In the world of compensation, a soft benefit is one which is not financial in nature. It may well cost the parent company money but is not perceived as monetary to the employee. They are hard to compare against each other as they often don’t have a hard monetary value. How much is it worth to you, for example, to have access to a gym with a swimming pool? What if the gym is on-site? What if your family could come to the gym?
I wrote a post last year for my internal company blog, and wrote about people who were not utilizing benefits like these, and how being smart about using them (as well as making more use of traditional “hard” benefits) could net you a decent raise.
In a year where a lot of benefits are being trimmed down, it’s time to look critically at an underutilized soft benefit: the ability to accumulate wealth in terms of reputation. People have been talking about a reputation economy since at least 2002, so clearly you should factor your reputation into your compensation. Some people are concerned that employees are gathering reputation wealth on their own and not gathering enough for their employers. In a world where everyday individual contributors are worried about personal branding, it’s obvious that this is only going to get more complex.
Providing employees with the ability to build their reputations isn’t exactly new ground; in many ways it’s similar to providing employees access to education. The employee gets a benefit which will outlast their employment while the employer gets a more engaged and educated employee. Many employees won’t even use the benefit, so employers can overprovision. Meanwhile, savvy employees can take home a lot more than just a paycheck by being among those who take advantage.
Some signs as to how a company feels about reputation accumulation (remember that reputation has relevance inside the corporation as well as outside it!) :
- Are sites like Twitter and Facebook blocked?
- Is there an internal social networking site?
- Are employee blogs publicized internally? Externally?
- (got any suggestions? Add them in the comments)
Smart companies understand that their best asset is their employees and if they let them build their brand, they will be able to better leverage it for promotional causes in the future. Would you rather have an employee with 10 Facebook friends or 5,000? It’s a no-brainer.
An assumption in that statement is that the company in question is interested in you marketing its brand somehow to those 5,000 friends. Of course, we’d all rather work for the company that wants the 5,000-friend employee.
I can tell you I have yet to see a resume with information on the applicant’s social network or personal brand. But then again, I haven’t exactly been doing a lot of hiring of late.
There’s a new balancing game in town. The companies and individuals who “get” it are getting a huge leg up on the competition for when the economic smoke clears.