The world of employment has come a long way since the industrial revolution. Back then it was practical — though obviously unethical — for result-obsessed business owners to see employee happiness as an optional extra. What mattered for their bottom lines was that people stayed at their posts and did what they were told, even if it made them miserable.
Today, thankfully, things are very different. The digital revolution introduced further abstraction to the notion of productivity, internet access made it easier for workers to know their rights and options (and expose bad bosses), and now the COVID-19 pandemic has offered conclusive evidence that the traditional office structure is simply unnecessary at this stage.
Accepting that it’s essential to keep your workers happy is just the first step towards being a great manager, though: after that, you need to put in the work to make it happen, and that can be tricky. What should you focus on? Training is a key pursuit, certainly, as professionals want to keep expanding their skills — but who doesn’t love workplace perks?
In this piece, we’re going to pit these two ingredients against each other to see if we can determine which is more important. Let’s get started.
The average employee today doesn't want to feel stuck in their position. They want to progress, becoming more valuable to their company and showing that they deserve to be paid more and given more responsibility — and training is the way to facilitate that change. By placing a lot of emphasis on training, you can show your workers that you’re committed to investing in them.
This will give them motivation to stick around, knowing that you won’t hold them back from attempting to fulfil their potential. The importance of this is tough to overstate. Another job can seem better on paper, but the experience it delivers may be distinctly underwhelming — so a gesture like this can make sticking with you seem like the obvious choice.
Not all training is on the same level of quality: top sales training will deliver results, while lesser services will offer nothing but bluster and buzzwords. There’s also the matter of engagement, though. Top-notch training presented to someone who simply doesn’t find it interesting will constitute a waste of resources, and this happens all too often.
Before you commit to extensive training, you need to think carefully about what will benefit your company and what will benefit your workers. Aim to strike a balance between productivity and enjoyment. You want people to get better at their jobs, of course, but your main priority here is keeping them happy — and boring productivity boosts won’t help you there.
It’s often unrealistic to offer more money than rival firms. If you don’t have the budget, there’s not much you can do. And if you have an office, it might not be as nice as the alternatives out there. There are so many ways in which you might have no chance of outdoing the competition. Yes, company culture can help, but that’s tough to get across in a job posting.
Perks, though, can stand out right away, and they can tip the scales in your favour when used well. They can be practical, as is often the case with scheme-based monetary perks: businesses like iCompario (schemes for fuel cards) and Gymflex (schemes for fitness) facilitate them, making it simple for even small companies to offer robust incentives. They can also be frivolous, as with office pool-table access or even video game service subscriptions.
Many people dismiss the latter, but it all depends on the people you’re targeting. Remember that the perks you add will convey elements of your company’s personality. If your entire team is into gaming, knowing about that could be a huge motivator for someone to join (or stay with) your company. Who doesn’t want to feel comfortable socialising with their colleagues?
Plenty of companies make the simple mistake of setting out generic perk packages and expecting results. Not everyone cares about a company gym membership, particularly if it’s evidently provided at the expense of something else they’d prefer. You need to be extremely careful, then, or the perks you intend to make people happy will actually cause great frustration because they’ll make it abundantly clear that you’re not really listening to your team members.
At this point, we can return to the titular question of which is important to keeping your workforce happy — and the answer is quite complex. Perks are more important for outright happiness, but good training is a perk, and perhaps the biggest perk you can offer. To look at it from another angle, any round of training that your employees wouldn’t consider a perk is probably not going to benefit anyone involved.
The conclusion, then, is that you need a strong perk package built around the promise of varied and in-depth training. If you can manage that, you’ll have an excellent chance of earning lasting loyalty from all of your best talents.
Elliot Mark is a senior writer at Ecommerce Platforms with a deep curiosity for the changing world of ecommerce. He’s helped create a number of unique online stores, providing content and marketing support to help people grow their own ecommerce biz. Connect with him on Twitter @EcomPlatformsio.
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