Employee benefits: the new era

No self-respecting job offer would be complete without the usual list of perks – but team socials, a kettle and a pension no longer cut it. Cora Lydon looks at companies offering something a little more forward-thinking

While the employee perk has long been used to entice new hires, it’s recently become so much more. Savvy employers know that carefully crafted benefits not only keep staff happy but also make them more productive – plus it often goes a long way to shaping organisational culture.

Perks on offer are evolving. Whilst you’re unlikely to hear someone justify a decision to remain in a job with “I hate my boss, I dislike my colleagues and the work is boring – but the free cake is great”, today’s fleet of perks often read more like an advert for a 5-star vacation than an attempt to attract and retain staff. Subsidised gym memberships have been replaced by boardroom yoga and in-house baristas are gaining popularity over the kettle. It’s all about enhancing life at work and play and it’s not just staff benefitting – happy employees have fewer sick days, are more productive and are less likely to suffer with stress: it’s a win/win.

Research from recruitment specialists Glassdoor shows the most popular benefit was named as job-related training courses, which 60 per cent of people surveyed said they would like. Cash incentives are no longer in demand – today’s workers want benefits that really make a difference to their career journey and working week. Flexi-time (58%), more holiday allowance (55%) and early finishes (30%) all demonstrate our desire to carve out a better work/ life balance. Meanwhile, workers are also keen to progress and shape their careers, with desires for training, greater responsibility (50%) and assisting in side projects (35%). Partial travel reimbursement (45%), monthly socials (33%), gym membership (25%) and weekly lunches (20%) also made it into the top 10.

Thought Leader: Jeff McLean, Director, Workforce Planning and Talent Development, UPS Asia Pacific
“As we celebrate our 110th year, we’re proud to say we’ve built our organisation on our most important asset – our people. Together with individual and peer performance assessments, we identify high potential employees that would benefit from job rotations, which may include an international assignment. We also have a strong promote-from-within policy, where we look internally for talent to groom as future leaders. These policies help us to retain a strong talent pool with a high retention rate. Many employees have been with us for more than 15 years and a lot of our senior executives started off as part-time loaders or package car drivers!“UPS has a range of internal and external development programs to meet the needs of a very diverse workforce in Asia. These programs include our global leadership college, tuition reimbursement program and participation in external development workshops. Employees are also encouraged to participate in Business Resource Groups (BRGs), such as our Women’s Leadership Development Committee and the Millennial Employees. These BRGs focus on building and developing specific skills for members while at the same time addressing key development areas of our workforce. This helps ensure that UPS has a workforce with the skills and competencies required to drive our business goal. “When an employee has a specific development requirement outside of our suite of corporate programs, UPS will work with the employee to identify external development options or internal job assignments that will address the development need.

“We recognise that employees leave due to a lack of career development opportunities. That is why we empower our employees to take control of their own career development through an online career management system. When employees realise that their employer is genuinely concerned about their personal development and will invest time and resources into it, they become more engaged.”


Thought Leader: Peter Cleary, Founder and Managing Director, Zinc Group, Australia THE BIG IDEA: WORK/LIFE BALANCE
“We think you need to start with team members and make them truly happy: they will, in turn, more effectively look after clients, which will produce better results and, logically, more profit, which makes shareholders happy.“Based on this premise we’ve developed a culture that focuses on our team members (we don’t have ‘employees’ at Zinc). We try to understand what motivates our team (we do biannual motivations team surveys) then develop and customise our incentive and training programmes to reflect what the team wants.

“People and our culture is front and centre in everything we do. We do things a bit differently. For example, we offer additional paid leave on your birthday, organise monthly team lunches, we have Cake Day once a month for people who have birthdays in that month allowing the team to celebrate. We also have a fully-stocked fridge that people can help themselves to for no cost, plus a fully-functioning barista coffee machine.

“Team members can have breakfast daily, plus Friday night drinks and nibbles and, during the summer months, finish work at 2pm every alternate Friday to enjoy their weekend. They can also accumulate Zinc leave over and above the statutory annual leave.

“ZincFit is our health and wellbeing programme, which we run from our on-site gym (typically unheard of for a company of just 50 people). Everyone has 24/7 access, access to a personal trainer, fitness classes, mental health classes and nutrition seminars and session.

“Finally, our offices are very nice to come in to work every day. We have a pool table, ping pong table and lots of lounges where you can have some chill out time.”


Thought Leader: Lawrence Jones, CEO, UKFast, UK
THE BIG IDEA: CHILDCARE “My earliest memories were of being brought up in the school where my mum taught and nobody ever stopped her from taking me into work. When we had our first daughter we’d often take her into the office during the evening and work through the night – in fact, she rolled over for the first time at the UKFast offices!

“We decided that if it was ok for us, it had to be ok for everyone, so we encouraged staff to bring their children into work when needed. We built an on-site crèche area; we have a slide, a den a pirate ship, sleeping pods – it’s a real community centre within the hub of the company. It’s not an official crèche: we’re not measured by Ofstead and it’s not staffed, but it’s a place where parents can connect and children can have fun. Whilst this culture of bringing kids in whenever it’s needed happened by accident, it’s been the best thing we ever did to cement our company culture. You don’t lose people – if they feel valued and happy they choose to stay.

“Parents are less distracted; they’re not worrying about when to pick kids up or the spiralling costs of childcare in the holidays. Plus, there are plenty of distractions to keep kids amused so parents get a break too.

“We’re a happy and very profitable company, and actions speak louder than words. You can’t provide brilliant customer service unless your team and customers are happy – and we have the highest NPS score (industry standard measurement for customer satisfaction) within our industry.

“We’ve been welcoming children into the office for 13 years or more. Many bosses may feel terrified of the chaos if everyone bought their kids in, of not having enough space, but it just works.”


Wish you worked here?
There are many firms out there going above and beyond company cars, pensions and healthcare, when it comes to rewarding staff.

Ditch the 9-5: At Netflix’s Californian HQ it’s all about what you do, not when you do it. Days off and work hours aren’t measured – instead your output is. So long as you get your job done your time’s your own.
Cash bonus: Software company Huddle offers new hires a hefty joining bonus as well as gift worth a considerable amount every year.
Volunteer your time: Cosmetics brand, The Body Shop, allows employees to take five days per year in order to carry out volunteer work.
Focus on fertility: Both Apple and Facebook offer subsidised egg freezing to staff.
Paw-ternity leave: Beer giant BrewDog not only allows employees to bring their four-legged friends into work, but they also offer a week’s leave in order to settle a new dog in at home.