Whether you’re thinking about offering health-club memberships or free coffee and doughnuts, there’s one step in the process than needs to be considered before putting the “OK” stamp on the idea: How will it fly if the day comes that we have to kill benefits or raise the cost to employees
Take Google, for instance. The so-called dream employer ended up with a public-relations nightmare and a lot of angry employees when it nearly doubled the employees’ share of what had been reasonably priced, company-sponsored daycare.
You probably don’t get the kind of publicity that Google does. Few of us do. But everyone has employees — who get angry when perks are pulled.
Still, sometimes cutting or changing a benefit is unavoidable. A survey last year by Towers Perrin showed that 11% of publicly traded companies said they had cut at least one benefit. The most common ones to fall under the ax were company cars, club memberships, life and health insurance packages, and financial-planning services.
So, what do you do
So, again, consider what employee reaction will be if someday you have to take away or change a benefit that seems reasonable and do-able today. And how will you get employees to swallow the idea?
Sigal Barsade, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania recommends:
- Make it fair and across-the-board. If some employees — usually higher level ones — get to retain the benefit, expect the move to lead to anger and poor performance among employees who lose the benefit. Worse, if you try to keep it a secret, expect a full-scale employee revolt.
- Make it equitable. The Google case is a good example. By drastically raising the employees’ share for daycare, the company sent off signals that the benefit was being made accessible only to higher-paid people. That’s when things got ugly for the once-admired employer.
- Give the reason — other than “to save money.” It’s not that saving money is an evil goal. It’s that when employees perceive it as the only goal, they rebel. If, for example, you’re pulling one benefit to make sure employees get to keep a another higher-priority benefit, say so. If it’s to keep wages at high level, mention that. Whatever it is, the reason should be tied to what’s best for the employees, and not just to what’s best for the company’s bottom line.