The Most Meaningful Employee Benefits Focus On The Why

meaningful employee benefits

The growing interest in employee benefits has hit a fevered pitch this year. Many large organizations like Netflix, Microsoft, and Facebook have all recently enhanced their benefits packages. Others, like Gravity Payments, made a splash in the headlines with news of higher wages across the board.

As a result, I’ve had plenty of fodder for recent articles on the topics of interesting employee benefits programs, as well as the potential dangers of companies attempting to “keep up with the Joneses” with sometimes outrageous offerings.

Don’t get me wrong; extending additional benefits to employees is a wonderful thing. The danger, in my opinion, has more to do with the why behind these efforts and the selection of which benefits to extend versus others.

The Why Behind The What

meaningful employee benefitsThe question that I often ask my clients is why are they looking at extending additional benefits to employees? Is it because the rest of the world seems to be doing it? Is it because you’re trying to keep up with your competitors?

Julia Gometz, author of the book, The Brandful Workforce: How Employees Can Make, Not Break Your Brand, suggests that a company’s benefits offerings define a brand. “If you focus on salaries then you will attract people who are motivated by that. People who apply to work at your organization make their decision based on what you are offering and if it aligns to what they are looking for. Not everyone is looking for the same type of offering and it’s the organization’s responsibility to seek out the types of people they want and figure out what motivates them,” Gometz says.

Rather than simply keeping up with your competitors, benefits should help attract and retain the right talent and help your employees succeed in their roles with your company.

Which Benefits Is An Important Question To Ask

Companies that clearly align their benefits package to the values of both their employees and the organization are better positioned to succeed in today’s competitive landscape.

I recently had an opportunity to spend some time with the leaders at Hilton Worldwide, an organization that is taking a thoughtful approach to employee benefits. I asked them about several benefits changes being implemented across their corporate offices and corporate-owned and operated properties.

Matt Schuyler, Chief Human Resources Officer at Hilton Worldwide says, “In the hospitality industry, we believe that it all starts with culture. Our team members join Hilton because they love to please others. It’s our job to ensure that we take care of our people so they are empowered to take care of our guests.”

The first major benefits changes instituted by Hilton is the January 2016 roll out of extended parental leave benefits to fathers and adoptive parents. In January, new fathers will be eligible for two full weeks per child. Additionally, the company’s existing maternity leave will be extended for an additional eight weeks (to a total of ten weeks of fully paid leave per child).

The second benefits expansion announced by Hilton was the roll out of a new GED assistance program to all full-time, US-based staff of corporately owned and operated properties. In a partnership with the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) Hilton will provide one-on-one GED preparation and advisement services, as well as test preparation.

“It’s tough for many adults to go back to school and to commit to getting their GED”, says Mark Crowley, Director of Internal Communications. “For many of our hourly team members, the achievement of obtaining a GED can help them not only continue to develop themselves, but it can unlock additional professional opportunities for them both within the Hilton organization and beyond.”

In an effort to provide employees of corporately-owned properties increased ability to plan their lives, Hilton also instituted a ten-day schedule guarantee. This commitment meant that employees no longer had to plan their lives around very short notice work scheduling. Instead, they now see their schedule with enough advance time to effectively schedule the rest of their personal commitments and plans.

How to Choose the Right Benefits

These benefits will positively impact thousands of Hilton Worldwide employees across the country by providing them with additional support in both their family lives and their personal development. But it’s important to understand how these benefits came about.

Rather than being the brainchild of an HR staffer in subbasement D, Hilton’s leaders took the time to understand the unique values and needs of their employee base in order to craft enhanced benefits that actually mean something to them.

Using both data analytics and personal interaction and insight, Hilton’s leaders were able to gain a clear understanding of employees’ needs and struggles. This allowed them to be intentional with their employee benefits, as opposed to chasing the latest fad or the latest perk that their competitors just announced.

In the hospitality industry, the experience is everything. If hospitality brands are able to create an internal culture that models their values and their desired customer experience, they are much better positioned to drive long-term customer satisfaction and loyalty. Hilton’s Schuyler describes his organization as desiring to attract and retain talented team members who love what they do. “If you love what you do, it shows.”

Culture is evidenced in your product. And in this transparent world, it shows. Julia Gometz explained that, “Brandful companies have figured out how to merge the culture with the organizational brand. They cannot be spoken about separately and those organizations who isolate the customer from the employee experience will fall behind.”

Schuyler adds, “There is a lot of copycatting going on in the benefits space. We’ve consciously rejected this approach. What works at Netflix won’t work for us.” Hilton’s efforts to gain a true understanding of the needs and values of their employees in order to provide meaningful benefits speaks to the power of being intentional and aligning benefits packages to support and reinforce the deeper values of the organization.

This article originally appeared on Forbes