Employee Perks vs. Benefits: Why the Difference Is Critical to Compensation Packages

May 10, 2023 | Employee Benefits


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Health insurance. Discounts on memberships. Tickets to NBA games.

You have more tools in your toolbelt than ever before when it comes to attracting and retaining employees.

But with so many options, it’s more important than ever to find the right balance of perks and benefits.

Because leaning too heavily into one over the other can quickly make your total benefits package uncompetitive.

And in a hot hiring market, that can have detrimental long-term effects on your staff.

You have to have great benefits and perks to attract and retain top talent.

And in this post, we’ll show you how to strike that balance for your organization.

Getting on the Same Page: The Difference Between Perks and Benefits

Employee benefits and perks have subtle, yet important differences. Getting on the same page here will provide helpful context for the next section of this article.

What Are Employee Benefits?

Benefits are forms of non-wage compensation that supplement an employee’s salary. 

These are things like:

  • Health Insurance
  • 401k
  • Expenses (travel, food, etc.)
  • Paid leave

Think of them as “needs” rather than “wants”. Employees would have to pay for these things even if employers didn’t include them as part of the overall compensation package. 

What Are Employee Perks?

Perks, on the other hand, are extras. They’re additional, non-wage compensation that is “wants” rather than “needs”.

These are things like:

  • Gym memberships
  • Flexible hours
  • Snacks and food
  • Childcare
  • Equipment (laptop, standing desk, etc.)
  • Tuition assistance
  • Adoption assistance
  • Insurance discounts
  • Travel discounts
  • Formal employee recognition programs

Perks are quickly rising in popularity among both employees and employers. According to a study done by Clutch, 53% of employees whose companies provide perks say the perks have given them a better quality of life.

Now, companies are jumping on the perks bandwagon because they’ve seen how powerful they are in gaining a competitive edge in a cut-throat hiring market.

In fact, our clients at Abenity have seen a % increase in employee retention after implementing one of our perks programs.

How to Find the Right Balance Between Benefits and Perks

When it comes to compensation packages, both benefits, and perks play important roles in attracting and retaining employees. However, it’s essential to get the balance right between the two.

The first step to creating a competitive compensation package is to ensure that you have the essential benefits in place, such as health insurance and a 401k plan. 

These benefits are critical to meeting the basic needs of employees, and they are expected as a part of the standard compensation package in most organizations. In fact, many employees consider health insurance to be the most important benefit they receive from their employer.

After you’ve established the essential benefits, you can start thinking about adding perks to your compensation package. Perks are typically “nice-to-haves,” and they can be used to differentiate your organization from your competitors in the hiring market. 

The key to selecting the right perks comes down to one thing…

What your employees actually want.

Every organization is different–and employees might prefer some perks over others. For example, while most people want flexible work benefits, you may find that people in your organization would rather have assistance with childcare costs.

You’d never know that without asking them, and if you moved forward with flexible work benefits, you’d be limiting your impact.

At the end of the day, perks only work well when they’re things your employees truly want. And the best way to find this information is by conducting surveys and asking employees directly in conversations.

Pay attention to what employees mention in passing. Research other companies that have great cultures to see what kind of perks they offer.

Just make sure your perks are 100% focused on your employees. 

How to Start Offering Cost-Effective Employee Perks Quickly

Offering employee perks can be a great way to attract and retain top talent, but it can also be time-consuming and costly to implement. One way to quickly and easily offer great perks to your employees is to use an employee discount program like Abenity.

Abenity gives you access to a wide range of exclusive discounts on everything from subscriptions and insurance to hotels and pizza. It’s a quick and cost-effective way to offer employees valuable perks that can help to increase satisfaction and retention.

Interested in seeing how Abenity can immediately boost your compensation packages and give you a competitive edge? Click here to schedule a demo with one of our perks experts.

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