Work from Home or Not at All. The Evolving Role of Perks in Attracting Talent.

12 Oct

Ping pong table, rackets and balls in a sport hallThe ping-pong table sat idle, covered with stacks of paper, the modern day version of an in-home treadmill as hanging plant holder. Once considered an important perk and a reflection of a firm’s employee-centric culture, ping-pong tables in the workplace may have seen their halcyon days.

The marketing industry as a whole is wrestling with the issue of attracting and retaining talent. So much so in fact that the Association of National Advertisers’ CMO Growth Council made “talent and capabilities” one of its five core pillars for “driving business growth and societal good.” Globally, business leaders are working with their counterparts in academia to help attract young people to the marketing profession, while aligning curriculums with the emerging needs of a fast evolving industry to better prepare students for a marketing career. Additionally, consumer marketing companies, advertising agencies, media firms and others within the marketing sector have stepped up their on-campus recruiting efforts in an effort to identify and secure the next generation of marketing practitioners.

Thus it was with great interest that I read a recent article in Knowledge@Wharton entitled; “Wither the Ping-Pong Table? Which Perks Matter Most to Employees.” The article focused on the role that perks play in attracting and retaining employees.

One of the principal benefits of perks is their appeal to “top performers,” that small percentage of a firm’s employees that drive disproportionate value. Modern day perks range from paternity leave to flex time, unlimited vacation, on-site gyms and dry-cleaning service. Equally as important as their appeal to top talent: “Perks are symbolic of valuing employees, and people will give more when they are in a culture which is supportive and caring.” This according to Nancy Rothbard, Professor of Management at Wharton,

For the marketing and advertising industry, which has increased its efforts to replenish its ranks of energetic, knowledgeable professionals across a range of functions, perks play an important role in their talent sourcing efforts. Aside from helping to attract newcomers, perks also play a vital role in helping to energize a work place, build comradery among co-workers and reinforcing a firm’s cultural identity.

According to the Wharton article, perks that emanate from an organization’s culture tend to resonate with its employee base in a way that yields significant symbolic value. One example cited by Sigal Barsade, Professor of Management at Wharton was the offering of pet bereavement days, which can reinforce the notion that a company’s culture traits include “affection, caring and compassion.”

So what perks will provide the greatest value for your firm? Unlimited vacation, while appealing, is also quite costly. Perhaps goat yoga will yield the same results, with lower costs to the organization. Either way, the role of perks, rather than a reliance on the escalation of salary dollars, cannot be underestimated in winning the talent game.

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