It seems like every job description these days, along with its catalog of job duties and experience requirements, comes along with an extensive list of “perks.” Free bagels on Fridays. Unlimited snacks. Beer on tap. Foosball table. So, what’s the deal with perks anyway? Are they really the best way to attract millennials or should we start telling companies to cut the shit?
Glassdoor, the site that allows users to anonymously review their current and previous employers, conducted a survey last year and found that “89% of younger employees (age 18-34 prefer benefits or perks over a pay raise).?“My response: WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? Is this real life?
I’m not just talking basic benefits like health insurance and a retirement savings plan. It’s a no-brainer that many millennials would probably be better off with an employer offering health coverage rather than giving them a pay raise and asking them to fend for themselves on the health care exchange. In fact, I wouldn’t even really consider health coverage and retirement savings plans “perks” in the first place.
What really shocked me about Glassdoor’s survey was that many people ranked perks like free lunch, work from home days, casual dress codes, and gym memberships above a pay raise. Sure, some of these things may have monetary value and can be considered part of your total compensation. However, we hear so much about people working longer hours while their real wages are declining and they drown in student debt. It’s got to make us wonder, is that foosball table really worth anything?
Maybe it’s time to send a message to employers. If you are really set on offering more in order to retain good employees, focus on the things we actually need. Stop offering worthless perks and start offering real benefits: Pay raises that keep up with inflation (at the very least), healthcare, retirement savings, and sick leave are always a good place to start. But why stop there? Paid family leave and student loan repayment benefits could truly help your employees.
Essentially, keep your beer on tap and just let me go home at night.
So tell me, what do you think about employee perks? Are they worth it? Or is time for employers to stop trying to distract us and start paying up?
At 22, I was professionally flailing. I’d spent my three years since dropping out of college working at a hardware chain and then at a clothing store, finally realizing after too much managerial drama that I didn’t want a future in folding jeans. So, after too many shifts spent crying over the cash register and educating my 17-year-old employees on the symptoms of a quarter-life crisis, I asked a friend for an in at the bank across the street. She worked there, she liked it, and she thought I would too. So I bought a fancy interview outfit, updated my resume, and found myself hired for a new branch about 20 minutes away.
This was my destiny (I told myself while spending far too money much on office-appropriate wear.) Now, I was going to be successful. (I repeated, realizing within a week on the job that I’d made a mistake.) I didn’t need retail. (I missed it.) Especially when I was about to become my family’s first financial wizard. (My credit card was maxed out on new work outfits).
I lasted two months at the bank before crawling back to the mall, asking my manager if I could work the evenings I wasn’t scheduled to close the bank. I needed laughter. I needed camaraderie. I missed being able to reference The Office (it was 2007) and using my outdoor voice in an indoor setting. Also, I needed the money: I’d gotten into university after upgrading my marks and was heading back to school in September 2008.
Plus, a discount on jeans is never a bad thing.
I grew up in a blue collar family. My mom and dad kept me clothed, fed, housed, and loved, but we didn’t holiday (aside from day trips), buy big ticket items, or toss around terms like “investments” (and I still don’t really know how they work.) Which was fine by me: the only “rich” person I knew growing up was the daughter of the man who owned the company my grandpa once worked for, and all of us were in awe of the fact that her house sat on top of a hill. I went to public school, knew I’d have to pay for university myself, and shopped knowing whatever I bought was also on me. Which is how I landed in credit card debt at 19, 20, and 21. High off the power of my first Visa, I’d maxed it out on low-rise bootcut jeans and logo hoodies, so working at both the bank and the mall promised to solve all my problems: one paycheck could go towards minimum payments, the other would go to tuition, and I’d leave a certain amount for “regular spending.” Easy.
But nothing’s easy when you would rather walk into the sea than go to work. I’d started at the bank in September 2007, and by December I dreaded starting my shifts. But not because of my coworkers (most of them were so lovely), but because of what the job entailed: as a teller, you have to sell credit and products to customers. And I didn’t want to. First, because I hated my job (and didn’t want to do anything), and second, because it felt gross selling credit to people who didn’t want it (especially when I barely had any left to my own name). I’d hear myself talking rates and limits and minimum payments, and felt like a hypocrite. Especially since I not only had no idea what I was talking about, but because as an irresponsible credit user myself, I didn’t care. I felt like I was in the financial bell jar.
Which was made worse because aside from my inability to move product, I was really good at everything else. I was good at the admin work, good at talking to customers, good at organizing large sums of money (despite being nervous and scared around it constantly), and good at navigating our computer system. And that would’ve been fine, had I worked with a supervisor I actually liked working with: instead, I worked with a supervisor whose moods changed on a dime, leading to hours spent walking on eggshells and/or forcing ourselves to laugh at bad jokes, in hopes of preventing outbursts later on.
Of course, at 30 I would’ve handled it better. I would’ve reminded myself that this job was funding my future and that I was lucky to have it and that every hour of pay was closer to the end of my stint there. But I was 22. So instead of logic or rationality, I just checked out. I started wearing the same outfits every day, started snapping back at my temperamental boss and any/all angry customers, and slowly morphed into Jim from The Office without the camera to mug to or compelling love interest (minus the mortgage expert who lived with his girlfriend — but he wasn’t interested). And after a while, my sales were so bad it was branch legend: I was the first teller to hit -30% revenue, making my future there a near-impossibility.
So I quit before I got fired. Realizing I’d rather make money where I felt good about my job, my coworkers, and who I was at that job, I realized I’d rather work more hours for less pay than work under someone who wouldn’t let me leave a shift early to beat a blizzard. (Which, for the record, I almost got stuck in.)
“It’s not who you are,” my supervisor’s supervisor said in response to my two weeks’ notice. “You’re just being true to yourself.”
Which, ironically, was the most valuable lesson I learned when working at a financial institution — a place built entirely on numbers and business and logic and money and affluence. And arguably, it was also the only lesson. I clung to that idea so tightly — the idea that I was figuring out who I was, that I had to make mistakes, that I had to learn hard lessons, that I had to live messily and recklessly — that after saving for tuition, I ended up racking up even more debt in the wake of starting school. And I eventually dropped out again.
Which were also lessons I had to learn. So while money can certainly make things easier, it doesn’t always lead to fulfillment. Or answer the questions that wake you up in the middle of the night. I may have had to work more shifts at the mall than is healthy for most people (and then dig myself out of a literal money pit a few years later), but money — whether counting it in the vault or trying to convince people to spend more to make your sales goal for the month — cannot buy you happiness. Not when you’re just wearing the same outfit to work out of spite, anyway.
No one is going to give you the definition of a truly meaningful life. We are simply invited, driven or compelled to create our own.
What does this mean when it comes to our jobs? Presumably, our jobs are there to provide the means of satisfying the first rungs on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: food, shelter and protection.
What about those higher rungs, the ones that show the mind we can step outside of simply the need to survive?
What about those moments of inspiration and connection with others that speak directly to our core as human beings? Is it even possible to integrate these things into our work life?
To live a meaningful life is to live free from mindless compliance.?51% of American workers do not feel engaged at work. How do we find a job, or convert an existing job, into one that suits our life purpose and brings us joy rather than the bare minimum? How do we stay inspired even while working a job that isn?t our true calling?
Part of the journey to a more prosperous life (and wallet) means reframing the many actions we take on a daily basis. This includes the hours we spend at work. The average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. When time is allocated carefully, we can calibrate our lives into a joyful balance of work, play and fulfillment.
The way we feel affects our performance at work. One of the first things we can do to ensure a more pleasant workplace experience is to keep the components of internal wellness in check.
It doesn?t have to be complicated. Implement a moment of gratitude first thing in the AM. Take a small pause to listen to the birds sing. Fresh food, enough sleep and moderate exercise are incubators of happiness. When your body budget is in balance, your mind can become expansive.
An expansive mind cultivates resilience, optimism, achievement and pride in one’s work. We have more control over these states than we realize. Trick your brain into a state of optimism by smiling, even if you don’t feel like it. Because of emotion contagion, these ‘good vibes’ will spill onto everyone around you, elevating the work environment. It’s a win win.
Going to work should feel like an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to your job and world alike. When we feel engaged with our job, we feel as though we are being useful, encouraged to challenge ourselves, and able to help others.
When an employee loves the work they do, the whole office feels it too. Autonomy, learning opportunities, performance feedback and use of strengths are all important parts to the happiness equation at work. Even if you are stuck in a cubicle all day bored out of your mind, figure out ways to engage authentically with your work by looking at each task with curiosity. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Pro-tip: Even if you feel ?stuck? in a job you dislike, take small actions steps daily to get you closer to your dream job. It could be something as simple as updating your resume or something more substanscial, like?taking night classes in a subject that fascinates your mind.
Your work culture plays a pivotal role in overall job performance and happiness levels. Social elements such as trust and support from supervisors, the competency of fellow co-workers, cultural values and teamwork are all predictors of feeling purposeful at work. Having a trusted circle of friends at work is an incredible source of energy and community.
Pro-tip: Always go with your gut and ask yourself ?how do I feel?? after each day of work. Are you around people that lift you up or tear you down with gossip, or distrust? Considering the lengthy hours we spend in a workplace, the people we surround ourselves with effect the very cells of our bodies. Be wary of bad company and stick close to those who promote a kinder environment.
Having a stable job and healthy working conditions is paramount to finding your purpose. This include the nitty-gritty like salary and benefits, job stability, ergonomics, respect, fairness, and work-life-harmony. Simply put, choose a job that you would enjoy. While the journey to a more desired place of work often requires stepping stones that are not your dream job, know that these building blocks are helping you reach your long-term goals.
Pro-tip: While you are on the road to realizing your dream job, consider taking on side jobs (aka side hustles) to make some extra money and explore other outlets that could help you hone in on our long term purpose. This could entail selling items on Ebay or even renting your spare room on Airbnb. Who knows what could happen!
Companies such as Costco Wholesale Corporation are focused on employee care. ?In fact, this warehouse retailer has become well-known for its above average pay ($13.50 per hour.) Better yet, their CEO James Senegal believes that ?paying your employees well is not only the right thing to do, but it makes for good business.? He’s not the only CEO who thinks investing in people is a smart money move.
Nike created a new approach to move past old supply chain transgressions with their ?responsible competitiveness? model. They now aim to focus on the root causes of labor exploitation. They also desire to bring about systemic change to further prevent such abuses. With Nike?s new philosophy, they have become an advocate for improving labor conditions and have also moved to healthier, long-term supplier relationships as well.
Patagonia?is an outdoor clothing company, a?BCorp and a trailblazer when it comes to using business as a force for good in the world. They donated their entire $10 million Black Friday revenue towards saving the planet and have one the highest employee satisfaction ratings around.
Whole Foods is an excellent example of a company that maintains meaningful relationships with the community in which it operates. They hold ?5% days? where the store will donate 5% of net sales to a local charity, offer loans to local suppliers, and promote high environmental standards across its many stores.
Feedwas founded by Lauren Bush 9 years ago after her travels across the word. She found a huge connection between nutrition levels and academic and economic performance in communities. For every product sold from Feed, there is a number stamp on it that represents the amount of meals or micronutrient packets provided to children in need around the world.
TerraCyle takes recycling to the next level. They create national “upcycling” programs that help companies re-purpose materials that would normally not be recycled. Their goal:?prevent waste from ending up in landfills, incinerators, and our oceans.
Purpose follows passion, passion follows purpose
Achieving fulfillment in your career is no overnight endeavor. As with any worthwhile feat, a meaningful job experience requires research, discipline and dedication.
Just as eating well, sleeping well, and exercising are important, so is the duty to investigate a work experience that is a living reflection of your long-term goals.
It?s not an easy road, but don?t be discouraged?there are thousands of other people who have blazed trails for us to follow. The most important part is to just begin.
Do you feel ready for the next step in your career but can?t seem to land that promotion? Here are three strategies to help you get there.
1. Stop asking for permission
People get so caught up in pleasing others and playing by the rules that they often leave their individuality at the door. The result? They’re pigeon holed into a role. Break out of that mold. Bring your whole creative self to the job and see how far you can go.
Address the problems you see in front of you. Is there a process that needs improvement? It could be as simple as configuring all copiers to print double-sided to save on paper.
Disagree with your boss (respectfully, of course). You don?t always have to follow the party line. If you see a better way to do something, speak up. Your boss will appreciate the effort because you are looking out for the team. Good bosses are not looking for a bunch of Yes gals and guys. They value critical thinking, especially if you?re helping them avoid risk.
Educate yourself. Maybe your boss? presentations seem dull and uninspiring lately. Take a PowerPoint course and figure out how to make the story sing. Or take the free courses available to you for CRM reporting so that you can bring greater insight into the numbers. Or learn to code. You get the point. Gaining a new skill will make you more valuable.
Think strategically. Get smart about your sector and adjacent industries. Make connections and bring these big ideas to the team. Is there a product you produce today that could be re-purposed for an adjacent industry? Is there a new partnership, joint venture or acquisition that your company should take a look at? Good ideas are good ideas, no matter what your role. Strategic thinking is like a muscle. You have to practice to get good at it.
Help the company grow. One of the biggest challenges facing companies is organic growth. Every manager knows how to cut costs. That?s their go-to solution because it?s the only thing they can really control. Demonstrate your leadership by offering true growth strategies. Your official title at the company doesn’t matter. Anyone with a growth mindset can help. Check out this book for good ideas: Double Digit Growth.
2. Act the part before you get the part
Companies are constantly looking for ways to reduce risk. ?If you were the boss, who would you promote: the person already taking on next level responsibilities or the person waiting to up-level until they’re promoted? Demonstrate that you can handle the new role now.
Look around corners. Ask yourself what your boss would do with the information you?re about to present. Then do that before she asks you.
Put in more hours. This may not be possible for everyone but it?s usually needed, especially if you?re looking to get promoted. The extra time doesn?t have to happen at the office. Technology is a wonderful thing. But make your extra hours count. Empty hours and ?up managing? for optics is a waste of everyone?s time. People see through it.
Check the drama(and your ego) at the door. No one has time for complainers or office gossip. Do what?s needed to help your tribe thrive. Be known as a doer.
Make your boss? job easy. Show and tell her why you should be promoted. That means coming up with a strategic plan, including milestones. It also means doing those things on the plan. When the time comes, the promotion will feel like a natural extension of what you are already doing.
3. Cultivate your tribe
No person is an island. Think about the stakeholders around you. That includes your immediate colleagues, bosses and employees. It also includes your suppliers, strategic partners, the planet and the community. All of these stakeholders are part of your network. Figure out how to help them prosper. If they win, you win.
Organize your company?s service days. Many companies now offer paid time off to volunteer at various community organizations. Organize an outing at a food bank, animal rescue center, or University. Choose organizations that resonate with you and your company. It?s amazing what can happen when you work together towards a common goal outside of your regular day-to-day routine. Try it out.
Become a corporate steward. How can you help transform the company?s DNA to improve people and planet? Taking initiative demonstrates true leadership. Here are three ideas:
Lead your company?s initiative to offer sustainable 401K investment options. Not many people know that they can ask for different investments. You don?t have to be stuck with what?s offered by your plan sponsor. Here is a toolkit that can help you negotiate green and sustainable funds for your 401K plan.
Help your company strengthen their supply chains?by making them cleaner. Here are the top 10 reasons to have your company clean up their supply chain. Done right, it?s long-term profitable for the company and the planet.
Help someone at your office every single day. Go out to lunch with colleagues in other departments. Put the notice out on Slack or your email bulletin board. Break your daily routine by learning something about someone new, every day.
Share information. Gone are the days of zero sum corporate culture. Create the environment you want to see at work. That means communicate and share your valuable data with colleagues. Don?t be a data hoarder. And don?t worry about communication overlap or people stealing your ideas. True leadership will come out on top. Sharing is a shortcut to building trust.
Beyond the promotion, these strategies can help you in other areas as well. If you adopt these behaviors, you will start thinking differently. You will begin thinking like a leader. Leadership mindset takes time to cultivate. Invest in it.
To succeed in today’s marketplace, you have to make every dollar count. One of the best ways to do that is to look at your daily business expenses. Ask yourself if you?ve done everything possible to keep those expenses as low as possible, while not sacrificing quality, employee retention, and your sanity. Consider these five cost-saving tips when you evaluate how well you are spending your dollars.
Building and Maintenance
In most companies, the top operating expenses are payroll and facilities. How well are you using the space you have? Would it be more cost effective to move or is it cheaper to stay where you are? If you own the building and aren?t using or need all the space, you could rent out part of the space to offset the cost of the mortgage and utilities.
Take a look at how energy-efficient your building and space is and how much maintenance is necessary. You can reduce the cost of space by either finding a cheaper, more energy-efficient space, or spreading out the maintenance among some of your staffed employees who handle cleaning or maintenance.
Payroll is a tough expense to address. You want to keep your employees happy and pay them what they are worth, but high payroll costs can eat into the budget quickly and deeply. The first area to look at is overtime. If employees are consistently working overtime hours, it may be time to either add staff permanently or temporarily. Do the analysis to determine whether it is more efficient to add staff or pay the overtime.
As seasoned employees leave, try to replace them with less experienced but highly trainable replacements at a lower salary. You may be able to reduce salary increases in lieu of stock options, paid time off, or other benefits that may not affect the bottom line. For example, employees may be just as happy with less pay if they?re allowed to work from home two days a week or trade in their suits for t-shirts and jeans.
Gone are the days when everyone needed an onsite server and to pay for expensive software packages. Now, the cloud has proven more reliable and easier to manage, and cloud space is dirt cheap compared to maintaining and upgrading services. Many software companies have moved away from selling software packages that have to be manually upgraded periodically. A lot of software released now is cloud-based, so that the experts can assure their customers have the most current version.
Best of all, you may be able to use this software from anywhere, which means you can work as easily from home as at the office, or if something happens to your office building, your business isn?t compromised. You can just shift locations elsewhere.
Keep accounting costs at bay. This will ensure you meet deadlines and can avoid paying penalties and interest and take advantage of vendor discounts. Additionally, look at what it costs you to have an accountant do your bookkeeping. You may find it less costly to treat one of your reliable employees to an online accounting degree, and then move the accounting back in-house.
Never assume the rates you were quoted last year for things like cellphones, insurance, trash service, or landscaping are still the best rates today. Make it a practice to at least once a year shop around for a better price. Remember to compare similar services in your analysis or you may end up paying more.
Keeping your day-to-day operating costs low means analyzing each income statement line item and asking if that is the best you can do and still maintain a healthy work environment that promotes growth. Start with these five tips, but do not stop there. See what suggestions your employees have as well. They may surprise you.