In these roller coaster economic times, figuring out a benefits plan that caters to a diverse group of employees can be a bit like solving a jigsaw puzzle.
A well-rounded platform requires a menu of choices that reaches all employee demographics and needs, while encouraging a healthy work-life balance. The latter is where non-traditional benefits, or perks, can provide that missing piece of the puzzle.
Non-traditional benefits, ranging from discounts on legal plans to pet insurance, boost employee morale – essential to protecting every business’s bottom line – and cost nothing to the employer while saving employees money on an array of services.
Perks play an important role in keeping the workforce happy: According to the 9th Annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends, 61 percent of employees value these services as a way to obtain benefits that meet their personal needs. But nearly half of employers underestimated the level of employee interest and appreciation of these products – underlining a missed opportunity to retain the best workers.
Here are some non-traditional benefits that are free to you but meaningful to your employees:
• Fitness center discounts: Many gyms will give your company access to lower rates with no minimums if you agree to promote their gym to your employees. But steer clear of gyms that require you to have a certain percentage or number of employees enrolled – the hassle usually isn’t worth it.
• Pet insurance: Most companies that offer pet insurance offer it as an employee-paid benefit; that is, the employee covers the costs for their animals. Your insurance broker can direct you to pet insurers like VPI or PurinaCare, who will work with you to set up plan options and even payroll deduction for your employees.
• Banking discounts: The bank or credit union that your business uses often extends discounts and benefits to your employees. Common perks are free checking, a waived minimum balance, and lower interest rates for loans.
• Cell phone discounts: Your company cell phone plan might link friends and family to a better rate. Even small businesses can usually take advantage of this.
• Dry cleaning pickup: If your employees are expected to wear suits and more formal attire, it’s probably a weekly annoyance to stop by the dry cleaner. Many dry cleaners often free pickup and delivery straight to your office and can bill the employee directly.
• Service locator programs: Do you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? Many EAPs offer a service locator service, which can help your employees find childcare or eldercare options in their area.
• Legal referral programs and discounts: If you have a relationship with a specific law firm, ask about discounted fees for routine services like wills and basic estate planning. Your company doesn’t have to cover the cost – but outlining the basic prices goes a long way in making things easier for your employees.
• Expense pass-through for concierge services: Your employees value their time – make things easier for them by offering concierge services at cost. For example, offering to coordinate flowers for a spouse’s birthday, lunch to be delivered and having greeting cards on hand for birthdays is an easy way to save your employee from having to run errands during the lunch hour or leave early.
A few key questions employers should ask themselves when deciding whether to offer non-traditional benefits include: 1) Does it lower the cost for a service? And 2) Does it make my employee’s life easier?
But do keep this in mind – expense pass-through options can put a big dent in your employees’ take-home pay. This, in turn, can affect an employee’s perception of you as an employer. So be mindful of the “extras” you offer to pass along.
According to the MetLife study, only 17 percent of employers indicated that voluntary benefits are a very significant part of their benefits strategy. Find that missing piece of the puzzle – and boost employee morale – with a well-designed perks platform.
Scott Thompson is an advisor for FirstPerson, which itself offers a wide array of non-traditional benefits to its employees. For more information, please visit www.firstpersonadvisors.com.
To search the archive of Perspectives articles, go to the Search page