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Perks and Incentives – What Do Your People Actually Want

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When we think of companies that employees love working for, we envision offices transformed into adult playgrounds: bean bags, pool tables, beer fridges and nap zones for hard workers.

Take a look at Google. In the Zurich office, they even have slides.

In reality, though, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Current staff have serious complaints, from negligible promotion opportunities and a deficit of individual rewards to a lack of flexible working options.

This is a perfect example of perks and incentives done wrong. Let’s look at what employees really want to help them feel more engaged and happier at work.

Carrots for Brilliance

Humans are complex creatures, but there is one universal thing people need to keep on working hard… and that’s motivation. Which can be ignited by recognition from you and your managers.

Demonstrate how much you value your employees and all the hard work they do by offering personal rewards for individual achievements.

A lot of people have an intrinsic motivation that stems from good working ethics. But to take their performance to the next level, your input is essential.

Of course, having a ridiculously-fun working environment is a great incentive. But, on its own, it’s not enough. In fact, too much play and not enough work can harm your culture and demotivate staff:

“It’s like never-never land — people never grow up. They drink at all hours, socialize constantly, play games, and do little to no work.” – Google employee, Quora

So, what carrots will incentivise employees to work their socks off?

The Best Types of Rewards


It’s a fact: these days, people prefer flexible working to the typical 9-5 drudgery:

Around three-quarters of UK employees claim that flexible working benefits would make a job more appealing, and in fact, nearly a third would prefer flexible working to a pay rise.” – Letitia Booty, Real Business

There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, millennials now make up 35% of the global workforce – 70% of which want flexible working options, according to Powwownow.

Then we have the baby boomers and generation X, who are approaching retirement age. They desire remote, part-time and flexible work to take care of their elderly parents and reduce the physical stresses from demanding jobs.

Depending on the structure of your business, you can reward those who have proved their loyalty and commitment by offering flexible working hours, such as:

  • Half days or a single day per week working at home
  • Full-time working from home or at a satellite location
  • More flexible working hours, such as 10am – 6pm instead of 9am – 5pm (according to the worker’s preference)
  • Part-time work or job shares

You may even find that employees productivity levels rise after introducing more flexible working hours. For example, ConnectSolutions demonstrated how its remote employees have bolstered efficiency. After surveying its own team, it found that “77% reported greater productivity” while working remotely.

There are lots of other business benefits from remote working. Read this blog to find out what they are and how to combat potential problems.

Personalised Perks

Have cash bonuses become crass? Nobody will wave extra income away. But most won’t rave about it either – this type of reward could be regarded as lazy and unfeeling compared to something more personal.

For example, if Greg’s favourite football team is playing next month, get him tickets! Perhaps Suzanne loves Lindt chocolate: give her a Lindt advent calendar for a seasonal surprise. Get the picture?

It’s all about providing rewards that hold real value. The key is thinking of gifts that remind your staff how much you mean to them.

It’s a strategy we use to build customer loyalty. So why not for employee commitment too?

This is simple enough to do as a small business. Hopefully, you know your staff well enough to give them prizes they love.

For larger companies, harnessing technology will help you understand employees on an individual level. For instance, you can ask your workforce to fill in feedback forms and mine the data for personal insights.

Your managers can help too – ensure that appraisals include discussions surrounding what employees like and dislike so managers can use this information for creative reward ideas.

Tantalising Training

Employees DO value workplace training – this is demonstrated through the rising levels of performance and staff retention in companies that invest in learning and development.

For example, in the UK L&D Report 2018, it was found that “of the companies spending above the national average of £300 per employee training, none have a retention rate of less than six months.”

The thing is, there are lots of ways to invest in training but not all of them are effective at boosting employee happiness and engagement.

To illustrate, if you ask your staff to come into the office on a weekend for whiteboard-style, company-focused training, deep down you’ll get reluctance, not enthusiasm, in return.

Start instead with understanding what your staff want from their training. Is it to learn new job-related skills they can use immediately? Or tools to develop their future potential?

By crafting learning and development initiatives from the employee up, you can ensure staff value your investment.

Then you need to think of creative ways to make training fun. Gamification is effective because it promotes our natural competitiveness which increases engagement. For example, you could create leaderboards where staff compete against each other in training sessions.

Think about encouraging peer-to-peer learning too. Social sharing can actually trigger the release of dopamine, according to a Harvard study. Create a learning culture where employees can bounce off each other to drive engagement and work satisfaction. 

Want Happier and More Engaged Staff?

Rewarding your employees on a personal level through fun, valuable and engaging ways can dramatically improve job satisfaction and employee happiness.

The reward for your business? Better staff retention, increased productivity and a cracking company culture.

Take the next step in creating a dreamy workplace for your fantastic employees by making mental health and wellbeing central to your culture. Learn how to achieve this in our recent blog.