“Benefits should be conferred gradually; and in that way they will taste better,” wrote Niccolo Machiavelli, Italian thinker, diplomat and the father of political theory. A benefit, as we understand it within the HR sector today, is non-wage employment compensation.
We have found the following benefits in Slovakia, in order of how frequently they are used: company sponsored meal vouchers (hardly regarded as a benefit any more), gifts, mobile phone (for private use), social events, 13th and 14th salaries, free refreshments, laptop, extra training and education, company car (for private use), sports facilities, life (and other extra) insurance, upgraded health care, flexible working hours (mainly in white collar jobs), working from home, extra vacation, financial support/loans, holiday arrangements, child care/kindergarten.
In an increasing number of EU countries, non-wage benefits which companies give to their staff are subject to income tax, as governments need more and more money to cover their deficits. This makes benefits for employees less beneficial. Nevertheless, in Slovakia the tax regime affecting benefits is still very mild, especially when compared to the Netherlands.
Company cars were, before the crisis, a very popular tool for employers to attract the talent they needed so much. Company cars were also provided with jobs for which a car was not a necessity. Post-crisis, we see a very steep decline in offering company cars for those job holders for whom a car is not a necessary working tool. And even though all salespeople used to have a company car, we now see that salespeople may have to take an available car from the car fleet, and that people are sharing cars within their teams.
What is increasing is the provision of benefits of a non-financial nature, such as sports club membership, sponsorship of leisure events and other benefits which are focused on employees’ free time and on their quality of life, as it is a trend to think about a healthy work-life balance.
At Lugera, for example, we have our own travel agency, which enables all our staff to book holidays at considerable discounts and to make payments through a savings account and by instalments.
What has always been popular are mobile phones and laptop computers, although for those who cannot do their job without a laptop and a mobile, these are merely necessary working tools – and for those who do not need them for their job, they are not seen as much of an extra benefit.
Working from home is regarded as a benefit from the employer’s point of view and in many western countries people love to work from home. Remarkably, in Slovakia not many employees have discovered the advantages of a home office and I have found in our company, and also when talking with our clients, that not many Slovak employees are fond of it. One female employee told me that she loves to leave the house, and get away from her children and husband, and that she would never do her job from home as she enjoys being at work.
Still, we see that the home office is gaining ground and especially for young mothers a home office is a great opportunity to take care of their baby while also being involved in their work, which can make their maternity leave even more fulfilling.
To conclude I would like to mention one of the most important benefits, but one not widely regarded as such. However, it is one of the most appreciated and one of the best motivators: a great team of colleagues. A good salary, personal development and great colleagues are the three major motivators and key aspects for a happy and motivated employee. Everything else is nice, but not decisive.
Gerard Koolen is a group managing partner at Lugera. Martin Marek, business development manager at Lugera, contributed to this article
25. Feb 2013 at 0:00 | By Gerard Koolen