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By Alissa Bower | Associate Director – HR, L&D and Business Support

There’s been a big shift in the number and types of corporate perks on offer in the last few years as companies try to attract top talent in a competitive market.

But what benefits can you offer that really matter to your employees? Is it the headline-catching, flashy perks like Deloitte’s pet insurance or ping pong tables in the lunch room? Or is it core benefits like increased annual leave, higher superannuation or discounted health care? Let’s take a look at some of the perks on offer and what employees really want.

What perks are on offer?

Onsite child care, free massages, catered lunches, unlimited annual leave and sponsored MBAs are just some of the perks companies offer to attract and retain staff.

Reebok helps staff to achieve their fitness goals by providing an on-site gym with Crossfit classes. Gap Inc. encourages cultural appreciation by providing free access to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to corporate employees.

Netflix offers unlimited annual leave, an in-house movie theatre and employee stock purchase plans. At Google, employees get access to a Chrome-themed ball pit, space-age sleep pods and massage rooms to relieve daily stress.

Closer to home, Aussie company Quicksilver encourages staff to beat the afternoon slump by going for a surf at lunch. Newcastle company nib Health Funds helps employees to make healthy choices by providing discount gym access and a fruit basket each week.

Here at GWG Partners there’s part-time employment for working parents, fully flexible working hours, a trendy head office and remote working options.

So what perks do employees actually want?

Although there’s lots of creative and innovative perks on offer now, based on conversations with thousands of job seekers we‘ve found the most valued employee benefits are paid time off, flexible working arrangements, extra super, employer-funded parental leave and genuine career development programs.

Paid time off (PTO) – PTO is time not worked by an employee that they are paid for, hence why this one is popular! Examples include sick leave, annual leave, careers leave, personal leave etc.

Some companies provide unlimited holidays, or an extra week of leave, but this can be costly. If you don’t have a big budget there’s other ways you can develop attractive PTO. You could give your employees their birthday off or a couple of days leave during a slow time of year for your business, for example between Christmas and New Year.

Flexible working arrangements – flexible work arrangements provides workers with the ability to choose their own start and finish times, or in some cases gives them complete flexibility to work when and where they want to.

Flexible conditions are highly valued by employees given how complex and busy our lives are these days. If you don’t have the ability to give your staff complete flexibility, you could offer flexible start and finishing times whilst retaining core hours from say 11am-3.00pm.

Extra superannuation – paying a higher rate of super has been around for a long time especially in the government sector. This means paying an additional amount of superannuation to an employee over and above their personal contribution.

This one can be costly and isn’t suitable for every business but it’s a great way to differentiate your company from your competition and attract top people.

Employer-funded parental leave – the Australian government provides parents who are the primary carer of a newborn or adopted child with a maximum of 18 weeks of Government-funded pay at the National Minimum Wage. Many employers also provide paid parental leave to their employees, received in addition to the government funded scheme.

This is an important benefit for working families as it provides them with financial security during time off after having a child. Realising that this is a stressful time for many families, some companies are now offering additional leave new fathers too.

Genuine career development programs as a society our thirst for learning and having a dynamic and exciting career is stronger than ever. Employees are increasingly looking for employment opportunities that offer genuine learning and education pathways.

The good news is that in the digital age we now have access to a myriad of tools and platforms like Udacity, Coursera, Lynda and Udemy that are low cost and easy to access. Universities are offering online micro courses at graduate level, providing well recognised, relevant qualifications. Given these new tools and learning options, providing up-to-date and high quality development opportunities for your employees is achievable, even for small organisations.

Tailor the benefits to your employees

Although some of the classic benefits seem to be more popular with employees, you need to make sure the benefits you offer are right for your unique workforce.

Do you have a younger generation of workers? If so, you could provide discounted gym memberships or increased social opportunities like Friday night drinks or team BBQs. Or are your employees mostly working parents? In that case you could look at some benefits for new mums and dads like paid parental leave, flexible hours and return to work programs.

But for the best results when redesigning your employee benefit program, you should start by asking your staff what they value. This way you can choose benefits that make a positive difference to their lives and make for happier more engaged employees.

If you would like to chat about what employee benefits staff want and how to develop your employee value proposition I’d like to hear from you.  You can get in touch via alissa.bower@gwgpartners.com.au or phone 0411 043 537.

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