Employee Perks vs. Benefits: What’s the Difference?

Standard benefits are being replaced by perks, but what is the actual difference between the two?

2
 min. read
May 25, 2021

As the workplace diversifies, so do the needs of your company’s employees. Standard benefits are being replaced by perks, but what is the actual difference between the two?

We have all heard the phrase “perks of the job”, but what does this actually mean? Before the tech industry took off, this often referred to things like an above average vacation policy, the occasional free meal or a guaranteed annual bonus. Then tech moguls like Google and Amazon showed up, and suddenly perks meant nap pods, slides, on-demand free food and in house massages. With more companies adopting perk policies, it can be confusing when trying to differentiate these policies from traditional benefits, but we’re here to help!

What are benefits?

Benefits are a part of total compensation that we often assume are included in our employment package. Basic plans typically include medical and dental benefits, usually in the form of a Health Spending Account or High Deductible Health Plan. If you’re lucky, your employer may also provide you with a 401(k) (for those employees located in the United States) and student loan repayment support. Overall, these traditional benefits are rigid, hard to manage, expensive for both parties and non-inclusive. They target a very specific group of people who require health care and leave the rest of your company’s employees wondering what's in it for them?

What are perks?

Perks are unique offerings provided to your company’s employees that are flexible, inclusive, easy to administer and cost effective. They act as an extension of your company's culture and increase engagement by providing value to all team members on an individual level. Things like fitness subscriptions (e.g. Peloton or gym memberships), mental health and wellness (e.g. Calm), food (e.g. DoorDash), technology and entertainment (e.g. Spotify) are some of the most popular perks companies are offering their employees. Perks go above and beyond the basic requirements of total compensation and act as a competitive advantage and differentiator when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent.

How do they work?

Here’s the best part, you get to decide what your company's perk program looks like! With curated perk programs, you determine the budgets, categories and frequency in which employees can spend. The rest is up to them. Perk programs empower employees to spend their budgets on experiences and items  they actually want, based on their individual needs. For example, Stephanie can use her monthly budget for her Peloton subscription, pet insurance and HelloFresh food subscription service to support her active lifestyle. On the other hand, Kamal might use his perk dollars for Fitbit, Disney+ for his kids and StubHub for him and his wife to enjoy a show. 

How do I get started?

The great thing about perk programs is that they can easily be modified as your team grows and their needs change. We suggest starting small, to help your team get comfortable with creating their own personal perk program and for you to understand what your employees value. Choosing a platform that is simple, fun to use and easy to administer is the key to setting yourself (and your employees) up for success. A great system provides detailed analytics on your employees' spending and offers insights that help you make more informed decisions around hiring, engagement and retention. 

Reach out to our team to learn more about how PerkUp can help your company create a customized perk plan that is uniquely tailored to your employees - we’re here to help!