Paige Magarrey, Workopolis
Employee perks might need a bit of a name change soon. After all, they’re not really perks any more – they’re a compulsory component of any competitive job offer.
Today’s seekers are looking way beyond salary to the free stuff and cool services that will make their day-to-day better.
And it’s not just about recruitment either – perks (we’ll keep calling them that for now) also play a huge role in keeping existing employees happy, productive, and loyal.
It’s no surprise, then, that companies are offering their employees everything from chef-prepared lunches to on-site massages, with more and more over-the-top treats added each year.
In fact, just last month Basecamp CEO Jason Fried admitted to Business Insider that he’s running out of ideas for employee perks. “I’d love to continue to give more and more things to make people happier and more comfortable,” he said. “I’m just running out of ideas for it.”
But here’s the rub: while that’s all well and good for a multi-billion-dollar company, offering perks becomes a little more difficult for small businesses trying to find and retain top talent. All the little freebies add up quickly, after all.
That said, it’s not impossible for small businesses to offer employee perks – and in fact there are some that they absolutely need to have to compete with the larger companies.
Here are five employee perks that every small business should be offering (you can afford them, we promise).
Today’s seekers are looking beyond salary to the free stuff that will make their day-to-day better.
Gallup’s State of the American Workplace breaks down all employee benefits into four categories: basics, important to some, differentiating, and added value. The basics category includes the must-haves that most employees would change jobs to obtain. “They do not set organizations apart but are essential in attracting and retaining employees,” writes Gallup.
And one of the biggest items on this list? Health insurance.
Luckily, health insurance is increasingly easier for small businesses to offer as more cost-effective options, services, and platforms become available. For a complete run-down of the options, check out our recent article here.
Professional development, education and training opportunities are particularly important to small businesses because they don’t have to take much out of the operational budget. However, they’re highly important to top talent: according to recent Gallup research, 87 per cent of millennials say development and career growth opportunities are very important to them in a job.
A lot of these training programs are win-win: a mentorship program between upper management and entry-level employees, for example, lets companies groom employees to move into hard-to-fill roles in the future.
A wellness program
Wellness initiatives are also win-win because they decrease your team’s need for health insurance, while also reducing absenteeism and improving productivity. In fact, wellness programs can save companies over $250 a year per employee, according to Sun Life and Ivey Business School’s ongoing survey into ROI in Canadian corporate wellness programs.
A wellness program doesn’t necessarily have to mean fitness subsidies or expensive classes. Consider leading a weekly yoga class in a meeting room, or running a daily walking club. Other low-cost options include meditation sessions, mental health workshops, and healthy lunch potlucks.
No, you don’t need an in-house chef. But a well-stocked snack pantry and quality coffee maker can go a lot farther than you think. Just be sure to consider all diets, allergies, and other restrictions before you buy a month’s supply of peanut butter. And try to veer on the healthier side – you don’t want your whole team having a daily 3 p.m. sugar crash.
A relaxed work environment
An office with a laid-back, startup feel is a plus for a lot of job seekers – and something that larger corporate companies have a hard time scaling up.
“Many small companies are focusing on benefits and perks that are a bit more manageable financially but also represent their culture and accommodate their employees’ lifestyles,” writes Gallup. “They are offering employees the flexibility, autonomy and development they want and establishing work environments that feel less like traditional, inflexible corporate cultures.”
This could mean everything from easing up on the business dress code (within reason, of course) to offering flexible work hours – whatever you can do to lean into the benefits of being with a smaller team.
Tell Us What You Think
What perks have paid off the most for your organization? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments.