As companies, continue their struggle to retain and recruit colleagues, more and more of them are turning to employee benefits as the supposed solution to their challenges. Whilst benefits such as pension, healthcare and cycle to work schemes are well established and expected in many industries, companies such as Perkbox and Reward Gateway offer a seemingly never-ending array of often quite random benefits and perks for employees.

Whilst companies focusing on their colleagues can only be a good thing, the problem is that so many of the perks offered by these consolidators seem to be a cheap, and at times desperate, attempt to keep their colleagues happy. There are often so many of them that employees are overwhelmed, and make very little use of any of them.

As we heard when helping map the colleague experience for one of our clients, “If it was an option, I wouldn’t take any of that (scratchcards etc) – just give me a 5% pay increase”.

What more employers should be doing is looking to those organisations that are truly great places to work, and those that are innovating in this area, and seeing how they can apply the principles of what these organisations are doing to their own business. Timpsons has been long regarded as one of the best places to work in the UK, with a staff turnover around 50% lower than the retail average. Rather than focus on gimmicky perks, they instead deliver against what really matters to their colleagues: uncapped bonus, giving people a reason to go the extra mile; free holiday homes, giving colleagues an opportunity to escape to places that they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to; wedding support that goes beyond some cash and a gift – it’s all of that plus a limousine and driver for their big day!

Companies like John Lewis are also focusing on the things that really matter to their teams. With the cost of living crisis truly taking hold, they’re offering free meals for their teams from October through to the New Year. It’s no substitute for a pay rise, but it’s a helping with colleagues’ immediate issues, and ensuring that everyone feels their best whilst at work, and therefore delivers for customers.

One model that’s particularly interesting is highly relevant for the sector hardest hit by the great resignation: hospitality. Brewdog has rightly faced severe criticism for the aggressive working culture it engendered as it grew from craft brewer to high street chain, but its response – offering 50% of the profits from its bars to be shared amongst colleagues – is a significant signal that they’re taking their teams seriously and are focusing on what’s, ultimately, most important to them: cash in their pockets. The fact that Brewdog has seen applications for jobs increase by 75% since the announcement suggests it’s something that’s rather important to people.

What seems to be common amongst the businesses that are getting it right, and what’s missing from those that are getting it wrong, is a clear, directional brand vision that guides what they should do, both for customers but also, even more importantly, for colleagues. If you truly live your values, then decisions around salary, bonus, health and wellbeing should be pretty easy to make. It’s why when Brand Vista creates a brand Vision for our clients, we always ensure that the perspective of both colleagues and customers is included.

Because without motivated colleagues, it’s impossible to deliver an irresistible customer experience.