Which Perks Do Employees Really Care About? The Best Employee Benefits to Attract Ideal Candidates

Plenty of companies offer employee perks in an effort to attract talented people. Free meals, access to fitness centers, retreats, nap pods — these are just some of the niceties a business will tout when wooing great candidates. But while these are all well and good, they’re not most employees’ top priorities.

Employee Perks Ideas to Attract Your Ideal Candidates

So what exactly are the best employee benefits? Here’s what employees care about now:

Flexible Schedules

A flexible schedule is the number one perk that interests candidates because it’s the key to work-life balance. Your employees want to know that they can duck out for a dentist appointment or pick up their kids from school without it affecting their standing at work. The best candidates are driven and self-motivated, and they want to work for employers who trust them to deliver results, even on their own schedules.

Career Development

Career development opportunities are another highly-desired perk. However, management opportunities and executive training aren’t the only aspects of career development that top candidates are interested in. Talented, ambitious employees seek companies that encourage their professional growth through skills development programs, tuition reimbursement offers, and opportunities to attend conferences where they can expand their knowledge base. For example, CPAs are required to fulfill a certain number of Continuing Professional Education credits each year. Many companies have begun to offer extra days off to keep up with these credentials, as well as reimbursement for membership dues. If career development coaching isn’t your leadership team’s forte, consider outsourcing. Many businesses have begun outsourcing career development to companies that specialize in helping employees with their career pathways. This can free up a manager’s time to focus on employee performance rather than career trajectory, if the latter isn’t their strong suit, while still allowing the candidate access to career development.

Parental Leave

Many companies offer maternity leave, but the demand is growing for parental leave for both men and women. Furthermore, candidates now expect longer paid leave periods. More and more, companies are offering generous policies, such as six months fully paid, including for adoptive and foster children. This is a meaningful benefit, and top-quality candidates will respond to it.

What About Equity?

Top talent will always be interested in receiving equity as part of their compensation package. However, you must educate them on what owning equity shares really means. During their interview, HR or the hiring manager should be able to explain exactly how much of a stake they’ll have and what their potential earnings are. Oftentimes, candidates are reluctant to ask for clarification because they don’t want to seem ungrateful, but keeping them in the dark about what they’re entitled to is not a way to win their confidence or persuade them to work for you.

“No candidate has ever come to me and said, ‘I want to work for a company that has cold brew or kombucha on tap.’ They want to know about schedule flexibility, parental leave, and opportunities for advancement.”

Perks That Don’t Work

In recent years, companies offered unlimited paid time off (PTO) as incentives to sign with them. But unlimited PTO lost its appeal when employees realized that there’s no such thing as unlimited. Your employees may worry that taking time off will make them seem less committed and therefore not take advantage of this perk. Some employees have ended up burning out by overworking under an unlimited PTO policy. Now, people prefer a generous but clearly established vacation policy. They’d rather have a set four weeks off than an open-ended policy that leaves them anxious about being judged negatively for claiming the so-called perk. If you decide to offer unlimited PTO, let people know that you want them to take time off. During their interview, you might share an example of when you took two weeks to visit Europe with your spouse or were out for a few days to spend time with your family. Set the example so they’re confident this is a perk they can use to enhance their quality of life. Another perk that’s fallen out of fashion is free meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sure, it’s convenient to never have to leave the office, but there is also a drawback. People can burn out if they never get outside, go for a walk, or grab lunch with their colleagues in a more relaxed setting. While employees are unlikely to complain about free, gourmet meals, they’re not necessarily going to be swayed by them either.

Employee Perks Should Reflect Your Culture

No candidate has ever come to me and said, “I want to work for a company that has cold brew or kombucha on tap.” They want to know about schedule flexibility, parental leave, and opportunities for advancement. While offering the best employee benefits requires more intentionality and planning, providing them sets the tone for your company. You want to attract people who care more about work-life balance than having lobster in the cafeteria. Those are the candidates who are deeply committed to their careers and their families, who crave meaning and are seeking a company in which they can grow and thrive. The way you attract and retain employee tells them a great deal about your culture and whether it’s one they want to join.

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