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Are These Employee Perks Really Worth the Hype?

employee perks

It seems like the arms race is on for companies offering employee perks.

In-office game rooms, unlimited vacation policies, beer-stocked break room refrigerators—it’s easy to get caught up in all of the options. But at the end of the day, which of these perks are going to woo the type of top talent an employer is hoping to recruit and retain for years to come? And as a prospective hire, which perks should you be looking for in the companies you apply to?

  • Unlimited Vacation Policies

This policy—which is, in effect, a non-policy—is still eye-catching and relatively rare. It may reel in impressive recruits who are drawn to the easy-going nature of the company philosophy that endorses this type of policy. However, depending on the company’s workforce, it could have one of two effects. For one, studies are showing that employees in companies with unlimited vacation policies end up taking less time off, unsure of what the expectations are and how much is too much.

The other problem that at least one company found after tossing its standard PTO plan and implementing this policy is that workers who had accumulated additional days off over the years suddenly felt cheated out of the time they’d earned with tenure. In 2014, Tribune Publishing had to drop its unlimited vacation policy for this very reason. Employees, as a result, should consider these factors when deciding whether or not an unlimited vacation policy is a reason to join a new company.

  • Family Friendly

For employers, having a workforce that is not distracted by the day-in-day-out challenges of childcare is essential. However, many companies overlook the value that childcare can present to prospective employees—and certainly how helpful it can be in retaining these employees as their lives and families evolve. Bain & Company, ranking number two on our Ivy Exec list of best, large consulting firms to work for, offers backup child care and sick child care to its workforce which is split nearly 50-50 between men and women on the payroll.

For younger job seekers thinking that this perk might not be as valuable to them as a company game room, keep in mind that if you stick with an organization long enough, your priorities may start to look a lot different than they did fresh out of business school and a flexible childcare policy could prove invaluable in the long-term.

  • Healthy Boundaries

Many offices get by on a culture of non-stop calls and emails where no employee is ever truly off the clock. However, this type of go-go culture can quickly lead to burn out and push employee retention numbers down. Over time, the value of those weekend emails or late night check-ins may prove to be far less than having an engaged employee who remains with the company for the long haul, knowing his time and personal life are valued and respected.

The top-ranked boutique consulting firm on our Ivy Exec rankings this year was Philadelphia-based Vynamic. This small but impressive powerhouse has a zzzMail policy, blocking work emails from being exchanged at night or on weekends. Given that Vynamic is in the healthcare consulting space, the firm seems to be giving itself a dose of healthy advice to let its workers recharge when they are not actively on the clock.

  • Company Culture

Certain employee perks are designed to facilitate in-office bonding: happy hours, in-office game rooms, corporate sponsored events, and activities. However, even all the best trappings of fun and inclusiveness tend not to mean much to employees if their work is not valued and their voices are not heard across the organization.

At the Acquis Consulting Group, ranked second for culture by Ivy Exec, employees report plenty of fun events offered by the company as part of the firm’s “People First” mantra. But this mantra also encompasses a holistic approach to management that extends far beyond team bonding. One employee reports that company culture is so vital to the company’s success that the founders report on employee satisfaction numbers right alongside the firm’s financial performance metrics.

Time and again in our Ivy Exec surveys of employee satisfaction at the top consulting firms, we heard the most positive reviews from workers who felt valued within a reasonably flat management structure. Without this underlying support from management, no amount of fun employee perks could offset employee disengagement. In particular, opportunities to grow and manage one’s own schedule proved popular across the board.

About the Author

R. Kress is an Emmy Award winning journalist whose reporting and writing has appeared in national media from NBC News to the International Herald Tribune. She has covered news from cities around the world including Jerusalem, Krakow, Amman and Mumbai.