January 17, 2011 | last updated June 1, 2012 9:35 am
Q&A

Employers Using Perks As Recruiting Tools

Marquard

Q&A talks about benefit trends with Kelleigh Marquard, branch manager of Robert Half International's Hartford location.

Q: A new survey by Robert Half shows education and training top the list of perks companies will be offering their employees in 2011. Is something that makes you a more productive employee considered a perk? If so, why?

A: Anything an employer can offer to enhance an employee's marketability can be considered a perk, especially in a very competitive job market. Employees always appreciate the opportunity to learn new skills or enhance existing ones, and they recognize that training or mentoring programs can contribute to their professional development, productivity and creativity.

A survey our firm conducted found that subsidized training and education was highly valued by employees — they ranked it a 6.9 in importance on a 10-point scale. Professionals recognize the tools and technologies they use to do their jobs are changing rapidly, and they want to keep up. While these offerings help companies develop a stronger workforce, they also benefit employees by providing them with the opportunities to build their expertise and career marketability.

Q: Companies will be offering telecommuting, which does seem like a perk. Why is this becoming more accepted in the corporate culture? Is it because supervisors like it for themselves?

A: Telecommuting has become increasingly common and has been greatly accommodated by technology. Telecommuting programs that equip workers with the tools they will need — such as a laptop, cell phone and the ability to connect to secure corporate networks safely — can allow workers to be equally productive from their home office or while traveling for business. Many professionals cite telecommuting as a perk they'd like to receive because it saves them valuable time and money on things such as gas and tolls, and, in many cases, it helps individuals achieve better work/life balance.

Q: When it comes to perks in a large corporation is it one size fits all? Can employees negotiate their own perks even outside of set policies?

A: Perks often are negotiable. When asking for a particular opportunity, the key for employees is to be able to present a case for how it will not just help them but also benefit the business. If asking for training subsidies, for example, professionals should be able to highlight to their managers how what they learn will allow them to make greater contributions to the company. If the request is for alternate work hours, individuals could show that this arrangement would give the firm greater coverage in terms of the times it is able to offer support to its customers.

Q: Why are companies adding perks in 2011? Has employee retention become a bigger issue? Is that a sign the job market is tilting towards prospective hires and away from employers?

A: As the market improves and more job opportunities become available to professionals, many companies are re-evaluating their retention efforts to avoid losing their top performers. Perks are a great way to reward employees for their hard work and help them enhance their career and work/life needs. Even companies not yet in the position to offer increased compensation can use perks, such as flexible schedules or training opportunities, to encourage workers to stay on board.

Offering perks shows that a company is invested in its workers and, in turn, can increase employee loyalty. Employees who have burned the midnight oil during the downturn want to feel appreciated for their hard work. Providing flexible work arrangements or free bagels on Mondays are low-cost, easy-to-implement incentives that can make a big difference for employees and keep them motivated to perform their best.

Companies that don't find a way to reward employees, particularly top performers for their achievements, risk losing them to other opportunities.

People are feeling more confident about making a career move, and firms, as a result, are beginning to enhance their compensation packages to attract and retain highly skilled employees. Businesses that don't consider similar measures could lose not only valuable staff and but also their competitive advantage.

Q: Along those lines, what does Robert Half see for hiring projections in the first quarter of 2011 in Greater Hartford and Connecticut? In what sectors is the hiring going to take place?

A: We are seeing positive signs, particularly as local employers continue to gain confidence in the recovery. For example, many firms are increasingly optimistic about their business prospects, and some are beginning to hire.

In some cases, organizations cut so deeply during the downturn they now need to hire full-time staff at the first sign of increased business volume. We're also seeing employers bring in temporary professionals to maintain productivity and gauge their long-term staffing needs.

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