Over the last year, the global workforce has experienced significant change. Technological advancements and the pandemic have created the perfect storm, in which the way we work has been altered permanently and consequently the things we expect from our workplaces have changed. After the extended period of social distancing last year, an organisation that doesn’t allow for employees to work from home suddenly seems outdated, whereas a few years ago this would have been quite commonplace. Similarly, as society has begun to understand more about mental health and the role it plays in the workplace, the more importance is placed on organisation’s catering to psychological health and wellbeing within their workplace health and safety procedures. What would once have been considered a ‘nice to have' a decade ago, is now considered by many to be standard practice.
The Australian online marketplace SEEK explored the changing nature of workplace ‘perks’ in their latest research, which reveals what the top workplace perks in Australia are according to employees. In today’s blog, we examine SEEK’s latest findings, to determine how important particular ‘perks’ and work practices play in an employee’s morale and consequently how significantly they contribute to an employee’s decision to leave or join an organisation.
What Is Considered A Perk?
In their research, SEEK defined a perk as a ‘nice to have’ (SEEK, 2021). Which consists of features or practices that still impact on an employee’s job satisfaction and their attitude towards the overall organisation but are not considered a necessity within the workplace. Examples of this would be a discounted gym membership, team events or activities or Friday drinks. Alternately, learning and development opportunities could be considered a necessary feature for employees to perform well within their role and the organisation and consequently are considered standard practice within an organisation.
Other organisations including Just Works (an HR software company) consider perks to be one variety of employee benefits. They categorise traditional benefits as non-wage compensation that supplements salary or has an associated dollar amount like health insurance. Perks on the other hand, are tied more closely to lifestyle and experiences, like catered meals (JUstWorks, 2017). Both types of benefits, are important in maintaining strong employee morale and satisfaction with current employees and act as a great marketing strategy when trying to recruit new team members to the organisation. And according to the latest research by SEEK, non-financial and experienced-based benefits or ‘perks’ are being prioritised more frequently by today’s jobseekers.
The Shifting Perception of Perks
In SEEK’s latest research, 74% of Australians surveyed, considered having a company car as the top perk, while 72% of respondents valued free meals and 70% valued free work associated events and activities. Onsite gym memberships, discounted gym memberships and Friday drinks were also ranked among the top 10 perks for Australian candidates in 2021.
Interestingly, in the same research, there were a number of work features that respondents no longer considered as a perk but expected as a standard feature within a modern organisation. The top feature being mental health support which 69% of respondents believed should be seen as standard practice. This was closely followed by active learning and development programs which 68% of respondents believed should be considered standard practice. Flexible working (hours and location), extended parental leave and mentoring/coaching opportunities were also highly rated among respondents.
The importance of learning and development was further reinforced by a recent study Design & Build conducted within our own professional network, in which 42.54% of respondents said they would be willing to have access to more non-financial and flexible working benefits (additional parental leave, paid study leave etc.) instead of a pay rise. Furthermore, 91.34% of Design & Build’s professional network considered learning & development to be the primary criteria (outside of salary) when looking for new opportunities.
These statistics highlight how drastically the workplace environment has changed over the last decade, especially in regards to mental health, learning and development and workplace flexibility which have both experienced an increased uptake by organisations in recent times. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, two in five people (41%) with a job, worked from home at least once a week in February 2021, compared with 24% of people who worked at least once a week before March 2020. These figures are almost triple the numbers of those working at home in 2010. (2021). While COVID-19 forced the majority of businesses to partake in remote working last year, it highlighted the potential working from home could provide to employees in regards to work-life balance and work flexibility, and consequently has gained considerable popularity, even after COVID restrictions eased.
Furthermore, in the early 00’s many organisations weren’t fully aware of how prevalent mental health problems within the workplace were. A research paper published in 2008 claimed that “despite one in five Australians experiencing mental health problems each year, nearly half of all senior managers believe none of their workers will experience a mental health problem at work” (Chant et. al, 2008). However, as time has gone on more and more studies on the subject have revealed the direct correlation positive mental health and wellbeing has to an individual employee’s performance and productivity. Employers and employees alike are now seeing the importance of promoting and recognising mental health within the workplace and a number of organisations are now offering counselling and support programs to their employees, or developing a comprehensive range of resources like webinars and booklets that are accessible to employees experiencing heightened anxiety or stress.
What Employers Can Take Away From These Findings
Being aware of employee’s changing values is important, as an organisation that’s out-of-touch with what employee’s are wanting from their place of work, is going to experience difficulty in attracting and retaining top talent. In fact, 62% of respondents within the SEEK survey said they would be more loyal to an employer if they were to receive more perks.
Consequently, it’s important for organisations to firstly cater to employee’s wants and needs through relevant benefits and perks and secondly, highlight these perks at every stage of the recruitment process. By listing and promoting the benefits and opportunities your organisation provides in job ads, and discussing them during the interviewing process, you’re making it clear to candidates about the positive aspects of working at your organisation.
For example, a key part of Design & Build’s recruitment strategy is highlighting the Learning & Development training program we’ve developed for our consultants which caters to all experience levels – from associate to senior consultant. Because learning & development is an important company value and something we have made accessible to all of our consultants, we ensure it’s a feature that’s clearly promoted in all of our job advertisements, so that prospective employees are aware of the opportunities available to them, if pursuing a role with Design & Build.
For organisations that are trying to overhaul or develop their benefits or perks program further, SEEK suggests surveying employees to find out the benefits that they value, and giving them a choice around the perks the organisation offers. Everyone’s priorities and needs will be slightly different, but asking candidates about the benefits they appreciate and storing this information, will put you in a much better position to build an effective program that will resonate with the majority.
To find out more about promoting your organisation’s perks and benefits throughout your recruitment process, and what perks will resonate best with your target demographic, our consultants are on hand to offer support and advice. Reach out to us today for more information – firstname.lastname@example.org
 SEEK. (2021). What Counts As A Perk in 2021. Seek. Retrieved from: https://www.seek.com.au/career-advice/article/australias-top-work-perks
 JustWorks. 2017. What’s The Difference Between An Employee Benefit & Perk? JustWorks. Retrieved from: https://justworks.com/blog/what-is-the-difference-between-a-perk-and-a-benefit
 Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2021). A Year of COVID-19 and Australians Work From Home More. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.abs.gov.au/media-centre/media-releases/year-covid-19-and-australians-work-home-more
 Chant, Cleary, Hilton, Kessler, Sheridan, Wang & Whiteford. (2008). The Prevalence of Psychological Distress in Employees and Associated Occupational Risk Factors.J Occup Environ Med. 2008 Jul;50(7):746-57. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31817e9171. PMID: 18617830. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18617830/