In some geographical regions and in highly competitive industries, labor is a commodity that is not easily renewed or replaced. You want to find and keep good employees to decrease the expense of turnover and training, and employers must be increasingly creative in efforts to “sweeten the deal.” Traditional benefits alone simply don’t cut it anymore in many locations-every employer in your sector may be offering group medical and dental insurance and a 401k. So how do stand out from the crowd? The use of alternative benefits is one important way to attract and retain high quality employees.
What’s “alternative” about benefits?
Alternative benefits are so named because they are incentives offered to employees that are not part what is considered a traditional benefits package. They are limited only by the employer’s creativity and ability to broker deals with other organizations, and may include such benefits as the following:
Public transportation discounts
Health club memberships
Child care co-ops
After work activities
What are the best alternative benefits?
The answer depends on many factors, of course, since all employees and their needs are different. And you need to consider your resources as well-some alternative benefits are more expensive to administer than others. But keep this important guideline in mind: work is not life. With a few (perhaps unstable) exceptions, employees do not live for their jobs-they go to their jobs so they can more fully live. Alternative benefits that help employees do that are sure to be big hits. For instance, onsite massages are terrific stress reducers, but what John, who works on the shop floor, really wants is to be able to go to his son’s baseball game at 3:00, well before his shift is over. Free popcorn and sodas are great, but it’s being able to set her own schedule that keeps Megan from going to work for a competitor.
When you remember that not everyone needs tuition reimbursement, but everyone wants better quality of life, it’s easy to make good decisions about alternative benefits. Here are some from the list above with a short description of how these benefits help to keep employees happy in their non-work lives:
Flex time allows employees to work additional hours so they can take those hours as paid time off later. Mary might have a family event coming up, but she does not have enough personal leave to take the day off. Planning in advance, she works 88 hours the preceding pay period so she can take 8 paid hours off when she needs to.
Shift sharing means two or more part-time workers share a full-time shift’s hours between them. The shift is covered, and the employees gain desired flexibility.
Telecommuting is when an employee works from home or another suitable location rather than commuting to the job site. It is obviously not applicable to all jobs or industries, but Internet technology is steadily increasing the number of workers who do part or all of their work from a remote site. This is a particularly attractive option in large urban areas where rush hour commutes to the office can be long and nightmarish.
Health club or gym memberships pay big dividends, both for the worker and the employer. A healthier employee is happier and more productive, and you save money on insurance premiums and absenteeism.
Take stock of your employees, their needs, and your community resources. With some careful planning and research, you can craft an alternative benefits package that meets employees’ needs while also bringing measurable benefits to your bottom line. Employees are not only your most valuable resource; they are also the most desired commodity of your competitors. It’s in your best business interest to treat them well.
If the idea sounds good to you, but you lack the time or resources to design an alternative benefits package, consider outsourcing your Human Resources functions. A Professional Employer Organization, or PEO, specializes in all aspects of the employee-employer relationship and can take over your HR-related tasks efficiently and professionally. A high quality PEO like Workforce Solutions has experts on staff with lots of experience in administering benefits, including those that will keep your employees loyal. Give them a call today to find out more.