From unlimited soda to allowing pets at work, we've all heard of companies offering officeplace perks in an attempt to attract and retain talent. Now let's have a gut check—is it actually working?

According to this year’s Glassdoor Employment Confidence survey from, the answer is “not really.” Perks like a casual dress code, free food and drink, or a pet-friendly office are not creating job satisfaction.

But aren’t perks at least good for recruitment? Turns out perks don’t really help you recruit the type of employees that you need: those that stick around long enough to contribute to your organization. Instead according to Bob Nelson, author of “1,501 Ways to Reward Employees,” employees that make only short stop-overs are those primarily attracted by perks.

So what does land companies on the ‘best places to work’ list?

Research points to three things:

1. Meaningful work

Perhaps no company is as strongly identified with office perks as Google, with its legendary onsite hair salon, free lunches, free massages, and nap rooms. The company is also hard to beat when it comes to productivity, earnings, and employee satisfaction, which implies to some that the perks are working.

But interestingly, Google’s employee surveys show that workers located in remote offices that aren’t outfitted with perks are still satisfied and extremely happy to be part of the Google family. The reason? They’re challenged by the work they’re doing and feel as though they’re contributing to something meaningful.

Providing your employees with challenging projects and reminders of the larger purpose they serve appears to be a much more important element of keeping them happy and engaged than office perks are.

2. Acknowledgement and performance-related rewards

Understanding the difference between feeding entitlement versus feeding accomplishment is vital if you want successful engagement. Rewards and acknowledgement are two cornerstones of employee happiness, loyalty, and satisfaction, but only when granted based on performance. Rewards and perks given to everyone regardless of performance have not been shown to generate the same type of emotions.

RedCritter Connecter gives you a great way to automatically tie employee recognition and rewards to performance by incorporating Profiles, Badges, Certs, a Reward Store, and Skill tracking into your existing business systems. With RedCritter, organizations have a social framework that recognizes, showcases and rewards employee achievements. So that, acknowledging great work, cooperation and contributions individually and for teams easily becomes a normal course of business.

3. Healthy culture

For many, the term “office culture” has become synonymous with perks. But true office culture runs much deeper. What satisfied employees reveal is that a good workplace culture is actually defined by openness and collaboration. According to Glassdoor, the best places to work are simply those where workers are strongly encouraged to make contributions and work together.

Provide an environment where workers feel like part of a team and are encouraged to share their ideas and talents. Office social events and other perks that celebrate your culture and thank your employees for great work are always a plus. But first you need a culture worth celebrating, otherwise perks are empty gestures.

Perks have their place – but don’t be distracted by shiny objects

Of course, once those three employee satisfaction points have been addressed, perks can be a nice bonus.

A few final thoughts:

  • Perks should only accompany a healthy work environment. Otherwise, they’ll be unappreciated or even take advantage of by unsatisfied employees.
  • Employees’ basic needs must always be met before perks will make sense. If they can’t make ends meet, they won’t care how many ping-pong tables you have.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your employees are motivated only by compensation. Helping them attain a challenging, fulfilling career in an environment that acknowledges their contributions is still the best way to ensure their loyalty and long-term happiness.