With the official U.S. unemployment rate hovering near record lows, highly talented workers and those with in-demand skills have plenty of choices. In some fields -- coding or sales, for example -- the interview process today is as much about the potential employee sizing up the company as the company sizing up its possible hire.
In such an environment, employers that want to attract and retain top talent need to offer the things that matter most to workers. But those might not be the perks you'd expect, according to a new survey conducted by Linkedin.
The study of 3,100 adult workers in the United States showed that 70% of those surveyed "would not work at a leading company if it meant they had to tolerate a bad workplace culture." That beat out "lower pay" (65%) and and having to "forego a fancy title "(26%) as the most common issue that would lead a professional to turn down a job offer.
What perks matter?
In addition to having a positive culture, it's important for companies to offer tangible benefits that help employees live better lives.
"When it comes to retention, one of the top factors keeping professionals at their company for more than five years is having strong workplace benefits (44%)," wrote LinkedIn's Nina McQueen in a blog post about the study. "Think PTO, parental leave, and health insurance."
People also tend to value what McQueen called "intangible areas." Respondents, she wrote said, "they are proudest to work at companies that promote work-life balance and flexibility (51%), foster a culture where they can be themselves (47%) and have a positive impact on society (46%)."
Perhaps most interestingly, the study showed that perks including free food and game rooms -- staples at many top-tier tech companies -- are actually not all that popular. Only 19% ranked them as a reason they stay with their employers.
"Instead, people would much rather see their company focusing in on benefits like learning and development programs, philanthropic opportunities, and more," McQueen wrote.
A remarkable 71% of those surveyed said they would take a pay cut to work for a company that "has a mission they believe in and shared values." In addition, 39% of respondents said they would quit their current job if their employer asked them to do something unethical or in conflict with their moral code.
The vast majority -- 87% -- said that having pride in the company that they work for matters. "Nearly half (47%) of professionals who are proud of the company they work for say it's because their company has a positive culture where they can be themselves," McQueen wrote.
Listen and adapt
Building a positive culture that attracts and retains employees is a job that never ends. Today's younger employees may place a higher value on flexibility and time off, while older workers in general may be more enthused by parental leave, subsidized or on-site day care, and ongoing training opportunities.
The best way to build an inclusive, positive culture is to regularly solicit employee input. Talk to your workers, allow them to submit anonymous suggestions, and value what everyone has to say. That's clearly more valuable than offering free cookies or a pool table -- though those things are nice too.
Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Daniel B. Kline owns shares of Microsoft. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.