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The 21st Century workplace just can’t get enough employee perks: the Society for Human Resources Management reports that 88% of organizations  offered professional membership benefits in 2016, a 23% increase compared with 1996. Perks, if done right, can help decrease turnover, improve employee performance, and create a positive, productive company culture.

SPOILER ALERT: perks are almost never done right!

Too many companies are jumping aboard the Perk Boat, only to drive it straight into an iceberg and abandon ship. At PerkNow, we’re passionate about perks (passionate enough to name our company after  them). We’ve seen the fundamental positive change in employees’ relationships that perks can bring about. If you’re trying to implement a perk program but aren’t seeing the bottom-line results that you  expected, evaluate yourself against these very common hang-ups:

You Aren’t Properly Marketing Them to Employees

Ok, brace yourselves for a groundbreakingly obvious HR principle: perk initiatives only have an impact if employees use them. If employees aren’t consistently made aware of perks, they likely won’t use them and you’ll miss out on the myriad benefits of offering a robust perk program.

One of our employees used to work at a university with over 15,000 employees. Somewhere along the line, an HR Director at the university made the effort to negotiate some pretty awesome discounts with local companies (e.g. 20% off AT&T plans, 30% off oil changes, etc.). Marketed to employees properly, perks like that can be a coup for employee engagement and happiness; they show that the university is going to bat for its employees and makes employees feel like they’re part of a special club.

Unfortunately, the university didn’t exactly roll out the red carpet for this perk initiative; the list of company perks and discounts (almost 200 strong!) exists solely on a poorly-formatted list deep within the vast void of the university Intranet. The vast majority of university employees we talked to had no idea that such a page existed. It’s a little like developing a cutting-edge app and marketing it exclusively through Grandma’s family newsletter; you spent the money on a great initiative, but none of the right people are going to see it!

Marketing to employees doesn’t require a roll-out party with smoke machines and strobe lights; with very little effort, you can encourage the buy-in necessary for increased employee productivity, happiness, and loyalty. Send an internal email with an interesting subject line and some fun GIFs, post an announcement up on the wall of all the break rooms, and announce it at the company picnic. Routinely check in with employees to see if they’ve used the perks, and tell them to tell their co-workers. A little PR can go a long way in generating the buy-in you’re looking for!

You’ve Made Them Completely Inaccessible

Remember the story of the university; investing in perks doesn’t matter AT ALL if employees don’t have frictionless access to them!

You may have done a decent job of advertising your perks to employees, only to restrict perk access. Some companies require employees to ask permission from their manager before using even the smallest perk (e.g. check with the manager before grabbing a free soda), others require presentation of a company ID or badge, which forces employees to carry badges/IDs with them at all times. Even those brave and hardy employees who are willing to push through red tape may not have consistent access to a list of perks/discounts available to them. Why? Because they haven’t memorized the inscrutable URL of the far-flung company Intranet page on which the list of perks exists!

In our HR experience, the most frictionlessly effective solution is a free mobile app available to all employees at any time. Employees can  access, review, and redeem their perks at any time and any location. For a workforce used to 1-Click shopping on Amazon, an immediately-accessible mobile app is the only solution that won’t feel clunky and tedious.
Of course, it’s possible that you don’t actually WANT to give your employees immediate access to their perks. In this case, your problems run much deeper:

Your Company Culture is Still Anti-Perk

Good job making the decision to finally offer perks! You should feel good about your decision: Glassdoor reported in 2015 that 4 in 5 employees would want benefits or perks more than a pay raise. Decide now how your company is going to approach perks. Either you’re totally in or totally out; if you’re waffling, you have a much lower chance of seeing a good ROI.

If you want to double down on perks and try to create a positive company culture centered around employee-employer trust, make the effort to give employees no-strings-attached access to the perks that they value. If you’re still feeling skeptical, consider researching the advantages of perks more; you can’t expect an instant ROI, but the eventual benefits of creating a generous company culture will far outweigh the costs!
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