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Special Report: Are You Offering the Right Employee Benefits?

 

 

SPECIAL REPORT
Are You Offering the Right Employee Benefits?

 

 

When an employer offers a job to a prospective employee, one of the ways to seal the deal is with an offer of benefits. Given that the right benefits can not only improve quality of life for an employee but also have a dollar value attached, it's no surprise that 57 percent of workers said benefits and perks are one of their primary considerations before accepting a job, according to a survey by Glassdoor.

Employers frequently offer a package of benefits, ranging from health care insurance to paid sick days. Health care insurance is the most valued benefit among prospective employees, with 40 percent ranking it the most important perk. Vacation or paid time off, performance bonuses, paid sick days and a 401(k) or retirement plan round out the top five most appealing perks usually offered.

The appeal of benefits has increased as the workforce has become younger, with 89 percent of employees under the age of 34 saying that perks are more valuable to them than a pay raise is, while only 70 percent of workers between 45 and 54 put the same emphasis on perks. With millennial workers putting an increasing focus on work-life balance, many employers are changing the kinds of perks they offer, some of which would likely come as a shock to previous working generations.

Breaking the 9 to 5 Tradition

A flexible schedule is a benefit that 30 percent of workers would appreciate more than a pay raise, and it's not simply in order to make it easier to sleep in. While a flexible schedule can mean employees work hours outside of the traditional 9 to 5 schedule, it can also refer to working from home – an option with considerable appeal to parents, caregivers and college students. Though the number of employers offering flexibility as a perk is still low – increasing from four to just five percent in the last decade, according to Woman 2.0 – it can have a measurably positive impact on a company's bottom line. If an office is shut down one additional day each week to allow employees to work from home, employers save on the cost of everything from utilities like gas and water to minor expenses like coffee and paper towels. Employers may also find it easier to recruit skilled talent and find employee morale is higher when workers aren't worrying about beating traffic or making a doctor's appointment on time. An emphasis on finishing required tasks as opposed to staying in the office long enough to appease corporate brass can increase productivity too.

Having public-facing workers able to give first-person recommendations for a company's products to potential buyers is priceless marketing for an employer.

Employers may also find a considerable return on investment by offering specific office perks – allowing casual dress, pets on the premises, or even a catered daily meal. While providing a free lunch may seem extravagant, employers such as Facebook and Google have made it a perk, and with tangible benefits. Not only are workers more likely to connect with other employees in other departments whom they aren't likely to meet otherwise, but also they're spending less time waiting to buy a lunch off-site and more time completing tasks in the office. Not only are employees likely to be happier, but they're also more likely to be healthier thanks to a well-rounded meal – which can result in savings on medical expenses and lost productivity due to illness. Even better, feeding employees is usually tax-deductible.

A Happy, Healthy – and Loyal Workforce

Another perk that can keep workers happy and healthy is to offer reimbursement for gym memberships and wellness programs. In addition to exercise giving employees a feel-good boost, it can also result in a healthier workforce. Reducing the chance of just one major medical event such as a heart attack or stroke could offset the costs of providing an employee wellness benefit for an entire company.

For companies that sell clothing or other products, an employee discount can be a compelling way to build loyalty and make workers brand ambassadors. Having public-facing workers able to give first-person recommendations for a company's products to potential buyers is priceless marketing for an employer. Workers buying the product, even at a discount, is also a way to reduce overstock and drive sales.

Encouraging employees to feel invested in and loyal to a company is another reason to offer company stock or stock options. Knowing that the overall performance of the company can result in personal profit, employees are motivated to do their best. Offering a performance bonus has a similar effect.

To encourage parents to stay in the workforce, offering paid parental leave and childcare assistance can keep workers on the job. On-site day care makes it possible for parents to stay at their desks or only take short breaks to visit their children, while paid parental leave can be a compelling draw for valuable candidates to consider a position. While these perks can be expensive for employers, they can have a positive impact on morale and employee satisfaction.

Some companies are going even further in offering benefits that not only draw exceptional candidates to their workforces, but also exemplify the company brand or messaging. REI gives employees two paid "Yay Days" every year to enjoy the outside activity of their choice – confirming the brand's commitment to outdoor adventure. Likewise, Burton employees are given free season ski passes as well as "snow days" that allow them to ski after a major snowfall.

Also keeping on-brand, Airbnb even gives employees an annual stipend of $2,000 to spend on travel – although workers are expected to stay in an Airbnb listing wherever they go.

How to Go the Extra Mile

Netflix is one of many companies putting parenting front and center. The company offers new-parent employees one paid year of parental leave. The company also allows parents to return to work part-time or full-time, taking however much leave they need throughout the year. Similarly, Spotify offers six months of paid parental leave, plus one month of flexible work options (often called "flextime") when the parent employee returns to the office. The company also covers the price tag for egg freezing and fertility assistance. Facebook gives employees with a newborn baby $4,000 in cash, while Pinterest provides three paid months off, an additional month of part-time hours, plus two counseling sessions to help employees create a plan for reentering the workplace.

With many workers saddled with student loan debt years or even decades after graduating from college, PwC makes the enticing offer of $1,200 per year for student loan debt reimbursement. Other companies offer more unconventional educational options. Epic Systems Corporation gives employees a month-long sabbatical to pursue their creative talents after five years on staff, while Asana gives employees access to executive and life coaching services.

Some companies are thinking far, far outside the box in choosing benefits for their employees. Twitter, in addition to catered meals, provides employees with on-site acupuncture and improv classes, while Accenture covers gender reassignment expenses. Google even offers a post-death perk, providing the spouse or partner of a deceased employee with 50 percent of that salary for the next ten years.

While many of these perks aren't a fit for a broad swath of companies, it's clear that workers are looking beyond salary when considering a position. In industries fighting over a small pool of skilled employees, smart companies are looking outside the box for ways to create committed and content workforces – even when the return on investment might be hard to quantify. For employers in every industry, it's a good idea to consider new ways to make workers happy – even if that just means letting them wear jeans once in a while.

 
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