PERKS, BENEFITS, MOTIVATION AND WHAT PEOPLE WANT
Following in Facebook’s footsteps, Apple Inc. is about to start “selling” something new. The latest announcement from Apple is getting as much attention in some quarters as the latest iPhones and iPads. Steve Jobs might even approve, since the newest perk or benefit (choose your term), also made possible by technology, seems aimed at making it easier for women to stay working longer when they are likely to be most productive and reproductive.
I am referring to the new policy of offering to pay up to $20,000 for the expensive medical procedure for women to freeze some of their eggs in the hope of achieving pregnancy at a later date. I have raised the subject of pros, cons and motivations on social media. My purpose here is not to debate that, but rather to get us thinking about what benefits or perks people of different generations want, what the employers’ motivations for offering them are, and whether the offerings really motivate people to higher performance, retention and loyalty.
The Apple announcement quickly generated articles in major business media (New York Times and Forbes, for example and TV political talk shows)) about the specific egg freezing perk and what could be downsides of generous perks as well. But none I saw looked at the perks and benefits issues from a generational perspective.
Benefits that appeal to all generations include, among others, employer paid health insurance, free or subsidized food, on-site or paid gym memberships, concierge services and flexible work arrangements.
Those only directly benefiting younger workers include paid maternity and paternity leave, freezing eggs, on-site and emergency childcare.
Baby Boomers, though they tend to have better attendance records, likely use their health insurance more and may have higher premiums associated with the policies. They also may make more use of benefits that cover time off or other expenses to care for elderly parents, as might older Gen Xers.
These are life cycle realities not tied to any currently labeled generation. And in fairness, no generation should be discriminated against because of demographic and biological factors. Yet there often are stigmas or resentments related to costs of benefits, offering of perks and finger pointing across the members of multigenerational workforces. Older workers may resent that younger ones are now getting flexible work arrangements and childcare they would have loved to have, and instead they had to struggle through on their own while trying to build careers. Younger workers might argue that health care costs are higher for older workers.
Workers may wonder if some of the generous employer perks come from a stealth motivation since they can lead to the trap of working 24/7 rather than giving the workers more control over their lives. For instance, taking advantage of free or low-cost meals and various concierge services on site discourages taking breaks to reduce stress, walks for exercise and time for useful reflection.
The benefits and perks have been shown to help attract and retain people in the talent wars. However, there has been little evidence that they motivate people to work better and harder. Especially competitive people want recognition of their achievements rather than some of the perks and only team recognition.
People of all generations welcome benefits and perks and won’t turn them down. But motivations come from another source. Here are some things that motivate – generalized to generations:
Opportunities to keep learning and contributing
Being made to feel continually relevant
Making role transitions respected and appropriately compensated.
Recognition of individual achievements
Opening paths to leadership slots
Opportunity to do things their way
Having their ideas listened to
Being shown how their role is important to the whole
Providing frequent new learning experiences
For most people the above connect to intrinsic motivations – the strongest and most lasting kind – more than the latest shiny perk. Firms/organizations need to get a better grasp on what really appeals in a deeper way to the talent they covet and pursue that path.
Please send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment hre or on the Cross-Generational Conversation group on LinkedIn.
Phyllis Weiss Haserot www.pdcounsel.com