The Benefits That Employees Like Best

So it’s not all about the money.

Countless studies have shown employers that much over the past few years, as benefits packages—retirement plans, leave policies, wellness programs and so on—figure more and more prominently in employee satisfaction scores.

But which benefits matter most to workers?

Glassdoor Economic Research, the research arm of Sausalito, Calif.-based job and career website Glassdoor, sought answers to that question in a pair of recent studies.

The first, Which Benefits Drive Employee Satisfaction?, sampled more than 470,000 benefits reviews left anonymously on Glassdoor by employees over the course of roughly 15 months. The sample included 1,226 U.S. employers with at least 20 benefits reviews, across all sectors and ranging in size from 50 employees to more than 10,000 employees.

Not surprisingly, health insurance had the biggest effect on how employees rated their satisfaction with employers’ benefits offerings, followed by retirement plans and vacation and paid time off.

Conversely, employee discounts and maternity/paternity leave were found to have little impact on overall satisfaction.

The latter finding may seem surprising when you consider the trend toward more generous leave policies. But, while many employers have indeed added maternity and paternity leave benefits in recent years, “it is possible benefits that are not used by a large subset of employees do not impact overall benefits package satisfaction,” according to Glassdoor.

For its Benefits Review survey, Glassdoor dug a bit deeper, collecting data from employee reviews of 54 distinct employer-provided benefits, such as pet-friendly workplaces, employee adoption assistance, travel concierge services, company cars and mobile phone discounts.

Some of the results were similar, with health insurance deemed to be the top predictor of employee satisfaction with benefits. Vacation and paid time off, pension plans, 401(k) plans and retirement plans rounded out the top five.

Parental leave policies, however, ranked much higher in this study, with maternity and paternity leave ranking as the seventh-best predictor of employee satisfaction with respect to benefits.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, benefits and perks such as gym memberships, reduced or flexible hours, and childcare barely register on the employee satisfaction scale, coming in at 43, 50 and 53 on the list, respectively.

“Overall, the above results echo the findings of our earlier study,” according to Glassdoor. “The core benefits that matter most to workers are health insurance, vacation and paid time off, and retirement plans. These core benefits are most highly correlated with employee satisfaction with benefits packages.”

Still, Glassdoor advises caution in attempting to parse these numbers.

“These are just simple correlations between benefit ratings, and don’t statistically control for factors like company size or industry, as in our previous, more rigorous analysis of Glassdoor benefit ratings.”

Such limitations aside, the lesson that lies within these figures should be clear, according to the company.

“While less common benefits tend to dominate media coverage, employers should not neglect core benefits such as health insurance and paid time off. The data clearly show these benefits—while less exciting than many of today’s flashy workplace perks—are still the main drivers of employee satisfaction.”