Negotiating benefits

Bridging the gap between CFO, worker perceptions

Non-monetary perks can play a key role when it comes to attracting and retaining employees. But a recent survey suggests managers and employees may not be on the same page when it comes to which benefits are most valuable. 

Of the 270 Canadian CFOs surveyed by Robert Half, 31 per cent say they believe employees want health and wellness benefits, such as gym memberships, above all else. However, just 15 per cent of the 400 office employees surveyed say they value those sorts of benefits, while 35 per cent say they are most interested in additional vacation time. 

The employees’ response aligns with recent trends indicating workers are looking for perks that give them greater work-life balance. Additional vacation days offered as a benefit allow employees to take much-needed breaks from work to relax, recharge and come back with renewed energy and enthusiasm for their job — which can be a benefit for employees and managers alike.

What else do workers want? Twenty-three per cent cite non-traditional work hours as a coveted perk. Another 21 per cent would like telecommuting options, while six per cent want on-site perks such as free lunch or parking. 

Why they matter
As demand continues to rise for the most specialized and skilled talent, both managers and employees should consider leveraging non-monetary perks during salary negotiations. For example, if an employee is offered multiple jobs with similar salaries, providing generous vacation time and flexible work arrangements — such as flextime, compressed workweeks, job-sharing, telecommuting or permanent part-time arrangements — may give one company an edge over another.

Likewise, if current employees are looking into positions at other companies, they may choose to remain in their current role if their manager can sweeten the benefits package. 

Though they disagree on the most popular benefits, CFOs and office workers do agree that companies are more willing to negotiate non-monetary employee perks now than in the recent past. Fifty-four per cent of CFOs says they are more open to discussing non-monetary perks compared to one year ago, and 24 per cent of workers think perks are up for discussion more often with their employers. 

The research also found that CFOs at businesses in Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia are more willing to offer these extra incentives than they have been in the past.

Leveraging perks
No matter which side of the desk a person is sitting on, it never hurts to open a discussion about non-monetary perks. 
Employers should first make sure they’re effectively communicating to employees and new hires which non-monetary perks the company offers. 

Then, every year or two, they should survey employees — either anonymously or during one-on-one reviews — to gauge what workers value most and make sure the company is keeping up with benefits trends. 

In general, employers that are concerned about retaining top performers and attracting the best talent may want to look at offering additional non-monetary perks. If they’re not offering the incentives that rank highest on workers’ wish lists, efforts to motivate or retain workers could fall flat. 

But managers should be careful to consider what’s best for their office and whether they’re prepared to extend non-monetary perks such as telecommuting and non-traditional hours to all employees — not just the ones they’re courting.

On the flip side, employees should be open with their managers and let them know when they’re interested in a particular perk, such as more time off, tuition assistance or a sabbatical. Workers should be sure to present to their manager the business reasons for the benefit; for example, non-monetary perks may reduce employee burnout and turnover or restore the team’s enthusiasm and motivation.

Before any negotiation about non-monetary benefits, with new hires and current employees, managers need to plan ahead. That means exploring the cost of popular perks and establishing a threshold for which benefits they can and will offer before negotiations begin. 

The bottom line is this: Employees want to know their hard work is appreciated. Non-monetary perks show that a company is invested in its workers, which can increase employee loyalty, improve morale and increase productivity and innovation.  

Dianne Hunnam-Jones is the Toronto-based district director at Accountemps, responsible for Eastern Canada operations. For more information, visit

Popular perks
The most popular perks offered by employers (and why), according to a 2014 survey of 300 HR managers in the U.S.:

Subsidized training or education: A robust training program allows a company to consider applicants who may not have all the skills a particular job requires but have the capacity to add the missing knowledge on the job.

Flexible work hours or telecommuting: Alternative work arrangements are becoming more common as professionals place greater focus on achieving a healthy work-life balance.

Mentoring programs: The opportunity to learn from a senior staff member often translates to better job satisfaction for employees. Such programs can be a great way for junior or mid-career professionals to learn about a new employer’s corporate culture as well as higher-level roles they may wish to pursue in the future.

Free or subsidized snacks or lunches: Offering free snacks helps keep employees productive during crunch periods when they need energy to make it through a heavy workload.

Gym memberships: Perhaps more common at larger companies, this benefit is a win-win for employees and employers. By exercising, workers get a boost of energy and self-confidence, which can result in increased productivity and fewer sick days.

On-site perks: This benefit category can vary depending on the organization and the needs and preferences of its workforce. Child care, fitness facilities, a cafeteria or dry cleaning pickup are among the most common offerings.

Matching gifts programs: More and more job seekers want to work for companies that are committed to giving back to the community. Matching gifts programs can help, with firms donating a certain amount of money for every dollar a worker raises for a non-profit or every hour he volunteers. Some companies also offer employees paid time off to volunteer with their favourite charities.

Relocation or housing assistance: This is a welcome perk for recent hires who have to relocate or are looking to buy a first home.

Subsidized transportation: Employers based in large cities are most likely to offer this benefit. It could take the form of discounted subway or bus passes, or carpool options.

Sabbatical leave: After a certain number of years of service, some employees are permitted to take a short paid leave of absence to pursue professional development or personal projects. Once limited to academia, sabbaticals are slowly filtering into the corporate world.

Adoption assistance: With adoption assistance programs, employers provide workers with cash grants to help cover the expense of adopting a child through an approved agency or attorney.

Source: Accountemps

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