The Value of Perks in the Workplace

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Perks can make or break a job offer.  But perks are not a one-size-fits all proposition.  Depending on the life stage of your employee—or your workforce—different perks work for different folks.

In a recruiting marketplace that continues to tighten, businesses of all size are looking for ways to improve their competitive edge.  Some more expensive perks, like paid parenting leave, are offered mainly by larger enterprise companies like Etsy, Johnson and Johnson, and Microsoft.

In June, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) released their annual survey report of the perks being offered, and what workers have to say about them. SHRM looked at more than 300 employee benefits on the table for applicants to American employers across the country.

Let’s take a walk through some of the findings:

  • Same old same old: The report confirms recruiting for top talent is, and will remain, tight.
  • Offering more…or less: Almost one-third of organizations surveyed boosted their benefit offerings in the last year, with wellness and health leading the pack. Only about six percent of these companies decreased their benefit offerings and usually did so to stabilize their bottom line.  For these companies, health and wellness benefits took the biggest hit.  About 77 percent of responding companies felt their wellness perks and programs were helping to reduce health care costs.
  • Where are you on health care? The SHRM report notes a majority of companies are offering health care coverage to full time employees, but only 16 percent cover the full cost of insurance.  More organizations are offering health care coverage for part-time employees—up to 34 percent in 2017, from the 27 percent recorded in 2014.  For part-timers, fewer companies paid full premiums, and eight percent required these half-time workers to pay their own costs of insurance. By the numbers, 95 percent provide health coverage for opposite-sex spouses, and 85 percent offer the benefit to same-sex spouses.  Only about 50 percent offer health coverage to domestic partners.  In trends, use of flexible (“Flex”) accounts for medical costs has gone down, while use of health savings accounts (HSAs) and employer contributions to HSAs is on the rise.
  • Wellness perks: Getting up and moving ranked well in 2017 perks.  The use of standing desks continues to trend upward, with an 11 percent increase in the last year alone.  In 2013, the number of adopters of standing desks was 13 percent, and by 2017 it was 44 percent.  Organizing fitness challenges and step-tracking wrist bands also moved up this year.
  • Paying for time off: Paid time off is a perk appreciated by employees.  About 96 percent of employers provide paid vacation time, while fewer (about 81 percent) offer paid sick time.  While vacation time is critical for creativity, productivity, and overall wellness, paid sick time gives workers a chance to recover quickly—without sharing the germs in your workplace.
  • Slight increases in parenting perks: Still only 30 percent of organizations surveyed provide paid maternity leave (including family leave policies, but excluding state disability laws).  Only about 24 percent offer paid paternity leave.  In a perk that may increase as Millennials move into mainstream family-building, only 41 and 22 days, are offered for maternity and paternity leave on average.
  • Other perks: The report notes that other appreciated perks include free coffee, financial advice, telecommuting, flexible hours, signing bonus for non-executive position and other real-world bennies.


Matching perks to candidates is important.  While a Baby Boomer may be looking for more remote work or flex-time, a Millennial could be looking for better parenting time benefits.  In addition to general company benefits, appropriately personalized perks can sweeten the pot when your company is vying for hard-to-hire talent.