Do Work Perks Work?

From Amazon to Zappos, companies seem to be competing for the most outrageous employee perks and benefits — free meals, childcare, gym membership, massage — how can the average employer keep up and compete in this competitive job market? Will employers be able to attract a talented team without more and more freebies? Do these benefits work? Are they really the key to greater customer satisfaction and profitability? The answer is, maybe.

The two-factor theory of motivation, developed by psychologist Frederick Herzberg, states that these extrinsic factors are effective in keeping employees from becoming dissatisfied with a job. Along with base salary, job security and insurance benefits, they must be provided to keep employees functioning at least at a “neutral” state.

But these companies also know that employees need more than pool tables and air hockey to keep them genuinely excited and motivated about the job. Intrinsic factors must also be met. Motivation to perform well comes from having a job that provides attainable challenge, feeling as if one has the autonomy to complete the work and knowledge that growth opportunities are available in exchange for a job well done. Many of the perks are also designed to facilitate social interaction between employees – as relationships make up another important component of motivation.

Without fulfilling work to do, workplace fun and games remain superficial. Top-ranked employers know that true motivation is multifaceted – incorporating both intrinsic and extrinsic reward.

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