According to our recent study of over 750 people, as many as 61% of people in the UK believe they don’t get enough employee incentives at their place of work. The importance of employee morale and worker satisfaction cannot be overlooked by businesses, with regards to both productivity and financial efficiency. Losing and hiring employees is far more costly than keeping current employees happy and motivated.

According to another an Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) study, which polled 2,000 people, as many as 17% of employees claimed they were looking for a new career due to feeling under appreciated in their place of work.

The problem with incentives in the UK isn’t necessarily a lack of them, but more a lack of understanding about what UK workers actually want. Striving to understand what incentives make people happy is far more important than finding out what looks good on paper.


Extreme incentives

There are many examples of companies offering ‘extreme’ employee incentives, ranging from free catered lunches and massages. Google offer free nap times during the day and Netflix granting employee free unlimited holidays – both may seem great on paper, but their true value can easily be overlooked for more practical ideas.

Whilst these examples may seem like the life of luxury, there’s a reason these are branded as ‘extreme’ incentives – because despite their prowess on paper, they don’t directly tackle the wants and needs of employees directly.

Many companies tend to act like ostriches when dealing with employee benefits, vowing more for extreme blanket perks that often ignore or struggle to cater for what employees really want – especially in workplaces with a wide mix of ages, genders and backgrounds. More thought should instead be put into considering and understanding exactly what the employees themselves need.


Finding the middle ground

According to our survey, what people really want are perks that they can relate to and enjoy themselves, that cater towards and take into consideration their individual needs:

35% of respondents said they would prefer flexible working, whether that be flexible hours or working from home –  the benefits of this go both ways. Employees can help to cut down wasted time and costs by helping to eliminate lengthy and stressful commutes. On top of this, employers can help staff cut down on taking time off work for small appointments or meetings, and instead vouch for more flexible hours to promote a healthier work-life balance and allow them to work a time when they are most productive or available.

More than a quarter of people (27%) opted for a company car to be their most desired reward. Whilst this is a big expense for a lot of SMEs, in certain cases it is the perfect perk for those expected to put in a lot of miles on the road as part of their job. It can often be welcomed more than a pay rise, which would only end up going towards tyres and petrol costs.

14% of people said they would prefer a gym membership, with 16% of 18-24 year olds citing this as their most desired perk. The benefits of leading a healthy and productive lifestyle out of work are numerous, including helping to cut down on stress-related absences such as anxiety or depression. According to an Absence Management report in 2015 from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), as many as two-fifth of businesses have seen an increase in such stress-related injuries in a 12 month period.

6% of people selected childcare vouchers, which was most popular amongst the 25-44 age bracket. For a small number of a company’s workforce, this sort of perk really helps to put employees in a more stable home and working environment and shows an understanding on the part of a company of the importance of family life.

Employee incentives should be just that… Incentives that specifically target the needs and requirements of a workforce to reward them for their time and dedication to a company. The first step to improving the UK’s view on company incentives should be to ask and communicate with employees as to what they want and would value from their employer.