In case you haven’t noticed, you are in the midst of an epic recruitment and retention battle.

The gold standard in this turf war happens to be, well, gold. But given the economic realities now facing most senior living organizations, you probably are not in a position to create front-line millionaires at your campus.

To say this is a price-sensitive business when it comes to wages would be an extreme understatement. Rare is the senior living operator who can’t cite a former worker who left for a few cents more an hour in pay.

So if your monetary options are limited, then how do you sweeten the proverbial pot? The obvious answer is perks. They can run the gamut from flexible scheduling to expanded maternity leave – or touch a lot of points in between. There’s no doubt that employees universally welcome them. Why wouldn’t they?

But here’s the nagging question that new perks inevitably bring to the table: Do such efforts actually help you land and keep desirable employees, or are they simply wasteful indulgences?

If only there was a study that looked at how perks paid off at more than 3,000 organizations in 43 countries. Well what do you know? It turns out such a study actually exists. It was led by Larry Fauver, Ph.D., a faculty member of the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee.

Fauver and his team examined five general categories that sort out how well employees generally are treated: employment quality, workplace health and safety, training, workplace diversity and respect for human rights / labor laws.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that entities scoring higher in these areas tended to have happier workers.

But there’s more. Workers who were treated better also tended to work harder, be more efficient and do more for the company. In other words, they tended also to be better employees.

So perhaps the real issue isn’t whether your organization can afford to do more for your employees. Maybe the real question is whether you can afford not to?

John O’Connor is editorial director of McKnight’s Senior Living. Email him at john.oconnor@mcknights.com.