You already know it’s a tight job market right now — we’re running at nearly full employment, and once you do find a good hire, it’s hard to get them across the finish line. So what can you do to stand out to prospective employees and keep the ones you have?
It’s not always about throwing them more money. Sometimes a variety of creative perks for your employees will do the trick. Here are ten perks that can make you stand out in a tough market.
1. More vacation time
Vacation time can be a good bargaining chip with a candidate looking at multiple offers with roughly the same terms -- it can also be a good perk for current employees for whom a raise isn’t in the budget. Encouraging employees to actually take their vacation time -- and truly power down during those off hours -- is a good way to show the people you work with that you care about their work-life balance, and that they deserve down-time for hard work. In lieu of extra vacation days, you could also consider giving your workplace a break during a less busy time of the year -- shutting down between Christmas and New Year’s, for instance, or for a week during the summer.
2. Flexible work hours -- or remote work options
Flexible work hours don’t work if you need someone to tend a cash register or wait tables. But if your employees can do some of their work remotely, and it’s more important for them to meet deadlines than clock 9-to-5 workdays, it’s a big perk to offer them flexible hours and remote options. (In fact, for millennials, the ability to work remotely is the most desired perk of all.) This doesn’t have to mean that your employees are scattered across the globe at any given moment -- you could still require four hours in the office per day, for instance, or limit flexible hours to particular days of the week. That keeps your team cohesive, but gives your staff some much-desired freedom.
3. Bonuses — monetary or otherwise
The year-end bonus is a nice perk many employees hold out for, but you don’t have to wait for a set date to give a little reward to someone who’s gone above and beyond. Had a junior team member do something that helped close a big deal? A few hundred dollars in cash on the spot shows them how appreciated that was. And bonuses don’t have to be monetary, either -- show your appreciation for a job well done with event tickets, gift cards for dinners out, or other meaningful prizes.
4. Transportation subsidies
Subsidizing a commute can add up to pretty sizable savings for your employee, and it shows that you’re thinking about their reality in getting to and from work. One common way employers do this is by offering every employee a free regional public transportation pass, or by allowing employees to expense the passes they buy themselves.
5. Phone bill subsidies
If you don’t provide employees with cell phones, but require them to do a significant amount of phone outreach, you might consider subsidizing some or all of their bill each month. Even if they’re not in a phone heavy position, this is a nice perk to offer, because it means taking one of their monthly expenses off their plate. Add them to a group plan (usually the least expensive way to provide this perk), or have them turn in a bill for reimbursement.
6. Education subsidies
Encourage your employees to continue learning by providing monetary support for continuing education. Some employers go so far as to offer full-fledged coverage of an advanced degree, though they often an employee to commit to a defined tenure -- say, two years -- before receiving the support. But even if that’s too much of a stretch -- or not really an asset to your workplace -- you can offer to pay for trainings or certifications that help your team do their jobs better.
7. Career development opportunities
Everyone wants to feel like they’re continuing to grow in their career, and if you can give career development opportunities to every employee, you’ll have a better chance of hiring and then retaining them. Some of these opportunities should be function-specific: trainings, mentoring, and conferences specifically related to an employee’s field all help them grow in their job. But don’t discount cross-functional opportunities, either -- giving someone a chance to shadow a different function for a day, for instance, might give them new ideas and new appreciation for a department they don’t spend a lot of time engaging.
8. Team perks
Structure team bonding time into regular work life by providing some team perks — this could be free lunch once a week, a twice-yearly retreat, a regular happy hour, or some other activity that lets your employees take their eye off the work ball for a few minutes. Team rewards also go a long way toward fostering collaboration. Celebrate the end of big projects with a team dinner, or take everyone to a baseball game to show appreciation for a job well done.
9. Office perks
You don’t need fancy massage chairs, an employee lunchroom, ping pong tables, or a fancy coffee bar — just providing free coffee and stocking the office or breakroom with snacks, drinks, and maybe a little free Ibuprofen goes a long way to make work life a lot more pleasant. Taking care of the basic office needs of your employees is one of the best ways to foster a strong company culture as well.
Let’s say you’ve had an employee stick around for a decade. There’s a good way to reward them for that -- give them several weeks off in a row. Companies that offer sabbaticals structure the requirements of them differently. With some, it’s a chunk of time to be used however an employee wants. With others, it’s supposed to be used to make good on a specific pursuit -- writing a novel, say, or tackling a non-work project. However you structure your sabbatical policy, it’s a good way to thank people for longevity… and to encourage them to stick around when they’ve already put in several years.