Guest post: Perks aren’t the way to win the hearts and minds of employees

Office perks are big business. Whether it’s free parking, a well-stocked fridge or nap-pods, companies are becoming increasingly innovative in an attempt to attract – and more importantly, retain, the best talent.

This is no surprise for two factors – firstly, cost. Acas estimates that it costs £30,000 to replace an employee, factoring in the lost productivity time, hiring costs and how long it takes new hires to get up to speed. This figure will differ depending on the company, as some firms will have enough scale to cover the change temporarily, but it is a hefty sum when you consider the average staff turnover in the UK is 15% (although this varies drastically by sector).

There’s also the millennial factor. By 2020, this demographic is expected to make up 35% of the workforce, and for some employers, this presents a big challenge. Unlike their predecessors, they are more willing to job-hop, with a Deloitte survey of over 10,000 millennials showing that 43% plan to leave their current jobs within two years and only 28% have plans to stay beyond five years.

When you combine this lack of loyalty with the cost of training and then losing an employee, it paints a fairly bleak picture for firms – why should they invest in people who are unwilling to invest in them?

The answer, therefore is to bring emotion into the equation. People who are emotionally invested are more likely to stay loyal. Marketers cottoned onto this a while back – just think how Apple keeps an almost cult-like following. In a workplace setting, the best way to achieve this is culture. There’s the old adage that people buy people, and this is true, so setting your stall by getting others to reflect core business values could help firms reap talent rewards.

But how is this achievable?

We recently spoke to employees across a range of industries about what matters most to them when it comes to culture and workplace environments. The results were stark. When we asked employees what mattered to them when it came to culture, respect and fairness came first, along with integrity and trust.

It was also evident just how highly employees value culture, with 58% saying they’d take a job at a competing company if it had a better culture. The biggest result, however, was just how far employees would go to work somewhere which resonated with them. Just under half (48%) of employees we spoke to were willing to work a 60 hour week just for a better culture. For some, this is near doubling their current contracted hours. Working 10-12 hour days five or six days a week is a significant investment, and the fact people are willing to do this for culture shows just how deeply it can affect employee wellbeing and engagement. This was almost double the 25% who said they’d sacrifice culture for shorter working hours, and the final few who sat on the fence.

But how can employers build an inclusive culture? Here are our main pointers:

Pre-boarding is the new on-boarding

On-boarding has always been considered a critical part of the induction process – first impressions count after all and you want any new hire to hit the ground running. However, our research flagged that new hires want to feel part of the team before they even start, be this joining company social channels or being assigned a buddy before they walk through the door.

Don’t underestimate the power of management

Managers are crucial in helping us reach our career goals. However, if you have a poor relationship with your manager, this can instantly impact job satisfaction and engagement. Whilst the vast majority we researched had positive relationships with their managers, familiar gripes remained as to where the gaps were in the relationship. These included lack of guidance and support, lack of clear instructions and not celebrating successes. A quarter didn’t even have a manager. I said earlier that people buy people and it’s true. Working for an inspiring manager means people do go the extra mile, and it’s worth remembering that when it comes to cultivating a culture.

Address issues head on

Beyond the employee-to-manager relationship, workplace relationships run across an entire organisation and across all functions, teams, regions and levels of seniority. So it’s not just important for employees to forge strong connections and bonds with their direct supervisor; it’s also beneficial to interact, engage and build relationships with fellow colleagues.

But as our study found, forging and maintaining strong relationships is easier said than done. When we asked respondents to cite the biggest detriment to workplace relationships, poor/lack of internal communications (18%), lack of team unity (20%) and toxic company culture (17%) were cited as the three biggest detriments. To create a positive culture, niggles and issues need identifying and tackling head on. No one likes being kept in the dark, and it’s evident from the above that uncertainty breeds feelings of negatively, which in itself affects unity and teamwork. No company is perfect, so surely it’s better to identify problems before they become bigger issues and fix them, before losing a raft of talented individuals.

In today’s competitive job landscape, keeping your best asset – your employees can be a big task. However, whilst expensive perks and nice aesthetics go so far, the intangible factors such as culture and workplace relationships can’t be overlooked in the talent battle. We are moving into a new dawn of employee/employer relationships and the winners will ultimately be those who win the hearts and minds of employees, not just those who fill their wallets.


This was a Guest Post Contribution By Patrick van der Mijl, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer, Speakap

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