It’s time to reinvent the work perk.
Australia is facing a talent shortage, especially in digital and e-commerce roles. A recent study by AWS uncovered that Australia will need an additional 6.5 million digital workers by 2025. But unlike for Amazon in the US, raising the minimum wage from atrocious to poor won’t be enough to attract and retain great talent.
You need to make team members feel like they are wanted. That they belong there. That this is the place for them. Money is the door opener but it’s not the warm hug on the other side. This is where great perks can come into play.
Luckily, we’ve seen some smart retail businesses get on the front foot with reinventing the work perk. Big or small, each of the perks from these retailers tells a story to the employee and the wider community about what the company values.
Go beyond the obvious
What are some of the day-to-day pain points for your team? It could range from Zoom exhaustion, to a feeling of isolation, to back pain from working on the couch with a cat lodged between you and the backrest. There are some obvious ideas for perks to address these issues: no Zoom days, one-to-one buddies, and at-home ergonomic audits are a pretty good place to start. But good perks go beyond the obvious work stuff.
My neighbour works for a large challenger sports brand. He gets a monthly budget to spend on whatever product he wants. Since he can buy only so many black T-shirts, he uses some of his allowance to dish out apparel for the neighbourhood kids. He gets a kick out of it and we’re lobbying the council to get the street renamed after the brand.
Elsewhere, activewear brand LSKD has hit its stride with its run club. Starting out as a small group taking a run after work, the run club has now grown into a company perk and even has customers joining in. Workwear brand and mental health advocates TradeMutt have started Go on, get! days to encourage the team to go out and do something they wouldn’t normally do. This is on top of in-house counsellor services. And in the midst of last year’s craziness, the Melbourne-based Who Gives A Crap gave its team an enforced extra week off to help them press reset.
These are little things but become part of the story and culture of a team.
On a larger scale, retailers are showing that perks can make significant impacts. Modibody added 10 additional paid leave days for menstruation, menopause and miscarriage. Lush has an Employee Benefit Trust. The trust means that 10 per cent of the company remains owned by employees to ensure that ethical decisions are made from the top down. Late last year, Target started offering free university tuition for its team.
These are much larger and fundamental perks but cleverly considered to retain and attract team members. They are all life- and world-altering – and 100 per cent aligned with brand missions.
How to make perks that work
So how do your employee perks stack up? Do you know them? Are they used? Still hoping the beer fridge will get people back in the office?
If you want to reinvent your work perks, I have some starting tips.
Firstly, consult your team. I know you love your Saturday morning Bikram yoga but the idea of doing it with your colleagues is hell in a sauna to most people. It’s crucial to get feedback directly from your team across the business. But instead of leading with perks (I mean, who’s going to say no to more perks), lead with, ‘How could we make your workday better?’ Or a variation of that question. The perks will fall out as solutions to common pain points.
Secondly, make your perks unique. We recently recruited an e-commerce manager who was won over by the perk of being able to surf with the team at lunch. That’s a pretty rare perk that’s hard to counter. Think about your brand and your culture. What do you stand for that you can involve your team in? Not only will it connect your team to your culture, but also the activity amplifies the brand’s mission externally.
Next, shout about your perks. Many businesses have amazing perks but keep them hidden (as I found out when writing this article). If you offer great benefits, don’t keep them hidden in a dark corner of your ‘careers’ page, tell the world. Make them part of your overall story. Brief this challenge to your marketing team – they’ll love it.
And lastly, keep evolving your perks. It’s natural to be hesitant when introducing new employee benefits. What if we need to change it? What if the team takes advantage? What if we need to remove it? Honestly, all three of these scenarios will probably happen. Work perks don’t have to be set in stone. Communicate clearly with your team why you are introducing the perk and that it is subject to change. They’ll sure appreciate you getting on with real change rather than another cupcake bake-off from the social committee.
The competition for talent is fierce and it’s not getting any easier. Get your perk game up to speed and bring your team in for a big, warm hug.