Employee benefits - are they all they're cracked up to be?

More and more, employee benefits and culture are being tossed around in an attempt to lure the best talent to an organisation. From paid long weekends, to fitness memberships, to childcare centres within the building and more ... why do employees see these as the be-all and end-all of a job?

The fancy perks are great, but perhaps it's time to go back to basics. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs sums it up pretty well - what motivates people to do what they do?

Most importantly, employees need their physiological needs to be satisfied - things like shelter (a nice office space), food and water (coffee and tea in the kitchen, anyone?), and air (preferably a decent airconditioning or heating system)! 

Then comes safety. This one seems like a no brainer - somewhere an employee can go to work, and feel safe and secure. But it's more than that - there's the security that comes with knowing an employee has a job and will get paid. This means they can pay their bills, provide for their family, and live their lives.

As you move up the hierarchy, social is third on the list. Do they have good friends in the office, or at least people they can form relationships with? Do they feel welcomed and accepted?

Esteem is next, and this is where we start to move away from the basics and into the non-necessities. At its core, this can be something as simple as recognition and respect, but it can grow into something related to ego and materialistic worth. To this end, Maslow actually suggests that there are both 'higher' and 'lower' esteems.

Finally, we hit self-actualisation and this is the top of the pyramid, or the bottom rung of the ladder - however you want to look at it. This helps the employee to realise their full potential - but only when the other needs are met. 

With all of that in mind - where does these new fads of employee benefits fit in? They might help to complement some of Maslow's ideas, but they certainly don't create them and sustain them. Instead of offering your employees the world, maybe look at the smaller things you can do to fulfil some of these needs before you go big. 

Physiological? Find out if their desk or work space is working for them. Is their chair 15 years old and needs replacing? Could their window use a bit of a clean? Does it help if they work from home, or take an afternoon off a week? 

Security? Remind them how much you value their employment, and the work they do for you. If they need some time to tend to a sick family member, let them know they can safely take as much time as they need.

Esteem? Thank them for the good work they've done recently. If they've performed well, highlight that particular example.

We all love material things, let's not lie - but sometimes, it's the basics that mean the most.