Think soft perks don’t matter much when it comes to talent retention and acquisition? Turns out that perks like flexible work schedules and professional development opportunities have a greater impact on employee satisfaction than many other types of benefit offerings.

Soft perks and company-culture benefits are what employees care most about when they consider job offers, notes Elizabeth Ballou, content developer and marketer for B2B researcher Clutch. Citing results from a recent survey, she says these types of benefits should be top of mind for brokers and advisers. While core benefits such as health insurance and 401(k) plans also are important, more than 54% of the 507 full-time U.S. employees surveyed by Clutch consider flexible hours the benefit that matters most to their job satisfaction.

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Another 22% of the respondents cited professional development as the perk they value most. That doesn’t surprise Ballou, who observes that ongoing employee training and educations is “absolutely necessary for employees to get ahead and for employers to get the most out of their staff.” Other valued perks include fitness and health opportunities and on-site meals.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, 42% of the survey respondents indicated they don’t receive any perks at all. One reason for this, Ballou says, is that employers tend to place less importance on perks than traditional benefits.

This perquisite deficit represents opportunity for companies like Access Development, which offers customer loyalty and discount network programs that advisers can include in their voluntary benefit packages.

“A lot of companies are struggling to come up with the base compensation that keeps them competitive,” says Lisa Oyler, Access Development’s human resources director. “We offer their employees the chance to save a couple bucks every day at the coffee shop across the road or the popular lunch spot that half the office goes to.” These programs, she says, have caught the attention of benefits brokers who are looking for outside-the-box solutions.

Employees have come to covet soft perks as much or more than traditional benefits, Oyler contends. This can be seen at job interviews, where candidates frequently ask about flexible work arrangements, paid time off and parental leave opportunities. Other non-traditional benefits include help with student loan repayment, which has become a more popular benefit than tuition reimbursement, and items like gift cards and movie tickets, which are also becoming more popular.

In part, Oyler attributes this to a mindset increasingly common among younger employees. “It’s instant gratification versus waiting for their annual review or a merit increase,” she reports. “It’s things that they can apply in their daily lives.

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