Need to know:
- Recognition can help reward positive behaviour, but health, wellbeing and environment are factors that facilitate strong performance in the first place.
- Providing nutritious food and ensuring employees take proper breaks can boost concentration and wellbeing.
- Looking at the employee holistically will help organisations understand the various influences that might be affecting their performance.
- Communication and education, with leadership buy-in, must underpin a benefits package to ensure it is effective.
Providing the right perks can decrease presenteeism, drive desired employee behaviours and control absence levels. Ultimately, these elements boil down to the need to get the best out of employees and boost business outcomes.
Employers should, therefore, be factoring the effect on employee performance into their choices when it comes to choosing, tailoring and communicating their benefits.
When trying to boost performance, most employers would cite recognition as a method of outlining and rewarding desired behaviours.
Ian Thomson, director, incentive and recognition at Sodexo, says: “Recognition [is] about how we drive employee engagement, but also at the [business] level it is about embedding those core behaviours.”
Ensuring a strategy is effective means using multiple approaches, lauding top-level successes as well as everyday positives, and considering how different factors such as gamification will play with the specific workforce.
“People will aspire to be that top person on the leader-board, and in the right environment that’s actually quite a healthy culture to try and encourage,” Thomson says. “But there’s other metrics [to] bring in: best customer recommendation, most improved, best newcomer.”
As well as rewarding positive behaviours, employers should create an environment that facilitates them.
Victoria Anderson, clinical and product development director at Better Humans, says: “If [employees] can change environment, get up, move, get some oxygen in their bodies, it makes work more enjoyable.”
This might mean making workplace adjustments, encouraging proper breaks, or providing enjoyable breakout spaces. Health and wellbeing initiatives, such as exercise challenges, gym memberships and mindfulness sessions can further boost performance by helping employees feel better in themselves.
Nutrition is key
An increasing number of organisations provide on-site canteens and subsidised meals; as well as boosting engagement, this can influence staff performance.
Riya Grover, co-founder and chief executive officer at Feedr, says: “A key part of people being able to perform at their best is their concentration. It’s really about how people like to eat, and the things that fuel their own bodies to [reach] their own personal best.”
Platforms such as Feedr help employers provide a wide range of options, allowing for tailored subsidised food packages. Organisations might also consider an education piece: “Food that is packed with ingredients that power you, lots of plants, vitamins, minerals, is going to get your brain working, get you energised, give you the positive energy to think better, to create better, to be more accurate,” explains Grover.
Subsidising meals can also represent a considerable saving for employees, decreasing financial stress, which might distract employees at work.
Other initiatives that can help employees build emotional resilience and reduce stress include mindfulness sessions in the office, access to counselling via an employee assistance programme (EAP) and any number of workplace saving initiatives.
In Anderson’s own experience, though, anything that focuses on mental wellbeing needs to have leadership buy-in to break through stigma and have a true effect on performance.
“We encourage wellness days, but we found that people weren’t taking them unless leaders at the top were taking them themselves,” she explains. “It’s all very good having things in place, but [they will not be used] unless you actually show that you’re valuing them yourself, to actually set that example.”
Communicate and enable
Without a solid basis of communication, even the most tantalising benefits package is unlikely to effectively improve employee performance.
Grover says: “[Employees] should know how they’re performing in their role, what their objectives are, what their organisation believes in and what it seeks to achieve.”
Open communications will also help boost uptake of benefits which are designed to improve wellbeing, reduce absence and boost productivity.
VitalityHealth’s programme, Performance Champions, for example, pairs internal advocates with motivational sporting figures, to help drive engagement with health and wellbeing benefits as well as teach staff about goal-setting, resilience and performing their best.
Maggie Alphonsi, former England rugby star and programme director at VitalityHealth, says: “[Employees] want to hear from somebody who sees how the [business] works in terms of [its] challenges and opportunities and the workload. Then [they] get the outside external perspective, and it’s great to understand and learn from their experience and put it into the [employee’s] environment.”
The whole employee
The overall message, Alphonsi says, is to consider the person as a whole: “If they can look after themselves outside of work, they enjoy coming to work more every day.”
For Anderson, meanwhile, considering the employee holistically is itself key to understanding issues that might affect performance.
“If you’re feeling low in mood, then biologically and physiologically it changes your body, [which] doesn’t repair as easily as it should do, and you are much more likely to pick up an injury or medical condition,” she says. “If you’ve got chronic pain, it’s going to affect your mood, and the lower your mood is, the less your motivation is.”
There are many ways in which employers can influence employee performance, whether by directly rewarding desired behaviours or providing perks that help staff thrive.
Ultimately, the very existence of a strong benefits package, if chosen with the workforce in mind and communicated effectively, should have positive effects.
“It’s a really important signal that an employer is sending when they say ‘we want you to feel great’,” says Grover. “[Especially when] it’s not something they have to do, it’s not industry standard, it’s something that they identify as being an important component of feeling very positive about the workplace.”