New and Bizarre Perks: Are They That New, and Do They Really Matter?

Despite all the usual excited publicity about any non-traditional offering flaunted by some innovative employer, the same typical meat-and-potatoes elements of the total reward package remain most attractive to job seekers.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Seems like every idea proclaimed to be the best thing since sliced bread turns out to be a rehash of an ancient program or a pig with fresh lipstick. Maybe there isn’t that much really new in this old world.

Almost every week discloses another wannabe Columbus excited at his or her sudden discovery of America for the very first time … they think. What I find most remarkable is how little research most people do to fill the gaps in what others might consider to be fundamental knowledge.

The more bizarre, the more attention they get

Perhaps folks are simply more trusting today. More likely, they are continually harassed with so many demands for their attention that they only respond now to what is presented as dramatically different.

In the bazaar of ideas, bizarre concepts draw more attention than the normal practices.

Employment website Glassdoor released news of a study that confirms what we have known and said all along: Attractive benefits and perquisites are quite important to job-seekers. Of course, once hired, they are taken for granted.

A need, once satisfied, is no longer a motivator — until it disappears.  As long as the fundamental hygiene factors remain adequate, employees switch their focus to the other traditional total reward elements that bind workers to their employer: Career, culture, leadership, etc.

There’s nothing totally new or different about that.

Money? It hardly gets any attention

Cash is barely mentioned, although we recognize it as the foundation upon which all the other discrete peripheral engagement elements rest. Without an adequate assured basic income, those sparkling lights, ringing bells and flashing signs that attract interest lose significance.

When the workplace offers minimal retention power, the unhappy employee leaves for “more money with a better career opportunity” and repeats the cycle at another place.

The normative findings drew little attention, because non-traditional concepts get the spotlights. Even the survey summary emphasized a few “incredible, unique and surprising” exceptions. Perhaps the attraction to anything different is a rejection of followership: A reaction against the reality that those who swallow the conventional pitches to adopt the most commonly seen approaches are never the leaders of the future because they are stuck in the past.

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Don’t misunderstand me; some old ideas are truly great, but they are rarely promoted with the enthusiasm applied to discredited concepts properly dismissed by past users.

Exaggeration is unnecessary for ideas with real substance.

The importance of checking things out

Advertising promoters frequently use hyperbolic breathless terms to describe simple core principles that all well-grounded professionals should know. Responding with excitement at things like “KISS” or “GIGO,” for example, only proves that you have not done your homework and learned the meanings of those hoary old acronyms.

Sure, lots of fresh dewy-eyed novices will find a basic truism “shocking,” but only due to their ignorance.

An eternal lesson remains: Refrain from undue enthusiasm when the latest tricks are announced with great fanfare. Check it out first. A re-discovered old approach or a re-branded product with an updated aggressive marketing campaign doesn’t deserve your attention.

Still, salespeople are confident that there is an infinite supply of low-hanging fruit who will choose a product or service labeled “amazing, innovative, new, shocking, and unbelievable.” You can believe that deceptive promotional pitches will continue until we stop responding to them.

What can we do to filter out the distractions that interfere with keeping up with the truly important compensation issues?

This was originally published at the Compensation Café blog, where you can find a daily dose of caffeinated conversation on everything compensation.

E. James (Jim) Brennan is Senior Associate of ERI Economic Research Institute, the premier publisher of interactive pay and living-cost surveys. Semi-retired after over 40 years in HR corporate and consulting roles throughout the U.S. and Canada, he’s pretty much been there done that (articles, books, speeches, seminars, radio/TV, advisory posts, in-trial expert witness stuff, etc.), and will express his opinion on almost anything. Contact him at ej.brennan@erieri.com.

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