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What are cultural benefits?

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Organisations are quick to offer add-on financial benefits and lifestyle perks to their employees in today’s ultra-competitive job market. But what about the benefits they get when they’re at work?

Despite organisations ploughing billions into pension plans, bonuses, childcare vouchers and everything else we’ve grown accustomed to, we’re still not happy. According to research from Thomson’s Online, 60% of us either aren’t happy with our additional benefits, or they simply don’t apply to our needs and requirements.

This is worrying considering that collectively, organisations spend around £8 billion per year trying to keep their workforces happy with those bike to work schemes, healthcare plans and everything else.

The silly thing is, we’re missing a trick here. There are actually plenty of ways we could be engaging with our staff and offering them perks that don’t really cost much at all, or indeed nothing. You could call these ‘cultural benefits’.

What is culture?

Culture is ‘the way we do things around here’. And something plenty of organisations forget to do right.

A cultural benefit is something positive that arises from organisational culture that makes working life easier, more enjoyable, or even unmissable. And cultural benefits are about to overtake financial benefits. We’re not even kidding.

As Generation Alpha prepares to enter the job market in a big way, salaries and things like pensions and childcare vouchers drop down the list in a dramatic way. The next generation of workers want to know what’s being done to be more sustainable, what they can expect from their working environment, and what it’s like to work there. What we’d call ‘the reason for going to work’ is still important — just not as important as it once was.

Come on then, tell me what they are

Cultural benefits don’t need to be complicated, out there or unique. In all honesty, the simpler they are, the better. You’re probably offering loads of cultural benefits already, just not making a big song and dance about them, or worse, not making your team members aware that they’re actually a benefit. Here are some really easy ones to implement...

Company-wide out of hours policy

Guess what? We’re all tired of answering emails when we’ve finished for the day, or waking up to a full inbox despite clearing it at 9pm the previous evening. Think about implementing policies that make it clear you don’t need to work after 5pm, and suddenly that obvious thing becomes a cultural perk. Even better, penalise/support those who repeatedly work past 5pm. Are they overburdened, or just too keen?

Dedicated one-hour lunch break

We don’t need to go into the science of regular breaks here. But so many companies have the unspoken expectation that taking a full hour for lunch is indulgent. Get away from that notion and encourage not just a full hour at 12pm, but regular coffee stops and time away from screens. We do this, and we all agree it’s incredibly helpful not to feel under pressure to be back out our desks while we’re still digesting our sandwiches.

Open and easy communication

What do we mean by that? Imagine you have a pressing matter that needs sign-off from your boss and your boss’s boss. Do you think it would be easy to have a quick conversation where the issue could be resolved within a few minutes? Or is there a rigid structure where an appointment needs to be made, and if the matter isn’t deemed important, you’ll be berated? That doesn’t sound like a fun place to work, does it?


No, no, no, we don’t mean a £10 Amazon voucher at Christmas. We mean a culture where good (and not so good) work is simply acknowledged and spoken about. It’s that easy. Think about the last time you dropped someone an email to tell them they’re doing just great. It’s quite amazing what a 10-word email can do for a person’s happiness (and productivity) at work.

Add value

We could get stuck into the definition of a manager or leader here, but we’ll just say this: go and see how things are going at the level of those you manage, and see what you can input. You may think you do this already, but are you really going deep enough? Consider a focus group, feedback session, or swap your hat and go and do that job for a day. If you can come up with some improvements, you’re giving your team a big cultural benefit — they’ll see that as a level of support that’s rare.

Vision and values

Have you got either of these? Are they clear? Are they relevant? Have they been updated recently? Are they generic buzzwords? Just because you have them doesn’t mean they’re suddenly a cultural benefit. Go deeper, listen to what your teams say, and most importantly, don’t do these yourself. There’s no point in trying to judge your own work.

Aim for an organisation built around culture, not benefits

You’ll have probably noticed that all of these ‘cultural benefits’ aren’t nearly as expensive as paying a company to offer your staff a load of memberships and discounts they probably won’t use. And you can have direct control over them. If you’re reviewing your benefits soon, or aren’t seeing a great deal of engagement from your new benefits roll-out, maybe it’s time to think about the much more important perks and benefits rather than struggle to attract those who really don’t care about that 2% off a ticket at their local cinema. Do you agree? Let me know by finding me on LinkedIn or Twitter .

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