You shouldn’t just think of perks as a nice little bonus thing you do for your employees. Perks actually serve four purposes:
- They make up for wage gaps when you can’t afford to pay as much as the competition.
- They build employee loyalty so they’ll stay with you even when the above-mentioned wage gaps loom.
- They boost employee happiness, which in turn boosts productivity.
- They make your firm sexier for potential new hires, especially when your current employees do half of your recruitment marketing on social media by boasting how cool it is to have you as their boss.
The problem of course is that your firm is simply not going to be able to afford the perks that monster companies offer their employees. You probably don’t have the room or financial resources to offer on-site pre-school classes or bowling alleys.
When creating a list of perks that you can afford, there are a couple of points to keep in mind. First, some perks can really benefit your firm (aside from the four points mentioned above). For example, picking up the tab for a seminar or calling in a guest speaker can both boost your employee’s career as well as give you a more skilled worker on your team.
Second, there’s evidence that happy employees not only have higher productivity, they also pass that happiness quotient on to clients. Happy clients make referrals and brag about you on social media. So perking up the workplace is actually a roundabout form of marketing. Third, some perks offer the opportunity to both get to know the employees better as well as learn what they might consider to be an awesome perk (that won’t destroy your bottom line). For example, if you have a beer-tasting session once a week or so on company time, you’ll be given the chance to know what kind of music your people are into, what kind of energy drinks they prefer, if they’ve always wanted to take karate lessons, what have you. You can use these preferences to tailor further perks to individual employees, making them feel like a million bucks because you provide perks tailored specifically to them instead of something more generic.
(Obviously you have to take care to not be taken advantage of in this situation. You’re out to get ideas for perks, not to jot down a shopping list of every single thing an employee doesn’t want to pay for him or herself.) The fourth point to keep in mind is that some perks don’t have to cost you any money out of pocket at all. For example some (or even all) work days can be done remotely. Or you can let employees bring their dogs to work on specific days, or just in general (make sure the furry friends stay off the furniture clients will be sitting on though).
With all of that being said, let’s see if we can generate some ideas for perks that won’t make your wallet scream. The fourth point to keep in mind is that some perks don’t have to cost you any money out of pocket at all. For example some (or even all) work days can be done remotely. Or you can let employees bring their dogs to work on specific days, or just in general (make sure the furry friends stay off the furniture clients will be sitting on though).
With all of that being said, let’s see if we can generate some ideas for perks that won’t make your wallet scream.
- More vacation time/paid vacation time.
- Helping out with auto/home/life insurance.
- Food, whether it’s snacks, upgraded coffee machines, or full-on prepared meals every day or once a week.
- Health club memberships.
- Sports events (bowling nights, softball, etc.).
- Reimbursing or helping out with tuition costs for continued education.
- Within-the-firm upward education. (Helping out when employees want to widen their skillset for upward mobility within your firm.)
- A concierge. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a fancy person; this can be a student who comes in once a day or once a week to do grocery shipping, pick up dry cleaning, buy anniversary presents, and so on for your employees, saving them time and stress.
- Paid time off for volunteer activities. (This makes you look awesome when your employee tells other people about it.)
- Grants to charities picked by your employees.
- Extended paid maternity leave.
- Pay for seminars, guests-speakers, classes, on-line classes, etc.
- Classes for non-accounting skills (baking, a martial art, yoga, guitar, etc.).
- Offer spousal benefits to same-sex couples (if you use this perk you’ll still be on the cutting edge at the time this post is being written).
- Have a masseuse come in once a week.
- Pay for smoking cessation programs.
- Offer free or reduced-cost services and/or consultations to family members of employees.
- Tickets to sporting events, concerts, amusement parks, movies, etc.
- Ergonomic furniture.
- A certain number of Fridays off per month (e.g. every other week).
- Helping out with student debt.
- Paying a portion of a deceased employee’s salary to their spouse for a set number of years after their death.
- Upgraded work spaces.
- Replace damaged gear (e.g. laptops).
- Board game nights.
- A fridge full of ice cream.
- Helping out with travel costs when someone goes on holiday.
- On-site laundry machines that employees can use.
- Contests like cook-offs or for the best martini.
- Movie days.
- Themed breaks like “popcorn breaks” or “cupcake breaks”.
The ultimate point is that there’s no need to break the bank in order to offer cool perks. Like anything else in building a business, choosing the best perks is an experiment. Don’t be afraid to tweak and tinker your offered perks until you hit on a combination that has your employees praising your name on their Facebook account.