Beyond the Paycheck: Employee Perks to Negotiate

By Robert Half March 1, 2017 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.

A Robert Half Financing & Accounting survey showed 40 percent of CFOs were more open to negotiate nonmonetary perks than they were the year before, and 43 percent of workers thought workplace perks are up for discussion more often with their employers.

Why are employee perks more negotiable now?

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.

First, managers should take a look at the pay they're offering and research the going rates to be able to offer more attractive salaries to prospective candidates. One valuable resource Robert Half makes available to employers and job candidates is Robert Half's annual Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance. The guide covers the national average starting salary ranges for more than 400 positions.

Check out our Salary Calculator to access customized data for your city.

Which employee perks do workers prize most?

Our "perks" survey showed they want more vacation time, an enhanced healthcare plan, telecommuting options and flexible schedules, training and professional development, and other amenities. That may surprise some people, who think most workers just want a higher salary.

“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.”

For amenities, workers mentioned advantages, such as subsidized transportation, on-site meals or free parking.

CFOs didn’t respond in exactly the same way in the survey. They said they consider the top nonmonetary benefits to be related to health and wellness, such as free gym memberships.

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

  • 75 percent of employers plan to increase wages in 2017, with 34 percent looking at bonuses and incentives
  • 57 percent of millennials say work-life balance and personal well-being are very important to them
  • 79 percent of workers say flexible hours is the family-friendly benefit that would most affect their decision to join a company

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.

Negotiating Perks infographic

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