Work perks: What you need to know to attract candidates now
What are the benefits of working for your business? It’s a question that’s top of mind for many candidates, and the best answers include more than an attractive salary or an impressive job title.

Work perks – like flexibility or a car park – are a growing expectation among Australian workers. From an employer’s point of view, they can boost employee engagement and increase the likelihood of candidates hitting the ‘apply’ button on your next job ad.

So, what are the most popular perks and how do people feel about benefits at work? We asked more than 4,000 Australians to share their views.

Our research shows that almost 70% of candidates would be happier at work if their employer offered more perks and 62% would be more loyal if they received more benefits. A further 63% believe that more perks in the workplace would make them feel prouder of where they work.

Aurelio Tedesco-Gueli, Talent Acquisition Project Lead at Ramsay Health Care, which employs just over 30,000 people nationally, says the company is always looking for ways to create value to attract and retain the best people. He says perks are no longer viewed as a ‘nice to have’ but an essential element of recruitment strategies.

“We know that people are our most important asset, which is why our philosophy at Ramsay Health Care is ‘People caring for people.’” Tedesco-Gueli says one major focus is on empowering staff and providing them with opportunities to progress their careers and expand their skills and knowledge.

Flexibility around work hours (59%) and location (56%) are the top two perks candidates look for when job hunting.

Richard Gray-Smith, Division Manager for Consult Recruitment in Auckland, says more candidates are considering how work makes them feel, so flexibility is a key consideration.

“This is particularly the case for younger candidates and it’s relevant across every industry,” he says. They want to know how a company can improve their lives beyond a pay packet. At Consult, for instance, we’re trialling a four-day week. We want to build a highly motivated and engaged workforce and we believe that it will help us to achieve this.”

There’s more to work than money. Our research shows 1 in 4 Australians would consider a lower salary if it meant more perks. While 1 in 6 candidates would sacrifice salary for a company car or flexible working arrangements, 1 in 4 would turn down a job offer if the perks were unsatisfactory.

“Salary is still important to candidates, but it’s no longer the key focus in industries like healthcare,” says Tedesco-Gueli. “Within the health sector, workplace flexibility and professional development are the top drivers and salary usually ranks about third or fourth.”

“Work-life balance is such a key consideration for many people looking at a new role, so it is important to show that you support employees, when possible and practical, to work flexibly to balance personal and professional demands.”

Perceptions of perks are also changing. Some workplace practices that were once considered benefits are now expected to be part of business as usual.

The top things candidates view as genuine perks include:

  • Company cars (74%)
  • Free meals (72%)
  • Free events and activities (70%).

Most candidates believe that support for mental health, however, should be seen as standard practice rather than a perk (69%). Active learning and development programs are also viewed as things that should be standard practice (68%).

“Supporting the mental wellbeing of team members needs to be part of the core business offering,” Tedesco-Gueli says. He explains that every Ramsay Health Care employee in Australia can access counselling and support through the company’s Employee Assistance Program.

“During the pandemic, we created a comprehensive range of additional resources including webinars and booklets to support our people experiencing heightened anxiety and stress,” he adds. “We also have an array of partnerships with health and wellbeing providers in addition to a number of in-house programs to provide our workforce with strategies to support their mental health. We strive to make this very clear in our recruitment marketing.”

Workplace perks are valuable tools for attraction and retention, so it’s wise to highlight them at every stage of the recruitment process.

“We include benefits and opportunities in job ads and discuss them during the interview process, so that candidates are very clear about the positive aspects of working at Ramsay,” says Tedesco-Gueli.

When developing your perks program, Gray-Smith suggests surveying employees to find out the benefits that they value. “I also recommend asking candidates about the kinds of benefits that they appreciate so you can use all this information to build a perks program that resonates.”

Gray-Smith also suggests giving your workforce choice around the perks that you offer. “Not everyone wants a gym membership, for example, so consider offering a wellness allowance instead,” he says. “This means people can choose what will give them the most benefit and it shows that you recognise that everyone has different needs.”

An attractive salary is no longer enough to attract and retain the best candidates. Work perks have a powerful influence on where people choose to work – and how long they’ll stay in a role. “Perks are key to employee engagement,” says Gray-Smith. “And you can’t put a dollar value on the power of an engaged workforce.”

Source: Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK, interviewing 4800 Australians annually. Published April 2021.