When you first set up your business, you probably didn’t think much about job perks for your staff. You just assumed that by paying them the going rate that everything would be fine and that they’d just get on with their work. But as you continued to develop your business, you realized that this wasn’t how things worked at all. Employees wanted more than just money: they wanted emotional support, career development, and appreciation.
Before you got started in business, you naively thought that the job of a founder was simply to churn out a product and please customers. But over time, you found out that it’s more about managing the people who work for you and making sure that they are productive.
Then there’s the problem of the job market itself. To attract the best talent, it’s not enough just to offer a good wage (although that can help a lot). You’ve also got to dangle something else in front of your employees: something that they’ll love. The CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh is the master of this sort of thing. When he was setting up his business, he was thinking about the ways that he could compete in a marketplace already dominated by Amazon. He knew that if he paid his workers the going wage rate, his company would be like a million other ecommerce startups and he’d get nowhere. So he started thinking about ways that he could lower the wage rate and still get people to work at his firm.
His idea was to give his employees something that other companies didn’t in exchange for a lower salary: happiness. Hsieh began to come up with cheap and cheerful ways to make his employees happy and work for him, like free healthcare, a relaxed managerial environment and the possibility of progression. This, in turn, attracted a whole swathe of people to his company who hated traditional working environments where bosses made them feel like junk just because they were paying them a high wage. It turned out that most people who had been in those positions were willing to trade them for a lower wage.
In other words, perks are valuable, and they really work. But what is it that employees are looking for? Could you try a few of these in your business?
Perk #1: Sabbaticals
Sabbaticals are a common occurrence in the public sector, thanks to the unfair advantages workers in that particular industry enjoy. University professors, for instance, get to take a sabbatical every few years, all at taxpayers expense. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, only around 4 percent of private sector employers offer sabbaticals. The figure is low for a couple of reasons. The most obvious is that it is expensive to put people on extended sabbaticals, and many companies don’t have the profit margins to make it a reality. But the other reason is that for many companies, having somebody out of the office for more than two weeks is a logistical nightmare.
But because so few private companies offer them, the promise of a sabbatical after, say, five years, can help differentiate your company in the job market. So few companies allow their employees to take extended breaks for things like personal or professional development, that it turns out to be one heck of a job perk. Some of the biggest companies in the world offer job perks. Intel, the semiconductor manufacturer, offers it’s employees a two-month break to do whatever they want every seven years. Employees use this opportunity to indulge their hobbies, go traveling or build their skills for their next career move.
Perk #2: Fitness Incentives
Fitness is becoming an increasingly visible part of the workplace at larger companies. Big businesses, like banks, tech companies, and even real estate agents, are all installing their own on-site gyms. Your small business might not be able to afford to install its own gym, but there are still things that you can do to offer employees some form of fitness perk. The most obvious way to do this is to have a deal with a local gym. You pay some fixed fee every month, and your employees are allowed to use the gym as and when they please. Different gyms will have different offers, so shop around.
You can also give employees a stipend that they can use only for gym classes. This is what software company, ZenPayroll does. It gives out payments that employees can use for things like yoga classes, spin sessions or weightlifting training.
Perk #3: Free Food
Some larger companies, like Google, are experimenting with free (but healthy) canteens. The idea is to fill their workers up with fruits, veggies and beans so that they remain alert, healthy and productive during the afternoons.
Businesses don’t need to have their own canteens, though, according to Josh Reeves, the CEO of ZenPayroll. Instead, they can get their fridges filled with treats and snacks or offer the occasional catered breakfast, especially if you’re holding early-morning meetings. Reeves says that expense is small and that the return, in terms of employee satisfaction, is large.
Perk #4: Offer Flextime
Millennials are slowly becoming the largest part of the workforce, and unlike their parents, they’re generally dissatisfied with the nine-to-five work pattern. In general, they want something a little more flexible that allows them to fit their work around their life, and not the other way around.
The good news for employers is that flextime jobs are still relatively rare. Companies that offer flexitime are highly sought after compared to old-fashioned companies that expect staff to turn up at the same time every day, like robots. It turns out that some people like to get their work done in the morning before they’ve even had breakfast., and others prefer to work late into the evening while their mind is buzzing after drinking a couple of gallons of coffee.
You don’t have to go full-on flexi, of course. Some companies insist that employees work some “core hours” during the week, and then are able to allocate their remaining hours as they see fit. All you have to do is make sure that the work that is being produced is still of the high quality that you expect as an employer.
Perk #5: Safe Conditions
According to http://www.elliswhittam.com/, employers have a legal responsibility to keep their workers safe. But many businesses, especially those in manufacturing, construction and mining don’t have great safety records. This can put workers off, increasing your turnover and costing the company a fortune in liability insurance.
Employees know that certain jobs are more dangerous than others. So convincing employees that they are safe is important. One way to do this is to create a culture of safety, meaning that doing the job safely is more important than doing it quickly. The other way to show employees you care is to provide regular safety training, proving that you’re concerned about the wellbeing of your workers and that it is possible to hold a job with your firm and be free from personal risk.
Perk #6: Unlimited Vacations
Allowing employees to decide how much vacation time they take might seem like a bad idea. But many of the fastest growing companies in the world, including Netflix and Hubspot do exactly that. Employees are able to take as much time off as they need, so long as the work gets done.
According to https://www.themuse.com/ this actually makes them work harder. Once they get their work done, they’re free to go home and enjoy themselves.