The Employer We Want Doesn’t Give Free Breakfast

The Employer We Want Doesn’t Give Free Breakfast

There is a tendency to use perks as a substitute for being a quality employer. Free meals and foosball tables are nice, but they aren’t a replacement for respect, decent pay, flexibility and the opportunity to grow. While unique benefits can get a prospect to apply, they aren’t going to keep an employee who doesn’t feel valued.

A good employer is able to identify and meet employees key needs and wants, even as those needs change over time. Here are a few different examples:

Scenario 1: You have been in the same position for three years and are starting to outgrow the role. What’s going to be the most likely to keep you?

  • A large raise
  • Employer-paid cell phone service 
  • The opportunity to take on new responsibilities
  • Two additional days off per year

While I am sure people would appreciate more vacation days and a paid phone plan, it’s not likely to keep you if your day-to-day bores you to tears.

Scenario 2: You are an employee who is considering having a child in the next two-three years. You are deciding whether to stay or look for a new job. What’s going to be the most meaningful to you?

  • A decent salary which covers the cost of childcare
  • Daily paid lunch
  • Flexibility to work from home as needed
  • Free gym memberships
  • A great, paid family leave policy

We all have different needs, and several of these options may keep you. That said, I would be surprised if you selected a free gym membership or paid lunch.

Scenario 3: You have been working crazy hours for the past two months to complete a major project, only to find out the project has been scrapped. You are upset and considering leaving the company. What’s most likely to keep you?

  • A spa gift certificate
  • Your manager sending an email to the CEO, thanking you for your hard work
  • Leadership implementing your suggestions on how they can better communicate and plan projects going forward
  • A new monthly happy hour
  • A special raise for all the extra time you spent at work

Every employer makes mistakes that waste time and impact morale. The key here is that leadership should actively work to understand and repair the breach in trust. A raise or even a spa gift certificate may show that you are valued, but it won’t necessarily fix the damage that’s been done. Financial incentives may be a necessary stopgap, but rebuilding trust in the organization is what I suspect will retain you long-term.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to keep employees happy. Employers need to consider whether they are meeting employee’s core needs before they offer perks (i.e. I need affordable health insurance, but I don’t need the latest work laptop). Money “saved” by offering small perks is lost when you have to hire and train a replacement.

Employers, if you value your employees, meet their key needs and you won’t need the flair.

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