Some companies offer ping-pong and foosball; others boast free beer, spa treatments, and hair styling. And how about aerial skiing and bobsledding trips?
These are real perks that American companies are offering to attract workers. And while they’re certainly nice to have, they’re not what the American public says they most want to see from America’s largest companies.
JUST Capital’s annual survey – which asks the public what they care about most regarding business issues – makes it clear that Americans put bread-and-butter issues first. People’s biggest priorities include good benefits, a living wage, a safe workplace, fairness in pay, and equal opportunity. These features are a lot more complicated to implement than perks like a ping-pong table, but they matter.
Professionals and managers in higher-paying industries may take these fundamentals for granted, as they are table stakes for winning the race for talent in a tight labor market. Employers in low-wage sectors with smaller profit margins may assume they can’t afford to do better. But research shows that investing in worker well-being is a win-win for workers and companies across all industries.
We looked at a few of Americans’ top priorities and how some of the top-ranked companies in our Rankings performed on these issues.
Priority #1: Pays a Living Wage
The growing push for higher wages has been reaping dividends: In just the past year, big employers such as Amazon and Costco have raised the hourly wage of their lowest-paid workers to $15 an hour. Target aims to do so by 2020.
Walmart has increased starting wages for its employees by 50% in the past four years, but the company still has a ways to go toward paying a living wage for all workers.
Beyond responding to political pressure, the big retailers are starting to recognize the competitive benefits of paying more.
From JUST managing director Alison Omens: “Companies with significant brick-and-mortar operations are realizing that they need to invest in their workforce if they are going to create an in-store experience to compete with online marketplaces.”
Priority #2: Offers a Good Benefits Package
Not all benefits are created equal. When asked to rank employment options, Americans ranked health insurance and retirement planning highest, followed by sick leave, parental leave, and vacation. No mention of air hockey or drink carts.
Starbucks rates first in its industry for its benefits package, which includes comprehensive health coverage, a 401(k) match, and stock equity rewards. Starbucks made a splash in 2015 when it started offering free tuition at Arizona State University’s online degree program.
General Mills is another great example of a company with a well-rounded approach to workers. Ranked first by JUST in worker treatment in the Food, Beverage, and Tobacco category, it provides flexible work arrangements, day care services at its headquarters, and a detailed paid time off policy.
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Priority #3: Provides a Safe Workplace
Americans put safety right behind wages and benefits, and increasingly employees are demanding protection not only from physical dangers but also from the intimidation and harassment that can cause mental distress.
Priority #4: Offers Fair and Equitable Pay and Policies
Fairness is important to American workers. Americans value companies that don’t discriminate in pay, pay a fair wage for their industry and job level, and adhere to equal opportunity workplace policies.
Many of the highest-ranking companies in this area are large tech firms such as Microsoft, Intel, Texas Instruments, and semiconductor firm NVIDIA, which is the top ranked company for worker treatment.
NVIDIA, which uses a third-party firm to compare pay practices across 90 metrics, reports no significant pay disparities.
Companies in more traditional industries also shine, such as Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark, and Prudential Insurance. Then there’s General Motors, which is first in its industry for benefits, paying a living wage, paying a fair wage, gender pay equity, equal opportunity policies, and work-life balance.
Year after year, the American public identifies worker treatment as the most important measure of a just company. And once they find a just employer, their satisfaction shows through in everything they do.