Off-site team building events and other outings are fantastic ways to celebrate your team, but there might be an even better way to show your employees you have their backs.
In fact, perks and benefits are increasingly becoming more important in companies’ efforts to attract and retain employees, and for good reason. More than 75% of employees would prefer additional benefits to a salary increase, and more than half say that benefits and perks are a top consideration when considering a job, according to Glassdoor.
While many small businesses lament that their perks can’t possibly live up to the unlimited vacation and concierge services tech companies are famous for, they shouldn’t despair: There are lots of ways to help make your employees’ lives easier and earn their loyalty.
Here are four low- to no-cost perks that can show your employees you truly appreciate them all year long — and as a bonus, can help make it easier to attract and retain top-tier employees in today’s competitive environment.
1. Help them give back
Today’s worker is motivated by altruism and corporate social responsibility, and that’s why offering them options to volunteer can be a win-win-win. It fulfills their desire to give back, improves their allegiance to your company and benefits the community.
One study found that almost 40% of respondents named their companies’ volunteer policies as part of the reason they interviewed, and more than half said volunteering played a role in accepting an offer.
And not only does it help promote employee engagement, but it can also contribute to better physical, mental and emotional health and less stress, as reported in UnitedHealth Group’s Doing Good is Good for You: 2013 Health and Volunteering Study.
2. Offer flexibility
If you want to make employees cheer, offer them flexible working hours. In one survey, parents valued flexibility and work-life balance, 84% and 80% respectively, over the more common benefits of health insurance (42 percent) and retirement plans (29 percent).
While telecommuting is clearly not practical for all businesses and positions, it would still be wise to investigate ways that you can improve flexibility, such as offering select Friday afternoons off or staggered hours, which might even allow your business to run more profitably thanks to expanded hours of operation and a decreased need for expensive office space.
3. Motivate them to stay healthy
You don’t have to build a fancy gym or have an on-site yogi or chef to take advantage of wellness benefits. Consider hosting a weekly salad buffet, encouraging walking meetings, providing healthy snacks and sharing ideas for free community resources as ways to boost morale and encourage a healthier lifestyle.
Again, this perk can benefit you, too: More than three-quarters of respondents to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2015 benefits survey rated their wellness initiatives as “somewhat effective” or “very effective” in reducing health care costs.
4. Fund their education
We admit this is a biggie, but believe it or not, it IS possible. With many younger employees struggling with crushing student debt — the average student graduated with more than $30,000 in student loans in 2015 — helping employees with loans is a coveted perk that has earned splashy headlines for big firms the likes of Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC).
But you don’t have to be a giant to offer some relief. With those payments crippling the younger generation’s ability to save for retirement, one solution may be to swap out a traditional 401(k) match with student loan debt repayment, preferred by nearly half of the respondents to a survey from Student Loan Hero. Another savvy small business, student loan service provider LendEDU, currently offers employees $200 a month toward their student loan payments.
An additional education-related perk to consider is tuition assistance, offered by more than half of the companies surveyed for the 2016 Employee Benefits Survey from the Society for Human Resource Management. This one may even earn you a tax break.