly. Asking for monetary incentives when the company had a bad quarter would not bode well.
  3. Be realistic. Ask for perks that make sense for your region and your role. For instance, if your job requires you to be accessible five days a week, a compressed workweek might not be in the cards.
  4. Quantify your accomplishments. During the hiring process, job seekers should make sure to highlight ways in which they can bring value to the company, demonstrating how they contribute to the bottom line.

There are also a few tips for employers on how to assess which benefits, perks, and incentives their workers want:

  1. Survey your workers. Anonymous employee surveys can reveal the perks that are in demand at your company and give you an opportunity to learn the opinions of your staff.
  2. Ask them directly. If you’re unable to initiate an employee survey, ask your staff what perks they desire during one-on-one meetings or performance reviews. Attitudes may shift over time, so it’s important to have these conversations with your staff or conduct an employee survey regularly.
  3. Be flexible. When interviewing job seekers, be clear about what perks are typically offered by the company. Consider fulfilling special requests from top candidates who are considering multiple job offers — your flexibility may be what tips them in your favor.

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