North East employers are being urged to think more laterally about what keeps their staff happy and motivated, according to a survey by creative and digital recruitment specialists Concept Personnel.

“On the back of National Employee Appreciation Day we ran a survey asking candidates registered with us for digital, marketing and creative roles to rate how important they considered perks when looking for a new job, and it threw up some interesting results,” explains regional manager Erin Kirtley.

“Structured benefits such as a career development plan, flexible working hours, and good training opportunities were the factors they rated the most important when looking for a new job. Softer benefits such as free food and refreshments, regular social events and free beers on Fridays topped the list of ‘interesting, but not important’ factors.

It shows that recognition in the workplace is not just about bringing cakes into the office now and then and throwing an occasional night out, enjoyable as those things are.  

Employers are now much more imaginative about the perks they offer their staff. Netflix claims to have pioneered the concept of unlimited holiday leave, and LinkedIn and Virgin Management quickly followed suit. It takes a lot of management confidence to take that leap and it’s not just the big names with the appetite for a bold approach. We work with one North East employer which offers its staff unlimited holidays, along with plenty of overseas travel for business and training, plus flexible working hours as standard. That company is doing phenomenally well and working with some of the fastest growing brands in the world.   

Another award-winning local agency offers its people ‘away from the office’ days to really get those creative juices flowing, a fully stocked healthy breakfast bar, a day off on their birthday, a free team lunch out on their first day and another on their work anniversary, and a gym membership. Uniquely, it also offers a welfare programme that includes free and confidential advice from outside experts.   

Perks don’t have to cost money though. Feedback from our candidates shows that simply taking the time to say thank you goes a long way to make people feel valued. Organising Employee of the Month awards, highlighting their efforts on social media, splashing out on little treats now and then and celebrating work anniversaries, promotions and exam successes all work well too. 

Here at Concept we’re a close-knit team and everyone’s efforts are genuinely appreciated. Our recruitment consultant Lauren was thrilled to receive some Prince tribute act tickets recently after some great work, and not much is allowed to stand in the way of our monthly ‘day before payday lunch’ outing where we take it in turns to choose a different venue.

When it comes to actual hard cash, as you’d expect, we take a different approach to other recruitment companies and rather than individual performance targets we have a bonus based on overall company performance. We’re one team, and everyone shares the benefits.”

Erin believes that the best way for business owners to find out what keeps their staff happy in their work is to simply ask them.

“Even if some of the answers are surprising or uncomfortable, it’s a chance to create a working environment where everyone can flourish,” says Erin.

“Recognition in the workplace should not be limited to one day a year, it should be an integral part of the organisational culture. Finding the best staff is a challenge, so it makes sense to hang on to them. Happy staff equals happy clients, and that’s reflected in a healthy bottom line, which is good for all of us.”