Re-Defining the Office Perk


Kim and I were recently asked our view on the changing landscape of “workplace perks” for a Yahoo Finance piece exploring the impact of those trends on companies outside the tech sector (where a mind-boggling array of perks have been on offer for years).  Whilst the term “perks” now seems to cover everything from free cereal for breakfast to higher-impact offerings like work-from-home arrangements, it’s clear that businesses see these benefits as levers for improving both work-life balance as well as employee retention figures. And in a world where an average career now spans sixty-plus years but average job tenure has dropped to four and a half years, the war for top talent is becoming more critical  – and costly – than ever.

A recent McKinsey study focused on the components of organisational health across 1,700 businesses concludes that, “among the many ways that companies create meaningful workplaces, the ability of leaders to connect daily work to a grander goal stands out”.  Interestingly, those leading the study found that the traditionally-referenced motivations for employee attrition – salary, job title, etc – were actually far less correlated to the exiting employees’ decisions to move than were their attitudes toward several core determinants of organisational health:

  • Direction from leadership (helping to connect employees’ daily work to the company’s vision)
  • Sense of ownership (increased accountability and autonomy in daily work)

Though at first glance these conclusions seem logical and even obvious, we hear remarkably little in the tech and business communities about creating scalable solutions to address and improve these components of organisational health.   Certainly it is much more straight-forward to arrange for catered lunch, or increase paid holiday time, but with recruitment and on-boarding costs associated with new hires remaining stable or increasing for most professions, surely it’s worth considering how we might address these powerful – if complicated – organisational dynamics?  

At Just3Things we talk quite a lot about the empowering force of transparency, and how employees that understand the full organisational and strategic context of their daily work are more energised and less distracted in pursuing their goals. Understanding how your projects and priorities align with those of other teams, of your leadership, and of the business’ long-term vision not only brings comfort and reassurance that your efforts are understood and appreciated, but can help reduce the anxiety associated with cross-functional politics.  Everyone loves some snacks in the kitchen and a bike-to-work scheme, but perhaps the time has finally arrived to balance those more tactical perks with a cultural shift towards shared purpose and distributed autonomy?

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