It’s no secret that most senior living operators are struggling to fill open positions.

In response, new, trendy perks are popping up like dandelions in spring. They include inducements such as free snacks, shopping discounts and even beer, to name but a few. Those certainly are nice gestures. But are they really the little extras your workers crave?

If a recent survey by industrial company Zoro is anywhere near accurate, perhaps not.

It turns out that the things workers would like but don’t have are fairly pedestrian. Topping the wish list is fully paid medical insurance (58% of respondents). Next in line? A four-day workweek (53%). Fully paid dental insurance (also 53%) came in third.

To be sure, most employees gladly will accept things such as comped coffee, shopping discounts, birthday celebrations and company retreats. What’s the harm, really? But in the grand scheme, these perks generally are viewed more as nice than needed.

The survey also revealed this interesting nugget: Many employees are not fully aware of the perks they actually are entitled to. For many senior living operators, this finding clearly represents a lost opportunity. A benefit that workers are unaware of — or don’t understand how to use — is pretty much the same thing as no benefit at all. My strong suspicion is that many operators could do a better job of connecting benefits to those who qualify.

But the larger point remains: If you want to really move the needle here, deliver perks that really matter. Free beer might be nice. But it hardly compares with free doctor visits.

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