What really attracts talent to a ? Is it the promise of a handsome, steady paycheck? Or is it the opportunity to excel in one’s career? Or maybe, it’s the privilege of being part of a forward-thinking workplace. It could really be a combination of all of these things, and more. But, if there’s one thing that results in talented candidates lining up outside your office, it’s innovative employee perks.
To lead the market, you can bump up the pay – but only as much as the budget allows. Beefing up those packages with attractive employee benefits, however, especially ones that your competitors aren’t offering, will help you stand out in your industry and become a magnet for Millennials.
Continue reading to learn about the benefits of offering perks at work, or use the table of contents below to jump to a specific section.
The Benefits of Having Unique Employee Perks
According to research by AICPA, 80% of workers would rather keep their existing jobs (with a lower salary, but great employee perks) than accept new job offers (with a higher salary, but fewer benefits).
This clearly indicates that coming up with a competitive, flexible benefits plan can do wonders for your in terms of attracting promising candidates.
Furthermore, the following are a few more reasons to offer innovative employee perks (backed by statistics):
Massive Boost for Satisfaction
According to a survey, 72% of employees said that having competitive benefits increased their job satisfaction.
Considering that, a basic aspect of approaching employee engagement, (which ultimately results in higher employee satisfaction) is offering perks that make a positive impact on the lives of your employees.
Sends Morale Through the Roof
A “Health and Workplace Benefits” survey conducted in 2017 by EBRI, found that employees who were satisfied with their benefits ranked their morale as “excellent.”
Therefore, if you’re considering ways to boost employee morale, you can by offering better benefits.
Keeps Employee Turnover Rate at Bay
A high employee turnover rate can hinder a ’s ability to scale.
This indicates a direct link between employee perks and turnover rate.
To create a unique benefits plan, you need to place yourself in the shoes of the average employee.
By understanding their day-to-day challenges, along with their preferences, you can create a package that even the most in-demand professionals won’t resist.
are the main categories of innovative employee perks (encompassing all types of benefits), that can help any retain its top talent, and attract more:
- Personal Finance & Expenses
- Leisure, Relaxation, & Personal Time
- & Healthcare
- Professional Development
Let’s break it all down.
The recent government shutdown in December 2018, revealed that a whopping 78% of workers in the US live paycheck to paycheck.
This alarming figure is attributed to the rising cost of living, which includes rent, bills, other miscellaneous expenses, and of course, increasing debt.
Offering employee perks that help them make ends meet, and still have disposable income at the end of the month, can give you a competitive edge.
are some ideas:
1. Employee Discounts
This perk is most common in the retail industry, where workers receive generous discounts on both branded and in-store items.
Similarly, airlines offer exclusive travel discounts to their employees.
However, employee discounts don’t have to be limited to your products/services.
Regardless of your industry, and the nature of your business, you can offer generous discounts on a range of things, from consumer items to services.
Here are some ideas on how you can offer this perk:
- Provide a competitive discount on your own products and services.
- Use the services of a that specializes in arranging employee perks (some examples include PerkSpot and Corporate Perks).
- Partner with businesses, such as a carwash, café, , or a salon.
Over time, even the smallest discounts add up and can make all the difference in the world for an employee who struggles with purchases.
2. Tuition Reimbursement
A great way to show that you about your employees is by offering to pay for their education.
Most major corporations in the US offer tuition reimbursement (or tuition assistance) to eligible employees.
As the name suggests, the employer reimburses all, or a percentage, of their employees’ college tuition fees – provided they meet the eligibility criteria.
While not every employer can offer this perk without making a dent in their budget, it should definitely be offered whenever possible. Offering tuition reimbursement can build up loyalty and help attract ambitious, hardworking individuals.
More importantly, it can help your employees avoid student loans altogether.
How does a go about doing this without taking financial risks? are some tips:
- Create eligibility criteria that only qualify the most deserving employees.
- Set a binding contract which states that the employees have to work for a certain of years after completing their education.
- Partner with a college or a university (for example, Southwest employee benefits include discounts and reimbursements for some programs at Ashford University).
Tuition assistance may be one of the most expensive employee perks, however, offering it can help you attract the best talent.
3. Student Loan Repayment
As of November 2019, the collective student debt in the US stands at over $1.59 trillion.
That figure is likely to increase in the future.
Most employees who are in debt, are either forced to work part-time jobs or run a side-business to pay off their loans.
This takes its toll on the performance, health, and overall satisfaction of employees – all of which ultimately affects the employer.
To tackle this problem, some companies, such as Fidelity, Aetna, and Chegg, to name a few, now offer to repay all or a percentage of their employees’ student loans as a perk.
are some ways an employer can offer this benefit:
- Offer a fixed amount, per month or year, towards loan repayment.
- Create a plan that lets the employer contribute a fixed amount every month, and take a small percentage from employees as contributions.
To make the administration easier, use a dedicated student loan repayment platform, such as FutureFuel.
Needless to say, talented candidates, especially fresh graduates, would definitely prefer an employer that helps them become debt-free.
4. Grocery Allowance
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household earns about $60,336 per year, out of which an average of $7,700 is spent on food.
That’s almost 13% of the total average income, which is a lot, considering that clothing and utilities (among other things) demand spending, as well.
While this may not be a challenge for some employees, as an employer, you need to look after your entire workforce, which also includes people who struggle to put food on the table.
For this reason, a few companies have started providing a fixed amount as “grocery allowance”.
To keep things fair, you can determine this allowance by either of the following ways:
- Devising a formula that calculates an amount based on the employee’s after-tax income.
- Creating brackets/categories for employees, based on a range that includes their after-tax income (employees in the lower brackets get paid more).
Or, you can offer a fixed amount to all employees, regardless of their salaries.
This little incentive, even if it’s $100 per month, can add up in the long run.
5. Rent Allowance
In the US, around 36.6% of families rent their .
With housing prices going up, that figure is expected to rise in the future.
According to a survey, the average rent in the US varies from $696 per month (in South Dakota) to $1,507 per month (in Hawaii).
That’s a lot of money being spent on just rent, seeing as the median household income is just $6,250.
In a time where a basic necessity, such as housing, puts a huge dent in a person’s wallet, employees need all the help they can get to grow financially.
Considering that, it’s a great idea to offer a small percentage as an allowance for rent, on top of a regular salary.
You can determine the allowance based on an employee’s salary and how much rent they pay, similar to how you’d calculate the grocery allowance.
6. Home Loan Repayment
In Q2 2019, the total mortgage debt in the US stood at $9.4 trillion.
That’s almost 7 times higher than the total student debt.
To tackle this crisis, you, as an employer, can play a crucial role by lending a helping hand.
Like student loans, you can offer to help pay off your employees’ home loans.
Again, the contributions can be based on factors such as the total amount owed, the salary of the employee, and similar factors.
However, this may not be feasible for some businesses, so, it’s best to have a discussion with your finance department before making that commitment.
Time and again, research has shown that intrinsic benefits are more effective than extrinsic benefits.
For example, an employee who’s appreciated and recognized for a job well done will be a lot more satisfied than an employee who simply received a small bonus, with no verbal or written appreciation.
However, there’s a way to achieve a middle-ground: profit sharing.
By allocating a percentage of the ’s annual (or bi-annual) pre-tax profits to be shared among the employees, you can:
- Provide additional financial compensation for good performance.
- Make the employees feel like a part of something bigger, by giving them a share of the ’s income.
A typical profit-sharing plan involves the employer contributing a fixed percentage of their pre-tax income to a pool, which is then distributed amongst the workforce.
Have a meeting with your finance department to find out how to make such a plan work.
8. Retirement Planning
Most professionals have the same retirement plan, as in retire with enough funds to enjoy a comfortable life.
Helping your employees achieve this goal can earn you some goodwill, loyalty, and of course, attract competent profiles.
In fact, according to one survey, around 75% of employees expected their employer to offer a 401k.
Considering that, offering some type of retirement plan to your employees is crucial.
Despite the complicated administration and fees, almost every other business in the US has one of these plans in place.
The 3 most common types of a retirement plan that you can offer to your employees are:
- Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees IRA – Short for “SIMPLE IRA,” this plan is suitable for small businesses, as the costs are tax-deductible. To set up a SIMPLE IRA, the employer has to fill out either an IRS form 5304-SIMPLE or form 5305-SIMPLE and is required to pay matching contributions of up to 3%.
- 401k – These employer-sponsored plans are very common. In a 401k, employees invest a percentage of their paychecks (pre-tax) towards their retirement. You can either set up a 401k yourself or with the help of a financial institution that specializes in them.
- Simplified Employee Pension IRA – short for “SEP-IRA”, this is yet another employer-sponsored plan that you can set up with the IRS. To set up a SEP, the employer has to file the IRS form 5303-SEP and give a copy to the concerned employees.
Needless to say, having one of these retirement plans as part of your employee perks will attract individuals looking to retire comfortably.
9. Paid Meals
The old adage, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”, is no longer true. At least, not for employers.
Offering free meals to employees is becoming the norm.
Some employees may even consider it a bare minimum.
Remember, at the end of the day, the more convenience you create for your employees (even if it’s as little as not having to bring or buy your own meal), the more they’ll acknowledge your efforts towards keeping them satisfied.
The best part is that this perk doesn’t have to cost that much, and pays off in the long run.
Here are some ways in which you can offer free meals to your employees:
- Hire in-house kitchen staff and manage the groceries.
- Use a catering to offer catered lunches and snacks, such as ZeroCater, or a virtual cafeteria, like EAT Club.
- Partner with a restaurant or café to provide catering.
Evaluate all of the options to see which one is the most feasible.
Employees, who are on tight budgets and schedules, would appreciate receiving this benefit.
10. In-Office Day
In 2017, an average American parent spent about $9,000 to $9,600 on daycare, for just one child.
That amount has increased over the last two years.
Childcare costs are at an all-time high in the US.
Besides the financial strain, some parents also struggle with paranoia regarding their children’s safety, which affects their performance at work — especially new parents who do not get enough paid parental leave.
Again, this is a problem that you, as an employer, can solve for your workforce.
One way of doing that is by starting an in-office day-care program. This is an extension of parental leave (maternity and paternity leave), which is also extremely important.
All you need is an extra room, and a worker (nanny) to look after the kids.
To cut down on the costs, you can have some of your employees volunteer an hour from their day to look after the little ones. This volunteer time might give a boost on their day.
’s how this perk can benefit you:
- It will help attract talented employees who are single parents (or have to rely on their partners, daycares, or nannies to look after their children).
- It will increase your employees’ focus on their work, making them more productive.
- In-House daycare can let your employees bond with their children at work, which would result in reduced absenteeism.
Physical space aside, setting up a day-care space at work isn’t that challenging.
Besides, it’s mostly a one-time cost, with great long-term benefits.
Rest and relaxation are crucial to performance. This should be part of your culture.
An ideal employer makes active efforts to ensure that their employees aren’t stressed out.
It is their responsibility to create a comfortable working environment and provide perks, such as fitness classes, on-sight cafes and massage therapies, etc. These facilities help them unwind and enjoy personal time.
are some ideas for rest and relaxation-related perks.
11. Paid Vacation Trips
Offering paid time off (optional in some states) can help improve employee morale, increase satisfaction, and boost performance.
To take things to the next level, you can sponsor vacation trips for your employees and their families, in addition to offering PTO.
For businesses with a travel-related product/, such as airlines, travel agencies, etc., offering this incentive is much easier.
Regardless, it’s a competitive perk, which can motivate employees to go the extra mile.
You don’t have to go all out and offer luxurious trips to Western Europe, either.
A cross-country trip, let’s say, to Disneyland (offered to a few employees throughout the year) should do the trick.
12. Pet-Friendly Workplace
In addition to offering hammocks, RnR rooms, and play areas, many companies now maintain pet-friendly workplaces.
Employees who need animals (or those who require their furry little friends to calm down, in general) prefer working at companies that allow pets, and provide a safe environment for them.
However, that’s easier said than done.
are a few things to consider:
- The Location – If your office is on the 15th floor, where would the pets, especially dogs, go to answer nature’s call? Having employees go downstairs 2-3 times a day wouldn’t be very efficient.
- Allergies – Some people are allergic to certain animals. By making your office pet-friendly, you’ll risk causing conflict and dealing with medical emergencies.
- The Cut Off – Would you, and your employees, be comfortable having someone bring their pet Burmese python to work? Where do you draw the line?
These are just some of the things that you need to consider.
Regardless, there are many companies that provide safe and comfortable spaces for pets.
If you’re unable to provide this benefit, you can offer pet insurance as one of your office perks.
13. Spa Memberships
Nothing says relaxation like a nice spa day.
Every now and then, your employees deserve to treat themselves to a soothing massage, aromatherapy, or an invigorating sauna.
Offering free spa memberships (or discounts) is a win-win situation. It’ll keep employees fresh and relaxed, resulting in better performance.
14. Unlimited PTO
As stated earlier, employers aren’t obligated by law to provide paid time off in some parts of the US.
Regardless of what the state laws say, you should still provide PTO as a standard benefit.
Every individual needs some personal time to run errands, deal with illnesses, spend time with their loved ones, or simply relax.
Employers who understand the importance of personal time, offer a generous of paid leaves.
In fact, a few companies have gone above and beyond and revolutionized the PTO meaning.
Instead of offering a fixed of days off with full pay, these companies offer unlimited vacation.
This essentially means that their employees are free to take as many days off as they want, throughout the year, and still get paid for them.
HubSpot, Dropbox, and GitHub are a few renowned names that offer unlimited paid leaves as part of their employee perks.
However, the idea of unlimited PTO raises some eyebrows.
Since PTO is already a slippery slope, giving employees this much power could backfire. ’s how:
- For one, employees could end up abusing the plan.
- It could result in under-staffing during peak seasons.
- It may lead to conflict between managers and team members.
To tackle these issues and reap the benefits of offering unlimited PTO, set clear expectations related to professional performance. This is so that employees understand the thin line between using and abusing this benefit.
15. In-Office Massages
Some employees overwork themselves to the point where they have neither the energy, nor the time, to focus on themselves.
How do you make sure that these employees are well-rested and relaxed?
The answer: In-office massages.
Compare their corporate packages and see which one fits your budget.
According to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health , a vast of Americans suffer from health conditions such as heart disease, depression, diabetes, and more.
This may not seem like something that concerns you as an employer, at first. However, the growing healthcare problem can eventually affect your (chances are, it already is doing so, and costing you money).
To make sure your employees stay in both, physical and professional shape, you must offer a comprehensive health and program as standard. It is important to encourage work-life balance if you want motivated employees.
are some suggestions for that:
16. Gym Memberships
Nothing says employee like a gym membership along with the employment contract.
A lot of businesses offer generous discounts on gym memberships.
By making it easier for your employees to stay fit, you can:
- Decrease Workplace Absenteeism – People who exercise regularly are less likely to get sick, which ultimately results in fewer sick leaves taken.
- Improve Mental Health of Employees – According to a survey, employees who exercised took 43% fewer mental health days than those who didn’t work out.
- Increase Productivity – Exercising regularly can make a person 21% more productive.
Most gyms offer corporate memberships. You can shop around for whichever offers the most facilities, at the best price.
You can also build an on-site gym, and encourage employees to use it 30-45 minutes, every day.
Consider the long-term costs of both options. More importantly, consider what your existing employees prefer.
17. Paid Therapy
Mental health is just as important as physical health, if not more.
According to a survey, a whopping 3 out of 4 professionals in the US suffer from some type of mental illness.
Another survey revealed that mental illnesses account for $80 billion to $100 billion in annual losses for US businesses.
To prevent this, some companies offer paid therapy sessions as part of their employee assistance programs.
Arranging on-site therapy, or sending employees to their therapy centers can ensure your employees’ mental .
18. Health Insurance
Under the Affordable Act, employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide health insurance to at least 95% of their full-time workforce, to avoid paying a hefty penalty.
Regardless of the strength of your workforce, you should still offer sponsored health insurance as part of your employee perks.
In fact, a survey conducted by Glassdoor revealed that employees considered health insurance the most important benefit.
Associated costs aside, some companies refrain from offering health insurance because of the complicated administration procedures.
However, with the right insurance provider, such as United Healthcare and Aetna, employer-sponsored health insurance becomes a breeze.
19. Free Healthy Snacks
Work-related stress can get to the best of us.
To deal with those occasional stressful episodes, some employees like to relax for a minute, with a snack or two.
On the other hand, some employees just like to snack in between meals.
Considering both of those cases, you should stock your office with lots of healthy snacks. Make sure not to load up on too much junk food, because that can actually hurt your employees’ overall health.
Remember, apart from physical exercise, a well-balanced diet is crucial for dodging health issues.
are some healthy snacks to consider:
- Baked vegetable chips
- Granola bars
- Dried seaweed
- Trail mix
You can either purchase the snack supplies yourself or leave it up to a delivery , such as SnackNation.
Either way, your health-conscious employees will thank you for it.
20. In-Office Yoga Classes
Some people just don’t like the exertion of weight training, the intensity of CrossFit, or the endurance required for cardio.
They would rather enjoy a relaxing yoga session.
Increased flexibility, improved bone strength, and better weight management are just some of the benefits of doing yoga.
In-office yoga classes are a great way to let your employees enjoy a good stretch, without taking much time out of their busy routines.
All you need is a room and a yoga instructor, and your employees will participate given that they are given the time to do so. Offering this perk will not only improve employee’s health but also encourage team building as employees will be practicing together.
You may even ask your employees to volunteer as instructors.
For some employees, career growth opportunities are more important than anything else.
Some even quit their jobs if they don’t see any room for growth.
For that reason, you need to offer a few employee perks that promote professional development.
are some ideas to get you started:
21. Paid Professional Courses
One of the sure-fire ways to ensure the professional development of your employees is by investing in training courses.
Depending on the nature of your business, and your employees’ job descriptions, these courses can either be taken online or taught on-site.
In addition, you can create a curriculum and learning material yourself, with help from your senior managers/executives, and industry experts.
However, these should only complement the actual courses/certifications, and shouldn’t replace them.
By spending a few hundred dollars on purchasing (and developing) these courses, you can:
- Make your existing employees better at their jobs.
- Increase the overall satisfaction at the workplace.
- Teach your workforce the value of growing professionally.
Last, but not least, having a development program will help attract lifelong learners.
22. Paid Sabbaticals
A sabbatical is a one-year (or 6-month) leave granted to an employee for either study or work purposes.
Traditionally, a sabbatical is offered to a professor or researcher, however, any type of can offer it to any employee.
Some renowned companies that offer sabbaticals include Accenture, Adobe, American Express, and Salesforce.
A few companies even sponsor the entire sabbatical, paying for traveling expenses, accommodation, and other allowances.
However, some firms refrain from offering sabbaticals altogether, out of fear of their employees running away, losing productivity, and all of the associated costs.
What they don’t realize, is that sabbaticals are investments that guarantee:
- Improved Performance – Those who return from sabbaticals feel rejuvenated, and have a fresh perspective to work, which ultimately improves their performance.
- Increased Retention – Employees are likely to stick around for longer to get the chance to go on sabbaticals.
Lastly, offering paid sabbaticals can also help attract ambitious candidates to your .
Wrapping it Up
Despite what your peers would have you believe, the bottom line is, offering an attractive benefits package is no longer a choice, but a necessity, if you want to attract and retain top talent.
Regardless of the “industry standards,” you should always go above and beyond to offer competitive and innovative employee perks.
Doing so will help you stand out from your competitors and fill out critical positions with the best candidates.