What matters more: Great work perks.. or great HR?
Great work perks or great HR: What brings most employee happiness?
How much do great work perks really contribute to happiness in the workplace? And what’s more important to employees – a good HR department or cool perks? We asked our users for feedback!
I recently spoke to employees from our user Cosatto. They are a baby goods manufacturer that is consistently awarded as a Great Place to Work in the UK.
The Cosatto employees all reinforced the message that happiness was vital to the organization.
Looking at some of the great work perks and activities that make up the Cosatto company culture, it was an easy connection to make.
Among some awesome initiatives, every year, Cosatto grants one lucky employee a ‘once in a lifetime’ dream, voted for by the whole company.
If that doesn’t scream ‘fun work environment’, I’m not sure what does.
Companies with the best benefits draws attention
Super cool perks can be attractive.
Especially for potential employees applying for a job. Companies with the best benefits will easer get your attention!
However, I wonder how much perks like this really contribute to workplace happiness on an ongoing basis, beyond the superficial.
Take, for example, the HR mess that Uber got themselves into a while back. Uber seemed like a ‘cool’ place to me to work. The company is young but fast-growing and successful.
“He would most likely give me a poor performance review…”
In 2017, Susan J. Fowler, a ex-Uber employee posted an article on her blog about her experience at Uber.
She detailed a toxic environment where HR did little to stop sexual harassment in the workplace.
In her words, “I was then told by HR that I had to make a choice: (i) I could either go and find another team and then never have to interact with this man again, or (ii) I could stay on the team, but I would have to understand that he would most likely give me a poor performance review when review time came around, and there was nothing they could do about that.”
I didn’t put HR practices in place because…
Recently, a lawsuit was brought to CEO Miki Agrawal of start up Thinx, an underwear brand for women, by women.
While Thinx is smaller than Uber and may not have all the super cool perks, they did have that sheen of a new, fast growing start up.
Employees were receiving bonuses for the hard work as the company skyrocketed in popularity. Then, an employee accused Miki of sexual harassment.
How does this happen at a company headed by a ‘She-E.O.’ that prides itself on building a body positive product for women?
Miki Agrawal admits a downfall in her article on Medium:
“One problem area throughout our startup’s story and no different to many in our position: human resources. I didn’t take time to think through it. We grew so quickly and I didn’t hire an HR person (it was hard to rationalize hiring an HR person at the time with only 15 employees and then all of a sudden we were 30 people). I didn’t put HR practices in place because I was on the road speaking, doing press, brand partnerships, editing…”
The danger of picking work perks or money over real HR
These stories show the danger of going with perks or monetary compensation over real HR efforts.
Reputations on the surface and seemingly cool perks from companies, don’t make a happy workplace or positive workplace environment.
Going back to our user, Cosatto; one of the things that impressed me when speaking to them was the fact that it wasn’t just about super cool slides at their office. They were committed and focused on employee well being and happiness, beyond slides.
Improving mood and morale was integral to their company and core values which is what prompted them to install a Celpax device.
Cosatto employees are encouraged to discuss how they feel at any time that they feel comfortable to do so.
Carlsberg: We sit down as a TEAM
I also had to chance to speak with user Peter from brewery group Carlsberg who echoed many of the sentiments from Cosatto.
Peter spoke about the fact that the decision to install the Celpax device and measure employee morale ongoing was not a decision made by one person.
The decision came from the whole team.
The team speaks every morning about the employee mood results and about what makes them press red or green. They then try to act on it.
As a team.
Communicating the ‘why’ behind the great work perks
In speaking with user Andrea, from Seequs, a digital marketing agency in the U.S., she repeated some of these same ideas.
Happiness and well being are part of the company culture. The company speaks about the results consistently and regularly.
What all these companies have in common are high, stable Employee Mood KPIs.
They also all speak about the results, employee mood and take actions where necessary.
The tangible results prove that putting a focus on happiness and mood within HR means something to employees.
OK, I’ll admit it
This of course, is not to say that great perks aren’t a great way to appreciate employees. Who wouldn’t want a job with good benefits and get great work perks?
I’ll admit that a slide in the office would definitely raise my mood. But if other needs are not being met, then the great work perks lose their appeal.
Communicating the ‘why’ behind the perks can be a way to create that connection between employee happiness, HR and taking actions.
Take the example of user Scott from Zerorez.
Scott told me that he had seen a slight decline in Mood KPI lately.
It wasn’t hard to find out why though. After speaking with employees, Scott found that the increase in work and some technical difficulties were causing a tough environment for his team.
“We are installing a new phone system in June but right now, the call centre is backed up. The manager brought in some snacks for them this morning though which I think has helped,” explains Scott.
“It’s a way of recognizing their hard work and validating what they are dealing with right now. We can’t change the situation right now, but this tells them we are aware of it and are working on it.”
Scott’s story explains that while free food is awesome, what’s more important is the actions HR and managers take to create a more positive work environment. This increases happiness and improves team morale.
We still like great work perks though