Competition for the best employees continues to heat up and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to retain your best employees and motivate staff.

What is the first thing you are going to do to make your company a more attractive place to work? For many organisations, the answer is to add a string of perks and benefits. You might increase the annual bonus…. Build breakout spaces with meditation pods…. Get staff membership at a luxury gym… Run some company away-days in sunny climates…. Or even supply a daily, free breakfast. It’s sure to attract dedicated, enthusiastic employees, right? But it’s exactly the wrong thing to do.

An intense pressure to use perks as a tool for recruitment and retention.

Employees looking for new jobs – especially Millennials – routinely look on websites like Glassdoor, to research what the companies they are considering are like to work for. Nowadays, if you don’t have a string of impressive benefits by your name, your company just won’t be in the running.

The problem is this, while company perks are still a powerful way of attracting new recruits, they are poor at keeping employees long-term and after a short while, the magic wears off.

The fun perks become just that – fun perks – and employees start focusing on more essential questions, like Do I enjoy the work I’m doing? Is this what I really want to do with my life? If the answer is “no”, then you have an engagement and retention problem. You’ll still suffer from employees who are demotivated at work. You’ll still have to deal with high turnover, have to pay a fortune in recruitment fees, and spend too much time training staff for positions they are unlikely to stay in for long.

It’s like a romantic relationship… once the heady romance of dinners by candlelight and the excitement of getting to know someone new wears off, the couple has to find something more to keep them together.

If breakout spaces don’t do the job, what might prove genuinely attractive to your staff?

Studies have shown that couples that stay together long-term tend to share values, beliefs, and common life goals. Sharing this deep foundation is far more important than sharing more superficial hobbies or interests. Your organisation is no different.

Staff will stay engaged if they believe in the larger purpose of your company. When they feel their work is meaningful, contributing to a cause bigger than themselves, and are making a difference, you’ll keep them for the long-term, because the foundation of your relationship is solid.

This isn’t just about adding the company mission to brochures, websites, and email signatures. Staff needs to make a direct connection between the work they do, and the impact it has. By the way, there is a MAJOR difference between mission statements, vision statements, value statements, and an Engaged Purpose.

Zappos, for example – their mission is about giving excellent service.

As CEO Tony Hsieh puts it: Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes. Whenever an employee delivers excellent customer service, they ring a bell – and everyone celebrates. This physical act reminds each team member that through their work, they personally make a difference.

Ultimately, no one hangs around in a job they hate because of a free breakfast – or even a gym membership. But give them a purpose to support and they’ll remain loyal to you far beyond the honeymoon period.