Attract and Retain Series: What Benefits Matter?

Today, most employers know that “happiness” is a crucial component of employee retention, profit and productivity. But what works? Do businesses need to invest in perks like endless work holidays, or in rewards and bonuses in order to successfully maintain a happier workforce? We don’t think so for the following reasons:

Employees are becoming increasingly aware of the perks trap. Endless days off does not mean your staff are going on month long holidays in the sun. In fact, it is quite the opposite! Staff end up taking less holidays because they fear being perceived less dedicated to work. Dennis Eusebio of the Entrepreneur called these kind of perks out as ‘Trojan Horses’, only there to trick staff into working longer. Laundry services, free lifts home and free lunches is now being seen as just another way to keep staff at their desk longer.

Staff working more than they should isn’t beneficial for business either. Over working employees can cause burnout leading to a lack of focus on the right business, stress and health problems.

Do not discount non-traditional benefits or perks all together. Instead invest efforts in understanding what is relevant to your employees and what supports their healthy work life balance. In a survey by Quill it was found that Family leave (Maternity, Paternity and Adoption leave) as well having the flexibility to work from home were the most sought after perks and are the best at retaining happy staff. See Quill Café’s infograph here.

What about financial rewards and benefits? Science says no! Incentives, bonuses and commissions don’t always work and can actually do harm to the productivity and creativity of your staff. In his Ted Talk the Puzzle of Motivation Dan Pinks claims creating financial rewards can narrow focus and restrict possibilities which affects performance. Backing his theory up is research and trials by the London School of Economics and also trials sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of America, confirming that the higher the financial reward or incentive the worse the results will be!

Everyone for themselves. There is a huge disconnect between what science says and what business does. Creating financial incentives like bonuses promotes employees focusing on their own personal gain solely over that of their colleagues and the business as a collective. Alfie Kohn of the Harvard Business Review advised “Everyone is pressuring the system for individual gain. No one is improving the system for collective gain. The system will inevitably crash”.

So, what does work? Pinks believes we need to change to a whole new approach in order to understand the intrinsic unseen motivations that creates happier and satisfied employees. These motivations include:

1) Autonomy – The urge to direct our own lives

2) Mastery – The desire to get better and better at something that matters

3) Purpose – The yearning to do what we do to in the service of something larger than our selves.

Invest your time in understanding what is your staffs Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose so that you can really promote a happy, driven and collective work force. Open up your lines of communication so you know the benefits that really matter.

Discovering what your staff really want may surprise you.

“A poor leader can manage people by the stick. A better leader uses the carrot and the stick.  The greatest leaders, who champion a cause larger than themselves and who show respect to others, need no stick at all.”

Max Strom 2016