Human Resources News & Insights

The future of rewards: What comes after flextime?

Flextime and telecommuting used to be the perks that separated companies from their competitors.

But what does the future of rewards look like now that those privileges are becoming commonplace?

Today’s perks fall into different categories, from the free lunch to tickets to the ball game to flextime. Which ones work the best, and when?

Here are four tips for making sure your perks stay ahead of the curve, courtesy of Knowledge@Wharton’s article “A recession for perks? What companies offer and what employees want“:

Keep perks scarce

Perks are defined by three elements: They make an employee’s job more enjoyable, management has discretion over how to allocate them, and they’re uncommon.

The last part is crucial. If too many employees start receiving the same perk, it becomes a given and can lose its appeal.

That’s why most of the best perks are doled out in private, given to top staffers at review time. Stress to managers the importance of only giving out rewards when employees truly deserve them so as not to dilute the impact they have.

The best perks grant staffers more autonomy

Free lunch or a company picnic are all well and good, but the perks that work the best are the ones that give employees the opportunity to “customize their own employment arrangement.”

Translation: Staffers like to be in control of how they work. That’s why flextime and telecommuting policies are so successful.

Wharton management professor Adam Grant sees the future of perks as something similar to a menu at a restaurant: A company offers employees a wide range of potential rewards that cost the same for the employer. That way, employees can choose what they would appreciate the most.

Any way you can customize the rewards process puts you on the right track to showing employees you value them and that they’re uniquely supported.

Learn which rewards hit home

Despite the wide range of generations in the workforce today, research has found that employees more or less want the same things out of a rewards program.

The most valuable perks: intrinsic one. These include “the opportunity to do enjoyable work, experience personal development and growth, and feel a sense of accomplishment.”

Second-most valuable are extrinsic rewards – things like promotions and opportunities to do charity work.

Finally, coming in third are leisure rewards like company lunches.

Keep those stats in mind next time you’re debating which perk will mean the most to a staff member.

Know when you should and shouldn’t push perks for applicants

If you have an appealing set of rewards you offer employees, you may be tempted to try to sell applicants on them to get them in the door faster.

Great, except there’s one problem: When you use rewards to recruit skilled staff, those workers can then take those perks for granted. That lessens the advantage you gain by implementing perks in the first place.

Your best bet: If you’re struggling with recruiting efforts, develop some rewards that can be available to good employees early in their employment. If you’re finding that you’re hiring good people but they’re not performing up to snuff, you may want to consider switching to performance-based rewards.

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