First, the good news.
The U.S is experiencing a historically low unemployment rate.
Now for the bad news, companies are finding it harder to attract and retain talent.
It’s even more challenging for many small businesses with limited budgets and less capacity to raise wages.
But for many employees, it’s not just about the paycheck—in fact, a study by QuickBooks Payroll found that nearly 45% of employees focus on benefits nearly as much as salary.
The great news is that businesses of all sizes can take advantage of offering some of the most coveted perks for a relatively modest investment.
Besides healthcare and retirement offerings, here are nine additional fringe benefits to explore for 2019.
Maybe younger workers want to leave early for a spin class, and older workers want to come in after dropping their kids at school.
Depending on the type of business you run, most companies can allow for at least some schedule flexibility. It’s well worth the effort to figure out how to make it work: A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that almost 40% of respondents said they would choose a relatively lower-wage job with flexible hours and telecommuting options compared to one that didn’t offer schedule variances.
Training and Development
More than 40% of millennials—and we’re willing to bet most generations—rank continuing education as the most important benefit after salary as they consider jobs. Encouraging skills development can be a win-win: After all whatever they learn can likely benefit your business as well.
Find out what your workers might be interested in and how you can support and ultimately leverage it. For example, you might pay for an online trading course for an employee who wishes to develop their digital media skills—and then have them put their newfound knowledge to work sprucing up your website and social media.
Companies are increasingly helping their employees be healthier both on and off the job: According to the 2018 Employee Benefits Survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), this was the category of benefits that companies were most likely to increase.
Some ideas for low-cost wellness initiatives include offering a pedometer to each employee and holding a step tracking contest (this can be particularly motivating if your employees move a lot on the job, say in a retail store, restaurant or landscaping company because they can start to see their job doubling as exercise); entering a company team in a local 5K and training together; having a lunchtime cook-off of healthy recipes; or seeing if a local gym or fitness studio would offer a discounted membership.
These days most people consider financial wellness to be as important as physical wellness. A survey from MassMutual found that more than half of employees said they would welcome more education about saving for retirement from their employer.
Offering this type of fringe benefit could be as easy as finding a local financial consultant or local bank representative willing to hold a series of workshops for employees on topics like budgeting, saving, building credit and other important financial priorities.
Can doing good be good for your employees and retention? You bet, finds a Deloitte survey, which revealed that an overwhelming 90% of employees believe that companies which sponsor volunteer activities offer a better working environment.
This perk is virtually free for you, and much appreciated by employees, who can save on wardrobe costs and dry-cleaning bills. The 2018 SHRM benefits survey found that half of organizations allow casual dress every day, up 6%age points from 2017.
Your employees might resent having to pay to get to work; and the costs add up—more than $2,500 a year on average, according to one study. Small businesses often have the edge by offering free parking in a suburban or on-street location so make sure to articulate the value of that location to your employees if applicable. And if any of your team relies on transit, offering a subsidized bus pass might be a welcomed perk; ask your city office if they offer discounts to local businesses for transportation services.
Increasingly companies are deciding that Fido and Fluffy make a welcome addition to the workplace; in fact, one survey found that 88% of employees and 91% of HR directors believed that bringing a pet to work led to improved morale. Before you open up the doggie door, just make sure that everyone in the office is pet-tolerant and set down some ground rules regarding behavior.
A Menu of Benefits
One size rarely fits all for anything, and perks are no exception. For example, one study found that almost as many employees would prefer student loan repayment assistance as a 401 (k) match. If the money you are investing is relatively the same, why not let them choose?
Or, on a smaller scale, offer a set amount of money that employees can use at their discretion. LinkedIn is an example of a company that is turning to the buffet option; it created a “perks allowance” that provides up to $500 a quarter for workers to spend on lifestyle perks of their choice, from massages to a personal trainer or childcare. Small businesses could offer a similar choice, allocating a reasonable amount for a fringe benefit that would supply a lot of bang for the buck in goodwill.
As you prepare your plans for 2019, make sure that a robust plan for fringe benefits ranks high on your compensation offerings.