Don’t Play Follow the Leader When Assessing Perks and Benefits at Your Company

November 11, 2019
Tom Morselli

PulsePoint’s SVP of People, Tom Morselli, shares the process his team went through before introducing new benefits including $500 vacation stipend and enhanced parental leave.

We all remember playing the game “follow the leader” as a child. From wildly flailing our arms or furiously scratching our heads, we had to copy whatever the “leader” was doing. If not, we lost the game. At the age of five and in the confines of my own back-yard, this worked well.

However, many companies play this same game when it comes to designing their own perks and benefits programs. Companies like Facebook and Google consistently set the bar high with respect to the types of unique programs they offer and it’s easy to get swayed by all the articles and publicity these and similar companies receive, causing many of us to quickly usher in similar programs with the belief we need to “keep up with the Jones’”.

It’s obvious that companies need to offer more that just a few weeks vacation and basic health insurance to attract and retain the best team members. However, in a sea of companies offering on-call masseuses, concierge services and on-site fitness centers what was once ‘table stakes’ has evolved into an unusually competitive landscape of companies trying to one up each other in this war for talent.

It’s easy to get FOMO and play copycat catch-up, believing that your team members will be tripping all over themselves to grab the new exciting perk, but window shopping for benefits offered by other companies may not be the right thing for your organization. Perks and benefits are not a ‘one size fits all’ type of strategy and what works for Google or Facebook may not (and likely won’t) work at your Company. More than likely, you’re going to have to pull your nose away from the glass and take a deep breath before you pull the trigger on any new hot perk or benefit.

Here are some things to consider when before adding perks or benefits to your organization:

ROI (both for the Company and the Team Member) — what is the return you should expect not only from the cost but also from the administrative (time) investment. Will it allow you to attract more (and better) types of candidates thereby speeding up the hiring process? Does it give you a leg up on the competition, opening the door to passive job seekers at direct competitors in your space? Is it something meaningful enough that will force aid in retention? Is it something that will save your team members money for things they already are participating in?

Team Member Interest — May sound like a big “Duh” but you’d be surprised. Many companies fail to ask their team members what interests them. In doing so, they fail to identify key retention drivers and will go through the time, effort and expense introducing a benefit that slowly dies on the vine. Trying new things is great. But eventually you’ll look like you’re throwing perks at a wall to see what will stick. Instead, send out a quick survey, get feedback during stay interviews, or form a culture committee to help identify those perks that will have the most impact. You want benefits that are sustainable (through team member interest), have a lasting impact and become cultural differentiators for your organization. Sometimes the best benefit is the one you don’t provide because it’s hard to ‘pull back’ anything once it’s implemented.

Culture Fit — Take a look at your organizational culture before deciding what benefits you may wish to provide for your team. Does it align with your core values, serve a clear need for your team members and underscore the strategic goals of the organization? Looking at it another way, does the benefit help transition your culture into the type of company you want to be, thereby attracting a different type of applicant? For example, enhanced parental leave, tuition reimbursement, student loan assistance and a 401K match are all great benefits, but they represent differing levels of importance to specific groups of team members and are examples of perks that are best examined through the cultural lens of your company.

Implementation — Ideally, newly introduced benefits should not require a considerable investment in set-up and maintenance. It should, whenever possible, leverage and interface with existing technologies to eliminate the heavy lifting and administrative burden. Good benefits are those that will be sustained year in and year out which necessitates that they not be incremental to the responsibilities for your team (which will, potentially require more headcount to manage and thereby reduce ROI). Let the vendor do the work where possible.

In an effort to ‘eat our own dog food’(and in addition to our already robust perks and benefits program), we applied the above principals before recently launching a slew of new benefits and perks for our team members here at PulsePoint:

Free Annual Membership to One Medical — being a programmatic health company, anything that we can do to underscore our commitment to health and wellness is a no-brainer. For our team members, One Medical provides exceptional premium care, same day appointments that start on time, virtual visits 24/7 and convenient locations. In short, they make it easy to go to the doctor, resulting in a healthier, more engaged team, lower healthcare costs (for both the team member and the company) and improved health outcomes. Aside from a data feed and monthly billing, it required minimal effort on our part to implement and maintain.

Giving Back — We’re not laying claim to the uniqueness of the benefit, many companies provide this perk. However, it’s important to look at the why it made sense for us at PulsePoint. The genesis of this benefit was the direct result of our team members own individual passions and volunteer efforts (on their own time). They were doing it with or without us. We wanted to show our support and strongly believe that encouraging giving and philanthropy is a contagious endeavor, one that we can all feel good about. To encourage everyone to give back, we provide 3 paid days each year for volunteerism (which is in addition to our quarterly company efforts) as well as a matching gifts program.

Enhanced Parental Benefits — Another result of assessing the culture of the company (and seeing quite a few new parents), we introduced the New Parent’s Program to alleviate some of the initial burden(s) that impact new parents. As a result, we cover housecleaning expenses, diapers and dinners for the first 3 months. We also introduced an “Ease Back” transition-back-to-work program for primary caregivers whereby a team member may work a 3:2 work schedule (3 days in the office, 2 days work from home) for the first month, and then 4:1 work schedule for the second month, with a regular work schedule resuming thereafter.

To further support our working parents, we now partner with UrbanSitter (fully covering the membership costs) and provide up to $100 emergency childcare credits.

Not to be left out in the cold (and seeing the proliferation of pet photos on a dedicated slack channel), we now offer 1 day of Pawternity leave for parents to bond with their new ‘fur babies’.

Recharging our Batteries — One of our Core Values is ‘Have Fun or Go Home’ and we want to ensure that our team members understand the importance we place on stepping away from the job from time to time. Forgoing PTO is not a badge of honor as is it is some companies and we encourage our team members to take all their time each year. To encourage this even further, we offer $500 reimbursement for travel and lodging each year for PTO purposes.

Final thoughts

Don’t be a sheep and blindly follow the ‘perks bandwagon’. Instead, take a step back and create a well thought out and intentional benefits and perks program that fits and supports your unique organizational culture. By doing so, you’ll ensure that you’re investing in the right places, giving your team members perks they want and will actually use. In the end, this approach becomes an integral part of your talent acquisition strategy while simultaneously boosting retention and team member engagement.

This is the one time where not following the leader may actually win you the game.

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