Beyond the Paycheck: Employee Perks to Negotiate

By Robert Half May 1, 2019 at 5:00pm

You’ve reached that point in your discussion that goes beyond job duties or salary, and you’re about to segue into something that could be a deal breaker. Whether you’re a job candidate or employee — or the manager or employer sitting on the other side of the desk — employee perks is a topic to consider and negotiate.

If you’re the job candidate, these perquisites and nice-to-have add-ons may be the carrot that sways you to accept one offer over another. If you’re a valued employee, they could be the incentive that convinces you to stay. If you’re an employer, nonmonetary benefits are the “little something extra” beyond the salary you've negotiated and employee benefits package that can elevate your recruitment and retention efforts, as well as your workplace culture.

Why are employee perks negotiable?

With the high demand for specialized and skilled talent, companies recognize they must enhance the nonfinancial perks and compensation they offer to attract and retain top performers. For that reason, many firms are ready to negotiate. Otherwise, they risk losing those top candidates to the competition.

Managers can start the process by taking a look at the pay they're offering and researching the going rates. One valuable resource Robert Half makes available to employers and job candidates is its annual Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals. The guide covers the national average starting salary ranges for more than 190 positions and offers insight into emerging hiring trends.

Which employee perks do workers prize most?

“Employees desire perks that allow them greater work-life balance,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half. "More vacation days allow employees to take much-needed breaks from work to relax, recharge and come back with renewed energy and enthusiasm for their job.”

A Robert Half survey of summer perks shows that workers want more time out of the office and greater control over their time. Fifty-two percent of those surveyed said flexible scheduling is the best employee perk companies can offer. Only 54 percent of senior managers said they offer flexible summer schedules, and about one in three (32 percent) reported allowing staff to leave early on Fridays.

The Demand for Skilled Talent report also lists data about the employment market managers might find useful:

  • Job seekers want 14 days of paid time off when joining a company, along with perks such as on-site amenities, telecommuting, compressed workweeks, flexible schedules and bonuses.
  • 78 percent of workers feel comfortable looking for another job while employed.
  • 46 percent of workers feel underpaid, and 44 percent said they'd leave their jobs for a bigger paycheck.

So how do you get to the perks discussion? And once you’re there, what do you say as you negotiate? Here are three tips for both sides to consider, at small, midsize or large companies.

Negotiation tips for job candidates and employees

  1. Do your homework. Has the company mentioned any perks in job ads, or are any extra benefits offered? Is there an existing policy in place? Do other businesses in your industry offer attractive perks? Knowing the answers to these questions will put you in a better position to negotiate.
  2. Come up with a plan. Rather than asking for the generic “flex time,” be specific about what you want. Let’s say you want to leave at 3 p.m. every day and work from home two hours a day. You might suggest a trial period where you’d work with that schedule for a certain number of weeks before making it permanent. Talk to your manager or the hiring manager, and explain your reasons for asking. Present the value of your idea by showing how it benefits the company. If the employee perk you desire could reduce the potential for burnout or build motivation, for example, the employer may be more receptive.
  3. Have a fallback plan. Remember this is a negotiation, not an ultimatum. You may not get everything you want, so decide what you’re willing to accept, and what you’re willing to give up, before you start.

Negotiation tips for employers and managers

  1. Survey your workers and examine the market. Finding out what’s on the wish lists of your staff will give you a heads up about what they want — and what future employees might want. It’s also useful to know what add-ons similar companies are offering before you begin to negotiate. “It’s a matter of having an open discussion about what perks are most coveted by workers,” McDonald says. “It’s important for employers to initiate those types of conversations. It’s also important for workers to be honest about their desires in the workplace.”
  2. Consider the costs. You may not have the budget for some fringe benefits, but not all of them break the bank. Giving a stronger job title, awarding company products and services, and offering additional vacation days, for instance, don’t have to show up as expense items. There’s even a return on investment to be considered when you offer advantages such as on-the-job skills training. There’s also the low cost and high value of health perks like a nap room or Yoga Tuesdays to consider — if that fits your workplace culture.
  3. Listen, communicate and own your decisions. Pay close attention to what your employee or job candidate is saying or asking for, and when it’s your turn to weigh in, plan to be clear about what you can and can’t do. Keep in mind that you want top talent, and in today’s job market, it may take some "extras" to win them over.

Nonmonetary perks can be mutually beneficial for all parties — job seekers, employees, employers and hiring managers. Don’t underestimate their power and value in the evolving workplace.

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