We’ve all seen it! Organisations that introduce yet another perk in an attempt to attract top talent or counteract a drop in staff engagement levels. These ‘quick fixes’ are intended to draw the very best employees and make existing staff happier, more loyal and motivated. But do they actually work? The simple answer is “no”. A culture that is centred around employee perks – giving out employee ‘pick me ups’ as and when required – may see short-term results but will rarely see any long-term benefits.

In fact, ad hoc ‘perks’ can do more harm than good. Take ‘the games room’ as an example. More and more companies have now installed table tennis tables or similar in an attempt to appeal to ‘innovative millennials’. However, in isolation, the novelty will quickly wear off and employees will question why the business is spending money on fads instead of reinvesting in its people. ‘Nap rooms’ are also becoming increasingly popular. After all, a well-rested workforce will be more productive. But ‘nap rooms’ will do little to increase staff energy levels as proven by NASA scientists who, following extensive research, found that naps are a short-term fix, offering only temporary boosts in mental acuity. And what about companies that offer unlimited time-off? It sounds like a dream come true, but a number of companies that have introduced the scheme have since dropped it or are reviewing whether it should continue. This isn’t because staff are taking advantage, but on the contrary, they are taking too FEW holidays as they are worried how their time-off is perceived by managers and colleagues. Such a well-intentioned perk sounds great ‘on paper’ but as is so often the case, the outcome can be quite different from what the company intended.

So what’s the answer to attracting the best employees and increasing staff engagement levels? The key is to create an engaging culture at the very heart of the organisation rather than thinking about engagement in terms of ‘fluffy add-ons’.

Using insights from a ground-breaking O.C. Tanner Institute study involving 10,000 employees from around the world, here are some top tips on creating an engaging culture that gets the very best out of its employees:


  1. Focus on purpose. Most organisations aren’t lucky enough to have a vividly clear connection between what they do and a core human value. But this is exactly what it takes to build an engaging culture. Take Yorkshire Building Society as an example. It could just position itself as a provider of mortgages and savings accounts. In fact, the company is “committed to creating a positive impact on society, local communities and the environment, reflecting the issues that are important to its members and staff”. Connecting with employees on an emotional level is the very foundation of a successful company culture.


  1. Provide opportunities. Staff who turn up to work each day and do the same job day-in and day-out are unlikely to feel engaged. It’s vital to provide staff with a range of opportunities that aren’t just centred around promotions. For instance, entrust your staff with ‘special projects’, allow them to work with people outside of their usual teams and encourage them to learn new skills.


  1. Say “thank you” – a lot! Appreciation and recognition are vital for achieving happy, engaged and highly motivated workforces. But make sure it’s done sincerely, frequently and in a timely fashion. Staff should also be recognised publicly to heighten that ‘feel good factor’ and to ensure colleagues understand what a great job ‘looks like’.


  1. Champion company pride. A successful organisational culture ensures employees feel as though they are part of a “winning team” on a daily basis. Even if the company isn’t a leader in its field, everyone needs to feel part of a thriving business and so don’t hold back – shout about achievements and be quick to show pride.


  1. Invest in strong leaders. Poor leaders can drive away talent, create resentment and demotivate teams. On the other hand, strong leaders can turn an average or underperforming company into a truly great one. It’s therefore vital to choose your leaders wisely, ensuring they encourage collaboration, earn trust, give credit, provide mentorship, show humility and foster camaraderie.


  1. Make wellbeing a priority. Showing staff that you seriously care about their health and wellbeing will increase engagement levels. This isn’t just about having bowls of fruit around the office but is about promoting a good work-life balance. Discourage long working hours, permit staff to ignore work calls and emails when away from the office and provide mental health training and support. Staff could also be provided with free ‘wearables’ to allow them to track their fitness levels and sleep patterns, encouraging healthier lifestyles.


Great engaging cultures aren’t built on ad-hoc perks. They’re built on purpose, creating opportunities, appreciation, pride, solid leadership and a strong sense of wellbeing. By investing in these areas and ditching the perks, companies can expect a highly motivated and engaged workforce year-after-year.






Robert Ordever is the Managing Director at reward and recognition experts, O.C.Tanner. Robert joined O.C. Tanner in August 2014, as People and Operations Director. From luxury retail at Harrods to Premier League football at Fulham Football Club, Robert's operational and HR background has given him a real passion for creating a workplace culture that truly gets the best out of its teams.

Robert was at Fulham Football Club during the most successful period in their history, including a 7th place finish in the Premier League and reaching the final of the Europa League. At Fulham, Robert was a client of his current employer. Robert’s team worked closely with O.C. Tanner to embed a culture of appreciation throughout the Club, including around 1000 in-house match day workers that brought game day to life for the Club’s supporters. This team were formally recognised as Visit Football’s ‘Warmest Welcome’ in the Premier League in 2013.

Robert holds Chartered Fellowship of the CIPD and has specialised in the field of Human Resources for over 16 years.