Benefits are those extra things that employees get in addition to their pay as a perk of working for you. An attractive employee benefit program is essential for attracting and retaining good employees. Traditionally employee benefits include things like health, vision, dental insurance and retirement savings plans. These are all good things to offer your employees, however a little out of the box thinking will add more value to your benefit program. Enter, non-traditional benefits.
Non-traditional benefits are those creative and unexpected things that make your company stand out to candidates. They also make your current employees think twice about leaving your business. And if you’re a small business that can’t afford to offer rich traditional benefits like medical and 401k matching, then these perks are what will really make your company become more attractive to the talent you want and need.
This is especially true if your business is in an industry where benefits of any kind typically aren’t common. These seven, highly desirable employee benefits work well for most small businesses, including those in traditionally low paying industries. As an added bonus to turning your company into a magnet for top talent, these options are affordable for almost any budget and certainly cheaper than budget busting cost of high turnover.
Choosing Employee Benefits that are Relevant
Before selecting benefits to include in your program, it's a good idea to make sure that your employees care about the benefit you’re offering. For example if you operate a restaurant staffed mostly by college students, will they care about your awesome new 401k program? Probably not. But they would more than likely go absolutely bananas if you offered a tuition assistance/reimbursement program.
When choosing benefits, relevancy is everything. To make sure you’re being relevant with your selections, here are a few questions to think over. These questions are super helpful whether you’re choosing a benefit from this list (they are awesome) or brainstorming with your team to come up with ideas for your business.
- What things do your employees struggle to balance?
Employees have a life and responsibilities that they have to balance with their need to make an income. Think about some of the things that you’ve seen your employees struggle with. Have you observed employees frantically rushing into work because they’re trying drop kids off to school or pick them up from school while still making it work on time? What about employees who come to work sick because they can’t afford to miss a day without pay? These are all good places to dig in deeper to see what benefits you can offer to meet these needs and create value for employees.
- What things cause your employees to call out from work?
Employees miss work for a reason. What are common reasons that you are given? Perhaps employees don’t have reliable childcare or transportation. Or maybe they have a class that interferes with their work schedule. You can also reflect on the reasons why you have terminated employees for attendance and look for trends that a benefit could provide assistance to an employee to resolve those problems.
- What things do your employees complain about?
Employees often complain about things that they don’t like about their jobs. Think back on your most common grumblings. Are they complaining about lack of training or opportunities to develop? Whatever you’ve heard, write it down and look for ways that you could offer an employee benefit that would be meaningful.
So now that we have some context about our employees, we can search for relevant benefits that will make their lives easier and make them want to work for you. Which for you means your business moves closer to being an employer of choice. (The companies whose job boards get stalked because everybody wants to work there.)
8 Super Appealing Employee Benefits to Consider
1. Generous time off::
Employees don’t want to work all the time. The main reason for that (and I sincerely hope this doesn’t hurt your feelings) is because it’s not their business + they have a life outside of work that they want to enjoy. While you may enjoy working all day everyday growing your empire….your employees, not so much. Offering them generous time off is an employee benefit that will catch their attention and make them think twice about going elsewhere to work.
Let’s explore this word generous for a second or two. By generous we’re talking about offering more time off than is commonly found in similar businesses and jobs. So for example if you own a maid service and typically full-time maids are given two weeks paid vacation. Then you’re not being “generous” by matching the typical two weeks of paid time off. Generous would be offering four weeks paid time off and maybe even throwing an additional two weeks of unpaid time off. To be clear, for the benefit to set you apart it has to go beyond what is typically offered or expected. It can’t be common.
Now that we got what a generous benefit is, let’s talk about deciding if this time should be paid or unpaid. That’s totally up to you. But paid is always going to be more attractive than unpaid. Closely evaluate what’s common in your market. If your competitors offer no paid time off, applicants would be thrilled by a company that offers any paid time off. So know your market and competition. You can also give more time off and balance your budget by offering a mix of paid and unpaid time off.
2. Gym Memberships::
If employee health is important to your company culture or your employees are just into fitness, then they be really interested in a free or discounted gym membership. Contact some popular gyms in your area and ask about employer programs. Many can help you set up discounts or reimbursements for your employees.
3. On site car services::
How many times have you gone waaaaaaaaaaaaaay over time for getting an oil change or your car looks like you’ve been driving through a swamp? Life happens. You get busy or you just plain and simple don’t feel like doing it when you could be laying on the couch binge watching Game of Thrones on Netflix. Netflix binge is going to win every single time. Your employees have been there done that too. Offering on site car washes and oil changes are a useful benefit. To top it off, you don’t have to pay for it. Arranging this benefit only requires that you give a mobile mechanic and automobile detailer permission to set up shop a few days a month on your company’s property. Then just communicate the event dates with your employees.
4. Tuition reimbursement ::
Before you click off the page, let me quickly state that you don’t have to pay the full amount of the tuition. You can set the amount and conditions for the reimbursement. For example, you may stipulate that the employee must earn a “C” or better in the class to be reimbursed. You can also set the percentage that the employee will be reimbursed. So instead of 100% maybe you’ll choose 80% or 70% instead. However you set up your program, employees interested in furthering their education will appreciate this benefit and possibly even hang around for a longer period of time. Just remember to consult with your accountant to make sure that you report everything correctly for tax purposes.
5. Pay for public transit::
This benefit is two fold, you know that your employees will have a means to work and employees get to save some money on their work commute. How popular and valuable this benefit is depends on your employee makeup. If most of our employees drive their own cars to work, they more than likely won’t give a flip about a free monthly bus pass. However, if your employees depend on public transportation this will be a huge perk to them.
6. Flexible work schedules::
Balancing work, home and maybe even school can be a challenge. Flexible schedules help your employees meet these demands so they can be more focused and productive while at work. Can you give your employees any flexibility in how they schedule their work hours? The more flexibility you can offer, the more the time starved, over committed and probably overwhelmed employee will appreciate working for you.
7. Predictable work schedule and hours::
For many employees their work schedule can change from week to week and they don’t know how many hours they will actually make. They may work days half the week, nights the other half. Or one pay period they may have worked 40 hours and the next only 10 hours. While this works in your favor as the employer because you can just plug people in where and when you need them, it really sucks for the employee. You can’t effectively handle life outside of work like child care and a course schedule with such unpredictable hours. And it’s impossible to create a budget when you don’t know exactly how much money you’re going to make. Super stressful. But this is standard procedure in many industries like retail and fast food. So a perk would be to offer employees a schedule where they know what times they will work and in general how many hours. This allows them to take care of their responsibilities and stabilize their income, which is a huge benefit.
8. Free lunches::
Most people like food. The only thing better than food is free food. If feeding your employees lunch every day like Google just isn’t in the budget you can still offer this benefit. Choose one day each week, month, or quarter and treat your employees to lunch. It’s as simple has having pizza delivered to the office on Friday afternoon.
Employee benefits show employees that your company cares deeply about them. You don’t have to be a large business to create a benefit program that communicates care and support to your employees. And while this post was targeted to small businesses in the service industry, they really can work for any type of small business. Which perks will you include in your employee benefits program?
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