Use Perks Wisely for Successful Recruiting, Retention

Susan Hall
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I wrote last month that this is a great time for IT pros to press for a raise and Meridith Levinson at CIO.com says that's true of perks, too.


A recent piece at Knowledge@Wharton looks at how companies use perks and what employees want. I've written about some pretty crazy efforts in tech recruiting, with companies offering everything from free cats to a year's supply of beer. But is that what IT pros are really looking for?


I recently talked to Scott Swift, recruiting consultant at California-based HR outsourcing firm TriNet, which focuses primarily on companies with fewer than 100 employees. He told me that among the most important "perks," if you call it that, for IT pros is a greater say in the quality of the products they produce. This decision-making authority ranks right up there with salary, he said.


Meanwhile, Ian Erskine, corporate IT recruiter for Louisville, Ky.-based New Age Technologies told me he'd have no trouble at all filling positions if employers offered telecommuting. That supports Dice.com survey results from this spring that found 37 percent of IT pros would take as much as 10 percent less pay if they could work from home.


Interestingly enough, both recruiters told me that employed IT pros are looking around, more than actively seeking new positions, despite all we've heard about a wholesale eagerness to jump ship.


That's where a good understanding of perks can come in handy in hiring and retention. The Wharton article quotes John Challenger, CEO of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, saying:

Perks hold people to an organization. If an employee likes his or her boss and the work is challenging, and if the company has a set of perks that are adapted to what that person needs, then it's hard for the employee to leave. He or she may not be able to replicate that situation in another organization.

The article says that perks can be a recruiting aid for companies that have difficulty in attracting talent, but can be better used to reward performance in companies that don't. They also can help focus the attention of new employees, according to Bill Morin, founder of New York-based leadership consulting firm WJM Associates:

... because wherever the perk is placed - whether on sales or profitability or new products - that is where the company wants the employee to concentrate [his or her efforts]. Sometimes when individuals come on board, they don't know what the company is looking for. Perks help these individuals focus.

The article says perks can backfire, especially if granted up front if new hires come on board with a sense of entitlement.


Yet Wharton management professor Adam Grant points to research that found that the differences between the work values of different generations are very small. According to the article:

At the top of that list are "intrinsic rewards," such as "the opportunity to do enjoyable work, experience personal development and growth, and feel a sense of accomplishment." Valued second highest are extrinsic rewards, "which include status and promotions, and altruistic activity," such as the opportunity to contribute to others and the community. Third on the list are friendships and leisure.

The research, however, found Gen Y workers rated slightly higher on the importance of leisure. Said Grant:

... which means that if I were interested in attracting Gen Y to my company, I would increase perks that help them carve out more time for their outside interests, such as flextime, or incorporate these interests into the work time, such as employer-sponsored volunteering.

Grant also advocates creating at least one perk that connects to the company's core values but differentiates it from competitors. He cites as an example the employees of The Virgin Group, who, based on their skills, volunteer to help people in underprivileged communities and developing countries become successful entrepreneurs.

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