Employee Benefits In 2016: Perks Or Expectations?

Meghan M. Biro

Are employee benefits today considered perks, or are they expected? It’s a question many ask these days. Not surprisingly, the history of employee perks involves World War II, the burgeoning tech industry and women. I say not surprisingly because these same key elements like a reduced workforce, new technology and women in the workforce are still driving factors in why many businesses today are upping their game when it comes to employee perks.

But let’s back up a minute. When World War II broke out, Hewlett-Packard’s David Packard, at the request of the War Department, stayed behind to run HP’s test and measurement instrument program. HP ran 24 hours a day, and with the men away at war, Packard quickly learned that he had to trust his female employees to run the company. He also had to accommodate the working moms among them, which included flex-time for sick children, doctor’s appointments, and school runs.

Post-war, the company continued these programs, and added others such as profit-sharing, annual bonuses, stock options, Friday afternoon beer-fests, coffee, fruit and donut breaks every morning and afternoon, and eventually, even camping and picnics at their private company retreat. Fast-forward a few years, and HP was soon boasting record-breaking high levels of employee satisfaction.

Gradually other companies followed suit regarding employee perks as more women entered the workforce, as Millennials took over the business world, as jobs became more and more specialized, and as work-life balance eroded due to our digitally driven work world.

Today’s Top Employee Benefits and Perks

Language morphs and evolves, and today there are blurred lines between terms like “benefits” and “perks.” While there are certain employee benefits most organizations are legally bound to provide, such as social security benefits, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation insurance, today’s employee looks for much more than that.

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