John C. Maxwell: 5 Employee Perks That Should Be Standard in Every Company

UPDATED: May 26, 2023
PUBLISHED: May 11, 2016

Everyone likes a perk. Being part of a special group and receiving the small benefits attached to it make us light up. Maybe that’s why we share our phone numbers or scan a membership card with nearly every transaction we make these days.

Perks have become a major part of corporate strategy, too. Some companies offer free lunches; a few pamper employees with office massages; others liven up the workday with pingpong tables or volleyball courts. I love the idea of these workplace bonuses. They affirm management’s intent on being more than crack-the-whip bosses, and they can differentiate an organization from the pack.

I love a good coffee bar as much as the next person, but I also know that top talents will see right through the latte foam if they don’t find underneath an employee-centric culture that satisfies what they really crave. Certain perks should be standard in every company. Here are five that all organizations should offer to show they value their people.

1. Caring Leaders

Not surprisingly, skilled, empathetic leaders top my list because everything rises and falls on leadership. I’ve spent decades teaching organizations about the benefits of engaged and effective leaders, but many still miss the mark.

Caring leaders demonstrate these habits:

  • They know their people on an individual basis.
  • They recognize and reward effective workers.
  • They empower team members to do their jobs.
  • They put people in positions to succeed.
  • They are encouraging.
  • They have an abundance mindset that expresses itself as generosity.

Talented people won’t stick around if their leaders are subpar. The old saying is true: People leave managers, not companies. If you are serious about building a top-notch organization, you must begin with the leadership—and that begins with you.

Related: Titles Don’t Make Leaders—But These 7 Actions Do

2. Significant Work

The second must-have perk is the opportunity to do work that matters. While saving the world isn’t the mission of every organization, each should still have a vision that goes beyond making money or completing tasks.

Once you share the big picture, you’ve got to detail how every job contributes to it. And if you can’t answer why or how that position matters, then you need to go back to your organizational chart and job descriptions. I remember a few years ago the federal government made a big deal about cutting nonessential personnel during a budget crunch. I thought to myself, If they’re nonessential, then why do they have jobs? Every person should know that he or she is a vital part of a greater whole.

Furthermore, you should work on matching the right people with the right jobs. I call this the “sweet spot,” where a person’s talent and passion meet the organization’s need. When people excel at what they do, they’ll find the work more meaningful. This process starts with onboarding employees whose personal purpose aligns with the organizational purpose. If you have people on the team who don’t share your values, you will always run into trouble—unhappy employees (and the management challenges that go along with them), high turnover and less-than-stellar work from those whose hearts aren’t in the game.

3. Appropriate Compensation

This is the most obvious way that organizations take care of their people. Any organization that skimps on salaries will struggle to attract and retain top talent. At too many organizations, the highest levels hoard the wealth. Sure, executives should be well-compensated, but no company is made up entirely of chiefs! You need to share the wealth. As a leader, you should sacrifice some of your share for your people, which will go a long way toward instilling good faith, loyalty and longevity among your team.

Salary isn’t the only type of compensation, however. Provide the best benefits you can afford: health insurance plans with generous coverage; retirement funds that will sustain your employees; scholarship programs that advance your team members or their kids; and so forth. When possible, offer flexible schedules or work-from-home opportunities. It’s smart to assess what your people need and offer them attractive options for doing their best work.

4. Growth Environment

Of all the perks an organization can offer, this is the one I’m most passionate about. I tell all employees who come to work for my companies that they are entering a growth environment and that I expect them to develop and expand their skills over time. We even meet twice a month with the specific purpose of nurturing growth.

Related: How To: Nurture the Personal Growth of Your People

Leaders have a responsibility in this process. We’ve got to offer avenues for growth; if we demand that people grow but don’t actively support their efforts to do so, we’ll frustrate everyone. Following are key areas and ways for you to provide the potential for growth:

  • Advancement within the company.
  • Continuing education, whether formal or job-specific.
  • Encouragement to stretch beyond expectations.
  • New challenges that spur growth.

This perk will be absorbed companywide. Not only will your employees appreciate the investment in them, but also the organization will benefit from happier, sharper people. It’s a win-win.

5. Dream Opportunities

All companies should offer employees a chance to chase their dreams. That may seem far-fetched, but it’s actually practical and requires an abundance mindset and knowing your people.

You might consider allowing sabbaticals so people can take extended time off to pursue a personal goal. You can network for them, introducing them to leaders who can advance them in their industries or assist them in their passion projects. Provide opportunities that inspire employees to dream bigger and reach further within the organization’s overall vision, such as tapping an aspiring writer to helm the company blog or asking a photography buff to shoot pictures to document a project.

There’s nothing wrong with a pingpong table or an in-house massage therapist, but when it comes to the perks your people really need, nothing beats the five I’ve listed here. When you take care of your people, they will deliver a significant return on your investment. As I often say, “If you’ll add value to your people, they’ll add value to you.”

Related: The Best Work Cultures Have More Than Happy Hour and Free Snacks

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

John C. Maxwell, an internationally respected leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold more than 18 million books, has been named an inaugural SUCCESS Ambassador. Dr. Maxwell is the founder of EQUIP, a non-profit organization that has trained more than 5 million leaders in 126 countries worldwide. A New York Times, Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek; best-selling author, Maxwell has written three books that have sold more than a million copies.