Forget Extreme Incentives… What Does the Average UK Employee Really Want?

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New research conducted by facilities and building maintenance specialists Direct365 has revealed what perks UK employees really want from their employers, with a further survey showing that 61% of people believe they don’t receive enough incentives.

These findings correlate well with a study conducted by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) in 2015, which found that 17% of the 2,000 people surveyed said they were looking for a new career due to feeling under appreciated.

A new trend has seen some of the world’s biggest companies offering “extreme employee incentives”, from catered lunches to massages. Silicon Valley leaders like Google, who offer places to nap during the day and free childcare, Netflix who offer unlimited holidays, and Scripps Healthcare, who provide free pet health insurance, are good examples of businesses that are going above and beyond for their staff.

Phil Turner, Head of Digital at Direct365, said that while free lunches and yoga classes are all well and good, employers need to think about what would really make people happy:

“Many companies tend to behave like ostriches when dealing with employee benefits. They stick their heads in the sand and believe that extreme benefits can make up for other shortcomings. However, the truth is that they aren’t necessarily offering perks that their employees really want. Much more thought needs to be put into considering exactly what the employees themselves need.”

A survey conducted by Direct365 asked the UK workforce what type of employee incentives they would most like to be offered.

The majority of respondents (35%) said that they would prefer flexible working. Whether it’s flexitime or working from home, the benefits can be mutual for both employers and employees. Companies can save money on overheads, with many also noticing a boost in productivity, whereas the workers themselves can avoid difficult commutes and have a greater work-life balance.

More than a quarter (27%) opted for a company car as their main reward.

14% said they would prefer a gym membership. An Absence Management report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in 2015 showed that two-fifths (41%) of businesses had seen an increase in stress-related absences (such as anxiety or depression) in a 12-month period. Gym memberships are just one way to cut this figure, taking greater care of staff’s wellbeing and ensuring they are fit and healthy for the future.

6% selected childcare vouchers. For a small but still considerable portion of the participants, childcare vouchers proved to be the most important benefit. This type of perk really highlights the importance of the work-life balance, and shows that employers consider family life to be of great importance.

Phil Turner believes that employers are missing the simple step of actually asking their staff what would make them happy:

“It sounds so basic, but the best way to find out what your employees want is to ask them. Just talk to them and you’ll likely find that they will tell you, and that the same things will crop up regularly.

“The benefits of implementing employee incentives cannot be overlooked. By focusing more on staff and showing gratitude where it is deserved, employers could be rewarded themselves with an increase in productivity, reduced absences, improved customer service and, most importantly, a reduction in the number of staff looking to move jobs.”