Simple Perks Can Win the War for Talent


2017 is looking to be a more competitive year for employers trying to attract top talent. As the unemployment rate drops, so too will the pool of job seekers, making it harder for employers to find the right people. The best candidates haven’t had this much leverage since 2008, and they are going to use it to their advantage when choosing where to work. Investing in the workplace amenities that attract and retain the best talent is an increasingly important use of the HR budget.

Until recently, it had been only Silicon Valley that competed on perks in the talent war – but that is changing. The tech giants do indeed take creating a happy work culture to the extreme, with pet-friendly offices, onsite yoga classes, and even free massages. Gusto, Etsy, and Fitbit are some prime examples of companies that push perks to the max, and attract top talent as a result.  However, their culture has had a ripple effect throughout American office culture. Many millennial employees in other U.S. cities (myself included) would rather spend their days in a positive, enjoyable atmosphere and earn a little less in salary than bring home a higher paycheck in a sterile, formal office environment.

I travel to a lot of offices throughout the country, and I’ve started seeing some of the Bay Area’s perks pop up in traditional industries everywhere. Telecom and oil companies now have ping pong tables and yoga ball chairs. Financial services firms in New York – long known for maximizing employee salaries but emphasizing frugality in the office – are beginning to offer free meals throughout the day. CPG companies in the Midwest keep refrigerators stocked full of free seltzer and Vitamin Water. (As co-founder of Bevi, an Internet-connected beverage machine that serves unlimited still, sparkling, and flavored water, I pay particular attention to beverage offerings).

Unsurprisingly, as the Silicon Valley culture proliferates, recruits are making more of an effort to understand a company’s work perks during the interview process. Increasingly, job seekers view perks as a total part of their compensation package, and negotiate accordingly. While you’ll probably never hear someone say, “I won’t join unless you offer free lunches” (although it sadly wouldn’t surprise me to hear that), you will hear more and more often, “My current employer provides free lunch every day, which saves me $300 per month, so I’d like to see that difference reflected in my salary.” As a result, HR professionals in all industries need to start thinking about their perks strategically, and pitching them to job applicants as part of their compensation.

With a limited perks budget, how do you create the highest perceived value among potential recruits?  Certainly some benefits have a higher ROI than others. Recent research by the American Psychological Association suggests that the best investments are in employee health and wellness. Forty-four percent of Americans surveyed feel their employers do not support their well-being, contributing to chronic stress, worse health, and unhappiness at work. Developing a culture where employees feel their physical and mental well-being is supported is a clear competitive advantage.

This is simpler than it sounds. You don’t need a petting zoo or on-site dog massages to help your employees be healthier and happier. There are a number of affordable amenities which help create a more positive work environment – and which in turn make job offers more attractive. LeanBox out of Boston brings high-quality meals to the office for a fraction of the price of a cafeteria or caterer. 2020 On-Site brings vision care directly to the office a couple of times a year. For the majority of companies that don’t have Google’s means to go all-out on perks, there are plenty of “Silicon Valley light” options available to give employees the core benefits they desire, on a budget.

In addition to increasing the perceived value of job offers, a modest investment in workplace wellness also yields productivity returns. Bevi recently commissioned research with YouGov of over 2,000 American workers, and found that one in four employees will work longer and harder if their company provides free food and drinks. Fundamentally, this makes sense. An employee is likely to arrive a little earlier when breakfast is available in the office, or stay a little later (and maintain more focus) when he isn’t starving for dinner by 5:00 p.m.

Across industries, we are entering a pivotal moment where failure to keep up with employees’ demands for a healthier work environment will result in a loss of talent, and a decreased ability to win the best recruits, especially among the millennial workforce. Investing in health and wellness perks is an easy way to make your business more competitive, and to decrease your costs on recruiting and turnover.

About the Author

Sean Grundy is the CEO and co-founder at Bevi, a smart water cooler bringing joy to employees and companies nationwide by providing a fun, personalized and eco-friendly way to drink still and sparkling flavored water.

With a strong background in environmental sciences and an affinity for making a social impact, Sean began his career with Rare, an international not-for-profit organization that’s mission is to help communities adopt sustainable behaviors toward their natural environment and resources.

Sean holds an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and is a graduate of Princeton University where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy.

TMC is working to raise awareness of such issues as well via its Tech Culture Awards program. It's dedicated to bringing this kind of important information to light and recognizing those companies that are effecting positive change in the workplace. We invite you to explore and participate in the TMC Workplace Excellence Award program including the Tech Culture Award, the Tech Diversity Award, and the Social Responsibility Award.


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