16 Predictions On the Future of Perks in 2019

Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t.” — Richard Branson

Perks are nothing new. However, in the past decade, their role in companies has transformed from a nice-to-have bonus for employees into a bare minimum requirement.

With that level of change in the past ten years, what does the next few years have in store for perks? That’s the question we set out to answer.

We connected with various people in People Operations roles from VP to Director levels, from recruiting to office managers. We also connected with a few people tangentially involved in employee perks trends including business owners, managers, and founders of software companies.

Here are the employee perk trends that bubbled to the top:

  1. Evolution away from trivial perks to more meaningful ones
  2. Emphasis on flexibility and personalization
  3. The way perks are thought of by employees and employers will change
  4. Perks are still ancillary to critical company hygiene factors like mission, vision, values, strong leadership, etc..
  5. More companies will be offering more perks

Let’s dig in, shall we?

Evolution away from trivial perks to more meaningful support.

We all know the story; when perks initially emerged, it was all ping pong, free beer, and bean bags as chairs. Since those early days, they’ve evolved quite a bit, and according to the people operations folks who weighed in, they have a lot more evolving to do. This next phase of transition promises more meaningful support for employees.

Here’s what Kelly McDonald, Head of Recruiting + People Operations at Calendly had to say:

“Employee perks are ever-evolving. It started with the in-office amenities (free lunch, snacks, beer on tap, ping pong, etc.) and now is shifting focus to personal well being.”

“As more and more students graduate college with massive amounts of debt I see there being an increase in popularity of educational stipends, paying for employees to go back to school, or totally eliminating their debts.

In addition, there’s been a shift towards a focus on wellness in the workplace from something as small as standing desks or treadmill desks to gym stipends, classes on campus, and healthier food options. I actually like the shift because I think these types of perks not only help the individual employee but in doing so they are more capable of being successful in their role which ultimately helps the employer.”

Additionally, Sara Noe the HR & Office Manager at BevSpot thinks there’s a focus on more value too. She had this to say when we asked her about the future of perks:

Less fluff (fancy beers and snacks), more employee development (career, vacation).”

Lynne Tye, the founder of the popular Key Values pointed out that there should be an increased focus on more meaningful elements of the employee experience:

“I think more companies will be open to remote work, but this is less about “offering perks” and more about needing to win the war on talent.”

I also think there is growing pressure for employers to offer more paid (and unpaid) family leave, and offering the same amount of time for all parents (biological or not). Generally speaking, startups are getting creative about the “perks” they offer, which is think is great, but also not always the most productive or important thing to focus on. I don’t believe gym stipends or catered lunches are what make employees stay or leave. They’re the things you focus on when everything else that matters isn’t going great.”

Ashley Lundquist, VP of Talent at CloudVirga had this to say:

“In my opinion, the future of employee perks revolves around work/life integration. Balance has been deemed a ‘dirty’ word by many thought leaders and the transition to integration is coming in fierce.

While the greatest opportunity for engagement resides in an emotional connection to the mission/product and relationships within the organization, perks that allow employees to smoothly integrate their personal needs with business needs have the potential to take engagement to the next level.”

Natasha Scott, Recruiting Manager at Midaxo pointed out something similar:

“Perks are significant today because typically they show the care from employers to employees for their lives as a whole. This covers work life, personal life, hobbies, family, finances, commuting, pet care, etc. (the list these days is never-ending). The ultimate goal of perks seems to equal a better quality of life. With that, perks are going to continue to weigh heavily on candidate job decisions and negotiations. At the end of the day happier, engaged employees equals higher productivity. Organizations need to keep the perks coming!”

Lastly, Justin Kang, VP of Economic Growth at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce emphasized that today’s workforce is getting older and thus their priorities are changing.

“Generational trends as more and more Gen Y and Gen Z join the workforce and move up the career ladder. Transition from ping pong tables to paid family leave, for example.”

Source: Bruce Mars, Pexel

New emphasis on flexibility and personalization.

Unsurprisingly, a large number of people suggested personalization would be a key trend of the future of perks.

It turns out, personalization is growing in importance in all of areas of HR.

Earlier this week, HR Trends Institute published a piece on the 10 Inspiring HR Trends for 2019, and personalization was the first trend highlighted. In the piece, the author Tom Haak pointed out that, “Historically HR has focused very much on standardization and “one-size-fits-all.” However, he ended the section with, “In 2019, personalization will get a lot of attention, and employees and organizations will benefit.”

A lot of our people operations professionals felt the same way, and the concept of personalization was a popular one for many of the higher-level people operations professionals from Director level, VP level, and CEOs.

Katherine Boardman, VP of People Operations at Litmus noted this trend:

“As we move into 2019 and beyond what’s becoming clear in our conversations with employees as well as through feedback from candidates is that “one size does not fit all” when it comes to benefits and perks. The more agile we’re able to be with structuring our programs, the better.

Through 1:1 chats and surveys we understand what people are looking for. Increasingly we are challenged to set aside our assumptions about what people want and not be tempted to apply our own sense of knowing what’s best for people.

It does take time to shift our benefits and perks program design so we iterate over a period of months and in that way, we move towards substantive changes over time.

If individuals are calling for flexibility in program design then we as an employer need to be responsive both to current team members as well as future staff. We operate in a far too competitive space not to do that.

Katherine isn’t the only one seeing this transition.

Alexa Lightner, Director of People Analytics & Sr. Customer Success Manager from Humanyze had this to say about the future of perks:

“I think the future of employee perks will continue to move from blanket offerings that are primarily there to serve HR objectives (retention, recruitment, etc.) and become more individualized and/or team-based and intertwined with broader company objectives and operational KPIs.

With more data emerging about the ways people work and are most productive, what have been traditionally seen as “perks” will become strategic levers that organizations can pull and regularly update based on data to encourage different behaviors (such as flexible remote work options for functions that require heads-down time, strategic matching and sponsored lunch programs to encourage cross-team interaction and knowledge-transfer, and spot bonuses and reward programs for delivery teams).”

And Remington Begg, Chief Remarkable Officer at Impulse Creative says, “I think that perks are going to become much more personalized for each individual. Understanding who our team members are as individuals will allow for us all to connect on a more human level.”

Amy Spurling, Compt CEO, on the topic of how perks are evolving:

Perks need to evolve to a place where employees can really personalize their compensation. Each of us has different needs and motivators, the companies that move towards personalization for their teams will be the ones that are truly differentiated.

Source: Tirachard Kumtanom, Pexels

The way perks are thought of by employees and employers will change

Christopher LoDolce, Senior Manager at HubSpot and Waffle Wednesday creator points out:

“I see a future where the continuum of how different organizations use perks continues to lengthen.”

On one end, you have the basic strategy of offering attractive perks to your ideal worker whether that’s health, continuous learning, daycare, or free alcohol. These solve for the individual and their needs.

On the other end of the continuum, you have organizations using perks strategically to shape the minds, and in turn, the actions of their employees while simultaneously solving for the individuals.

The inputs into a group of individuals is what makes the culture. Perks + People = Culture. Organizations will continue to have to focus on using perks regardless of where they fall on the continuum to attract, engage, and keep their workforce delighted if they hope to grow their organization into the future.”

Perks are still ancillary to critical company hygiene factors like mission, vision, values, strong leadership, etc..

Research suggests that at least one-third of your working life, you’ll be at work. As more people are dedicating more time and energy to their companies, they’re seeking more fulfillment, purpose, and alignment with their personal lives from work as well.

Vanessa Shaw, Founder of Human Side of Tech brought this idea into focus:
“We are moving into a time when flexible work schedules will no longer be viewed as a perk, but a normal way of running a business. Employees want freedom, inspiration, and growth. Perks will become dated soon, people might say refer back to the early “2000’s Perks War” and laugh about how much we toiled over what to include in an offer package. Companies that provide growth opportunities, personal coaching, and trust to work when they want and where they want will be the companies that retain the best talent.”

Daniel Vent, Manager of Recruiting at Grand Circle Corporation agreed on the needed emphasis on basic organization hygiene factors like:

“I think that only so many companies can offer relaxed attire and happy hour. Over the next ten years, perks aren’t going to make or break companies, as the overall purpose and mission of a company that is going to be the thing that makes recruiting difficult or easy. That said, two companies with a great vision and mission, who are standardized, will be able to separate themselves by curtailing their perk offering.”

Source: Jenna Hamra, Pexels

More companies will be offering more perks.

The following insight from Sam Oliver, recruiting at PathAI has a mixture of many of the items from each category above, with an emphasis on perks always evolving:

“Working at an AI/healthcare company, health & fitness perks are probably the most useful to our employees, secondary to the basic stuff like health insurance, commuter benefit, retirement account, etc.. It’s not enough to have a gym membership discount; we’ve brought fitness to work by booking yoga & boot camp classes in-office (at both morning & afternoon times to accommodate everyone). This perk makes our onsite shower/bathing/changing facilities more in-demand as well. :) Of course, we’re also putting our money where our mouth is in terms of health & fitness by heavily subsidizing our health insurance premiums.

I think this is where the future of employee perks is headed — people don’t want a game room or free beer on tap (though those things are fun), they want stuff with real, tangible value that they’d actually use outside of their job. With health insurance costs sky-rocketing, I see more employees asking about high-coverage (like 90–100%) health insurance. I also see more people asking about child care subsidies (which we help out with via free care.com memberships) as well as flex hours/remote-friendly culture.”

Nadine Robinson, Director of People Ops at Docent Health said:

“As the job market continues to be tight for talent, employers continue to look for ways to differentiate themselves. Every year, more cool stuff enters the market and employers have an opportunity to take advantage of it. Who knows what we’ll have next. In 5 years, I may be putting together a subsidy program for self-driving car subscriptions.”

Cassandra Mambro, People Operations Manager at Hopper agrees. With the talent gap widening and the labor market tightening, competition for top talent will only become more fierce. Cassandra says:

“I think the future of perks is going to get even wider — things that we haven’t even thought of yet! The competition for talent is more intense than ever and will only increase from here. Companies are on the hunt for creative ways to attract talent and will stop at (almost) nothing. While compensation is still very important, employees are interested to see what companies offer that aligns with their lifestyle.”

So there you have it, the top five trends for perks in 2019. What about you — what do you think the future of perks holds? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.