Competitive Benefits for a Competitive Job Market

To quote The Atlantic, “we are living in an Age of Peak Perk.”

If you want to attract top-tier talent and hold onto them, then offering competitive benefits that support overall happiness and well-being is an absolute must. Happy workers make for more successful companies. According to research, happy employees work 12% harder and take up to 10 times fewer sick days.

So let’s dive in to see which benefits make for the happiest employees.


Professional Wellness

All of your employees can benefit from a professional development program. By educating and challenging your employees to develop new skills, you remind them that they have a future with your company beyond their current role or responsibilities. Feeling stagnant or bored is one of the top reasons employees disengage or quit, and replacing them gets expensive fast.

Besides simply keeping employees on board, development programs create highly qualified, promotable staff and attracts young job seekers who are hungry to learn.


Individualized Development Plans

Sit down with your employees to discuss their interests and career goals and outline a development plan. For employees who are unsure, you can describe the paths that are open to them within your company and find a starting place.

These personalized development plans should include measurable goals within a realistic timeframe. They can include online courses, certifications, projects that lay outside their current responsibilities, and professional networking opportunities (such as arranged lunches with higher-up employees).


Education Stipend

The internet is awash with educational opportunities. Whether you decide to create personalized development plans or not, giving your employees a stipend to tap into the abundant resources that online education provides is a benefit that many job seekers want.

There are two things to consider when offering this benefit.

Stipends might seem easier than personalized plans, but it’s important to monitor employee progress. Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs for short) are free courses open to anyone. Enrollment rates are enormous, but the average completion rate is about 10% of enrolled students. Which means that, especially for your busy employees, it’s important to set up accountability.

The second thing is that, while it’s important to push your employees to challenge themselves, you don’t want them in over their heads. Stress is a huge drain on productivity. One solution to this dilemma might be allowing them time to chip away at coursework on the clock, with the caveat that their job responsibilities don’t suffer.


Work-Life Balance Options

The current most popular course being taught at Yale University is Psyc 157, Psychology and the Good Life. It’s a course on happiness research and how to apply it in one’s own life.

The most surprising and impactful lesson of every semester is also the shortest and most deceptively simple: practicing “time affluence.”

As New York Magazine describes it:

“After the midterm, when they arrived on the day of the ‘special event,’ [the professor] handed out flyers at the door of the lecture hall that read ‘Class is canceled. Go practice time affluence. You have one free hour.’

“The only proviso was that they were not allowed to fill that hour with work. They had to do something unexpected: Read for pleasure. Take a hike. Meet a friend for coffee. One student was so grateful for this one-hour reprieve in her overpacked schedule that, at news of this gift, she started to cry.”

If you want happy, engaged employees, giving them the gift of some kind of time affluence is an absolute requirement.


Flexible/Unlimited Paid Time Off

Writing for Fast Company, Nathan Christensen, CEO of Mammoth Media, described his observations after the first year of offering Unlimited Paid Time Off to his employees.


He discovered, paradoxically, that while being the most valued benefit across the company—after health insurance and 401(k)—employees took off, on average, only two to three weeks, the same amount that was allotted in the previous year.


He realized that offering Unlimited PTO communicated a core company value: trust. The new policy gives employees autonomy over their work, over their non-work-related obligations, and it treats employees as individuals with different work styles and personal lives.


Remote Work Options

There are two types of remote work options (aka, work-from-home, aka WFH).

You can extend this to your office-based employees for discretionary use. Maybe the babysitter canceled at the last minute. Maybe they have a cough and would rather work from bed than take the day off or come in and pollute the office. Maybe they’re out of town but don’t want to fall behind. Much like Unlimited PTO, WFH days instill a spirit of independence and responsibility in your workforce.


The other type is a completely remote option. Portions of your workforce might not need to be in the office. Positions that are completely remote will cut down on overhead and expand the hiring pool beyond the borders of a reasonable commute.


Summer Fridays or Fun Days Off

Returning to Psyc 157’s special assignment, scheduling days or portions of days to deposit into employees’ “time affluence” piggy bank might just make them cry for joy.

Research shows that giving employees a day or afternoon off during the summer actually increases productivity, boosts morale, and reduces turnover.

A study from Captivate Network found that 45% of workers felt more distracted during the summer. Another study by Opinion Research Corporation showed that 66% of employees who do have summer hours felt more productive as a result.

According to the consulting firm Adecco, shortened summer workweeks have gotten more popular because employers are seeing an “increase employee morale and all the good things that go with that, such as higher retention, candidate attraction, and productivity.”



Financial Wellness

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 96.1% of Americans currently have a job. And yet, 69% of American adults have little to no savings and are living paycheck to paycheck.

According to the Federal Reserve’s Report of the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2017:

  • 40% of adults, if faced with an unexpected expense of $400, would either not be able to cover it or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money.
  • Over 20% of adults are not able to pay all of their current month’s bills in full.
  • Over 25% of adults skipped necessary medical care in 2017 due to being unable to afford the cost.

Finding the gaps that paychecks and benefits aren’t covering to resolve employee financial stress could save you big time. According to Financial Fitness Group, stress costs American businesses $300 billion per year in lost productivity and turnover costs.

We’ve already written about the most pressing financial benefits you need to stay competitive (like financial education, student loan aid, 401(k) with some percentage matching, and more). We’ve written about how financial wellness in the workplace will positively impact your bottom line. And we’ve even put together a Financial Wellness Resource Library to jumpstart your company’s financial literacy.

If you’re interested in those topics, definitely visit the above links. But this time we’re going to highlight some of the more unexpected and unusual benefits that relieve financial and “time poverty” related stress. Some of these aren’t feasible for most companies, but they might spark some inspiration.

  • Umpqua Regional Bank offsets the career investment of a professional wardrobe by loaning staff up to $1,000 a year, repayable through payroll deductions, to buy work wear.
  • Epic Systems, Fizziology, and AirBnb are just a few of many companies who offer travel stipends to help fund employees’ vacations.
  • Facebook gives $4,000 in “Baby Cash” to employees with a new baby.
  • Food is a major expense, and bringing lunch from home everyday can be a time-consuming ritual. That’s why Zappos, among many other companies (ahem, DailyPay), offers its employees free lunches and snacks.
  • Commuting expenses—including gas, parking, and public transportation—can quickly add up. It’s becoming more common practice to offer pre-tax commuter benefits. ActioNet Inc goes one step farther with a $100 p/month commuter stipend. Harvard not only pays its employees a $20 p/month “bike to work” stipend, but they also cover the taxes associated with it.
  • Evernote gives employees free twice-monthly house-cleaning, so they’re less stressed both on and off the clock.  

On-site services can save a workforce an incredible amount of time and money. Such services also prevent the need for taking time off.

  • Google employs on-site medical care.
  • SAS provides on-site childcare to employees at their headquarters and at nearby daycare centers for their other locations.
  • JibJab Media picks up a full bag of laundry from their employees every Monday, and returns it the next day, clean and folded.

If these perks seem a bit extreme for your budget, we’d be remiss not to mention the premier financial wellness benefit to come around since the very first payday: DailyPay!

With the average American paying $1,000 per year in late fees and overdraft fees, giving them the financial buffer to prevent those unnecessary costs will keep that money in their wallets. With DailyPay, employees gain access to their earned but unpaid income at any point in the pay period to help them cover their most pressing financial needs. And the best part is, it’s cheaper than cleaning their houses or doing their laundry!

Applicant Pool CTA

To learn more about increasing the applicant pool and lowering time-to-hire, check out our white paper, where we’ve observed that:

  • Applicants are 1.9x more likely to apply for a job with daily payments
  • Applicants are willing to take, on average, a 13% pay reduction for a job with daily payments
  • Applicants are 1.5x more likely to apply for a job with 50% less signing bonus if it offers daily payments