When hiring managers and human resources call me to find them candidates for a job opening, we talk about the benefits offered by their company. And I’m noticing trends from my clients that aren’t always represented by the articles like this one about Silicon Valley’s excesses. To make colleagues feel valued and entice great candidates when hiring, more and more companies of all sizes are bringing in special secondary benefits.
Employers are offering more than just salary and conventional benefits, but it’s hard to find great ideas. I even saw an article that suggested bosses criticize less as a perk. That’s not a perk; it’s good management to notice the positive work people are doing. Real perks are bonus benefits and gifts to employees, and even tiny companies can offer them. Heeding what they’re witnessing in the industry about the need for work-life balance, companies are offering genuine engagement, considerate of what employees really want from a workplace and employer. And that doesn’t cost much, but it delivers in a big way for hiring and retaining great talent.
Managers have three basic goals: hire the best people for the job and team, get people to do their best work, and get employees engaged with their colleagues in positive ways. All three of these aims can be addressed with small perks and extra benefits that don’t break the bank and don’t sound as ridiculously counter-productive as beer on tap at the office.
1. Pets in the office. For small employers, this is an easy sell. Well-behaved dogs make great additions to many corporate offices: they make people calmer and more productive. As long as the dogs are good citizens who don’t steal trash, fight with other dogs, or bug your colleagues, you stand to gain a lot from allowing employees to bring their canine pals to work. Not worried about the sweet dog waiting at home, employees work longer and more thoughtfully because their comfortable with their officemates. This doesn’t work with all dogs or with large agencies where the pets go from meeting to meeting all day without a break, so craft your dog policy carefully.
2. Yoga onsite. It doesn’t cost much to offer two yoga classes each week. Exercise increases your staff’s ability to focus, produce good work while they’re in the office, and invest in their own health. Even lower cost options include walking meetings or scheduled lunchtime runs.
3. Subscriptions. Give your employees a subscription to their favorite magazine, newspaper, or music service. An ad-free music subscription and a set of headphones might make your designers more productive, and it will certainly help them tolerate your fourth revision. A subscription to an august periodical is a welcome luxury for a marketing communications professional who might, then, find something in the pages to inspire her work. You can have a vital and gorgeous onsite library built from the magazines that the recipients have finished. All you need is intention and effort.
5. Dry cleaning. Your employees will have one fewer errand to run if you get their dry cleaning taken care of. You don’t have to pay for the cleaning: the increase in business from having a whole office sending them clothes will often make a local dry cleaner do the drop off and pick up free. Find a deal with a local company so your employees can pay in advance or monthly, so payment details don’t disrupt the work day.
6. Food. This one is so easy it should be a given by now. A small fridge with cold beverages, a good coffee pot with employee-favorite coffee, a pantry or kitchen with healthy and not-so-healthy packaged snacks, and fruit. Having donuts every Friday morning is not going to kill any company’s budget, and it will make people happy. Probably even happier than onsite yoga.
7. Sporting tickets. Companies used to hold season tickets and give them to executives as perks. We now know it’s important to get as many employees involved as possible. Some ideas I’ve seen: you get the tickets if you take a colleague to the game, and you can win the tickets in a team meeting raffle.
8. Flex time. Letting people work a day or two at home, especially when their kids are sick or the rest of their team is traveling just makes sense. If there’s no good reason for someone to be in promptly at 9, then make the rules and expectations clear, then set them loose. They’ll do their work, often more efficiently, if they set their own schedule (within your boundaries—make sure you explain these clearly).
9. Charitable loaning. Sure you can match employee donations dollar for dollar, but why not loan out your employees to the charitable cause of their choice a couple of times a year? Paying half a day’s wages while an employee serves the community is worth more to all of you than cash. This loaner policy looks great to job candidates, and gets employees engaged in your community. You hired these people because they’re good at what they do, so pay them to spend a day helping a local charity that needs their expertise.
10. Games. Ping pong and fusball might be all the rage, but I’m a big fan of putting board games in the place where people relax. Right by that magazine library I mentioned. Chess and backgammon offer quick fun, and an ongoing, communal game of Scrabble is a mental challenge for everyone who walks by and contributes. A small nook with a table, Scrabble game, snacks, and beverages is the new water cooler. Go all out and host an in-house trivia lunch where colleagues compete together to answer obscure questions while they eat. Once a month or once a week, pizza and trivia are a great combination sure to bring your employees closer together and show job candidates that you mean business when you ask employees to have fun.
Thoughtful engagement with your benefits package can help you hire and retain the best employees. Good luck!