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Creative Perks to Offer Your Employees

Creative Perks to Offer Your Employees

On August 12th, 2016, Catalyst published a list of somewhat frightening statistics about employee turnover and retention. Among them are:

  • In 2015, 33.4 million U.S. employees left their jobs. Voluntarily.
  • An additional 37 percent are considering taking this same action themselves.
  • For each employee that must be replaced, it costs the company roughly 21.4 percent of that position’s salary to get the new person hired and trained.
  • Some of the top reasons people choose to leave their jobs include not enough compensation, limited advancement opportunities, and a lack of recognition for a job well done.

This puts a lot of small business owners in a tough predicament as one of the greatest “perks” you can offer your staff is more money or a promotion. However, this isn’t always possible, especially if you’re working with a limited budget or aren’t quite big enough to put your top talent in a higher position. So what can you do to stop your employees from leaving?

One option is to get creative with your employee perks, offering the people who work for you things that they may not necessarily find somewhere else. This enables you to attract and retain top talent in a way that sets you apart from your competitors. It also makes it possible to protect your bottom line, as some options don’t cost anything at all and, for those that do, the costs associated are often minimal compared to what you’d pay if you had to replace your staff.

If you feel at a loss for what types of perks you could provide, here are some ideas to consider, courtesy of employee relations experts, other small business owners, and the employees who’ve received them:

Steve Creasy, President & Owner, South Street Designs LLC: “Since we also have a lot of remote employees in Asia, we give them a subsidy to upgrade their computer and internet speed at home so they can be more effective at work.”

Shelby Pipken, Director of Communications, Four Columns Marketing: “Season tickets to Baylor (or college of choice) football games. Most of us are Baylor fans/graduated from Baylor University and we are dedicated sports fans. It’s an interesting perk I haven’t found anywhere else!

Pierre Tremblay, Director of Human Resources, Dupray: “Today, most employees are rarely home. They’re either working very hard at the office, out for a meal, or doing an activity. People value their time and attempt to maximize efficiency towards pleasure and work. Accordingly, we’ve noticed many employees simply slack on cleaning their home. We offer a voucher for home cleaning services.”

Shaun Walker, HEROfarm: “We make what is important to our employees important to our company. We encourage our employees to actively share with us the clients, organizations, programs or initiatives they’d like to work with on a pro bono basis and we reach out to them. Connecting our work with a worthwhile endeavor makes it meaningful not only to those of us who work on it, but it also becomes more appealing to those who view or experience it.”

Nellie Akalp, CEO, CorpNet.com: “We offer incentives with various tiers of sales goals. If smaller tiers are met, we cater lunch. When larger tiers are met, we offer beach days so the team can get out and have a play day to reward them for their hard work and dedication to our business.”

Emma Repp, Project Manager, Bonanza: “Our very special perk is ‘Freedom February,’ where all employees are rewarded a bonus inversely proportional to their income to cover travel costs, given five additional vacation days they have to use during the month of February, encouraged to spend any or all of the month outside of Seattle (working remotely), and have the option to travel with coworkers to pre-researched destinations. This year those destinations are Maui, Buenos Aires, and Barcelona.”

Marieli Acevedo, Public Relations, Dreemkacher: “If I am able to consistently make hard deadlines and grant last minute requests, [the CEO] will find a way to gift me or other employees with a $50 gift card to our favorite coffee shop or allow us to go on a happy hour on the company’s dime. This boosts company moral and encourages us to stay motivated through difficult times. Most of the time, employees just want acknowledgement of a job well done, and this definitely sweetens it up!”

Sarah Gulbrandsen, Director of Marketing, RingPartner: “After an employee’s first three months, they receive a pair of red shoes. Each person has the ability to choose a pair of red shoes that best suits them. Additionally, each year on their ‘workiversary’ they are given a new pair of red shoes.”

Katy Saulpaugh, Practice Lead, Enterprise Knowledge, LLC: “My company has a somewhat unusual perk – a $3000 subsidy for buying a hybrid car, to incentivize employees to be more environmentally friendly. I actually was the first person at my company to use this benefit. I bought a Ford Fusion last year. For me the subsidy made the difference between buying a standard and hybrid.”

Frederick Towles, The Towles Group Inc.: “During the summer months (July and August), we reduce our work week by one day (Fridays off) and we reduce the remaining work days by an hour. Our normal hours are 10am – 6pm, but during the summer months we work 10am – 5pm Monday – Thursday. With those reductions, we still pay the employees for the week as if they worked Monday through Friday from 10am to 6pm.”

Brad Nierenberg, CEO & Founder, RedPeg Marketing: “The one perk that I offer that I think means more than any bonus or vacation is the opportunity to paint your own block on the wall of our building’s stairwells. Any employee who works at RedPeg Marketing for more than a year has the opportunity to paint a block with their own personal design that represents who they are. As a result, every time an employee walks up or down the stairs, they take in the history of the company and all those who have contributed to the 20+ years of success. It’s unique for the employee because it’s something they earn and something that will live on in the building forever.”

Gene Caballero, Co-Founder, GreenPal: “What we offer is a unique perk to all of our employees, a music room. Headquartered in Nashville, TN, most of our employees are either musicians or play music for fun. Playing an instrument has been scientifically proven to engage practically every area of the brain at once, especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices. The brain is a muscle and learning and playing music is like a full body workout that strengthens those brain functions, allowing us to apply that strength to other activities….like creativity.”

Desiree Buchanan, Senior Communications Manager, The Black Tux: “The Black Tux is a tech start-up based in Santa Monica, CA, and it’s the first company I’ve ever worked for that allows employees to bring their dogs to work. The atmosphere here is always upbeat, warm, and full of life due to all these little pups running around, sitting in meetings with us, and keeping us in good spirits. Somehow we’ve been able to keep this perk alive due to all our good natured doggies.”

Julie Sue Auslander, President/Chief Cultural Officer, cSubs: “We have a vacation incentive awards program where every quarter we give out cSubs $$$$. After accumulating 5,000 cSub $$$ worth of successes, these dollars can be exchanged for a vacation for up to six people anywhere in the U.S.A.; 8,000 cSubs $$$ is a vacation plus airfare for two.”

Madeline Enos, Media Relations Specialist, Software Advice: “My company offers a ‘Work Abroad’ program which is a unique way to travel and see the world without using up all your vacation time. Last April, I had the opportunity to visit Thailand for the three weeks, do my work remotely, and get paid to check my email from the beach.”

Rishabh Kaul, Co-founder, Belong: “We have 2 in-house chefs that make hot home cooked meals for all the employees in our office.”

Jessica Cohen, Executive Vice President, Aria Marketing: “After working at Aria for 1 year, the company will pay for either your gym membership, cell phone, or a transportation credit – your choice (this benefit lasts as long as you stay at the company). When you have been at Aria for 3 years, we will pay for you to travel anywhere in the continental US to attend a (relevant) conference, and stay for 3 nights to enjoy the city you choose! All expenses are paid for by Aria. Once you have worked at Aria for 4 years, you can work from home on Fridays – whenever you want (prior to that anniversary, you can still work at home, but you need management approval). On your 10 year anniversary, you acquire 1% ownership of the company!”

David Scarola, Vice President, The Alternative Board: “One of our members offers his employees a $500 annual budget for the personal development activity of their choosing. The employees are encouraged to think outside of the business sphere and work on something they’ve always wanted to do but never had the time or opportunity for. Employees have tried music and language classes, as well as educational retreats.”

Eric Chiang, Marketing Specialist, Life Before Work Travel: “Since our company operates internationally and many of our team are on location running tours continuously, most employees have not had the chance to meet each other in real life. For the company’s 10th anniversary next March, our founder, Brady, has rented out a private island in Panama and is flying the entire team in, along with select past Life Before Work Travellers, for a week long island party and tropical reunion. This was a compelling perk to starting work with such a young, fun-loving company and made me feel like I was joining a family in an environment where not a single day has felt like work.”

So, what type of creative perks did this list inspire for your small business? Now all you have to do is put them in place!

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by Christina DeBusk // Freelance writer, author, and small business consultant committed to helping entrepreneurs achieve higher levels of success.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.