In-Demand Work Perks for Employees

A group of male and female employees gather around a table and eat pizza in front of a large, bright window.

For small businesses looking to attract quality staff in a tight labor market, recruitment is half the battle. But equally critical, keeping employees for longer than a few months wins the war.

In today’s environment, unemployment is low, and job-hopping is common, making it tough for small businesses to hold on to top talent. In a recent survey of 600 U.S. businesses, owners pointed to retaining workers as the hardest and costliest aspect of their business. Even more worrisome, one in three expect employees to stay with them for an average of less than one year.

To keep employees longer, small businesses have to offer a competitive salary, the ability for advancement, and something more. Small businesses who want to set themselves apart must create a personalized and engaging workplace—and one way to do that is through office perks.

For cash-strapped small businesses, such perks don’t have to break the bank. Here are five ways businesses can improve quality of life for employees, while improving their staff churn.

1. Flexible Work Schedules

Working the traditional Monday-Friday 9-to-5 is no longer appealing to many workers. They expect more flexible schedules, including the option to work from home. And thanks to advances in technology, many employees don’t have to be tethered to a desk to get their jobs done.

Why It Works: Life has a funny way of happening anytime—even during work hours. Companies can eliminate some employee stress by enabling their employees to handle those personal obligations and emergencies as they come up. This can boost productivity and inspire loyalty.

Flexible work arrangements can also be a powerful recruiting tool. According to a recent PayScale survey, 69% of people polled said flexible work options were one of the “most important factors” when considering a job.

Absenteeism is also reduced when flexibility is part of the culture. If employees have the time to handle their personal matters, they’re less inclined to call out sick.

2. Training and Development

Small businesses may not be able to afford extra cash or all-expense-paid trips for employees, but they can still offer training and development, something that can be much more valuable for both parties. That might include seminars, tuition reimbursement and mentoring. Hands-on development in which employees learn other functions of their company's operations is also an effective way to enhance skills.

Why It Works: By helping to grow your employees' skills, you're also enabling them to become an even more valuable asset to your business. Providing training also keeps employees engaged, a necessary component in retaining workers.

In a tight job market, workers expect job growth and opportunities to grow their skillsets. According to a recent study of 1,200 U.S. based employees, 92% of survey respondents said learning something new makes them more motivated, while 79% of job seekers said on-the-job training has to be on the list of perks a company offers.

3. Freebies for All

Sometimes, it's small gestures that matter. Employees will appreciate occasional perks like free food, drinks and event tickets. Businesses can also get creative by partnering with other local organizations to offer employee discounts at gyms, restaurants or dry cleaners.

Why It Works: There's no replacement for a competitive wage, but employees still appreciate perks beyond just cash. In fact, office freebies are becoming the norm: According to The Society For Human Resource Management’s 2018 Employee Benefits survey, 81% of the companies surveyed provided free coffee, and 32% offered paid snacks and beverages.

4. Individually Tailored Perks

Almost all employees crave personal acknowledgment for a job well-done. But many businesses still fall short of doing much more than a rote "thank you."

Getting creative with your rewards can go a long way. Take the hard-working employee who finished a project ahead of schedule and under budget, who is also a fitness enthusiast. Paying her gym membership for two months may not cost the organization much, but the goodwill that results can be invaluable.

Why It Works: Your workforce is comprised of individuals who are all motivated differently, so it's key to customize your reward system. And for budget-conscious small businesses, that doesn't mean you have to spend a huge amount: if the award is particularly geared toward what that individual really likes, the gesture can be priceless.

5. Extra Time Off

When cash bonuses and raises aren’t an option, you can keep employees happy by giving them more paid time off. There are a number of ways to do that. Some popular methods include closing the office early on Fridays during the summer, giving employees paid leave to care for loved ones, paying them days off to volunteer, and rewarding employees with extra time off when they hit performance goals.

Why It Works: Time is precious, and workers across America have little of it. By rewarding your employees with extra days off, it enables them to take care of their personal lives. Employees, in turn, are happier and more productive when they are working.

A high salary may attract an employee to a company, but that alone isn’t going to keep them forever. Companies that can hold on to employees have to offer both a fair salary and customized perks. Without a doubt, pay matters—but so does happiness, pride and a sense of accomplishment. Providing a combination of both will ensure your employees stay with you and keep your business running smoothly.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Fifth Third Bank, National Association, and are solely the opinions of the author. This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, or other professional services by Fifth Third Bank, National Association or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, and are provided without any warranty whatsoever. Deposit and credit products provided by Fifth Third Bank, National Association, Member FDIC.