Employee experience matters. We focus so much of our attention on business outcomes and customers that often our employee experience is lacking without us realizing it.
Which is a big problem. 😔
One way to create an excellent employee experience is to pay attention to the benefits and perks we give our employees. Are we giving them the benefits and perks that matter to them?
Providing benefits and perks that improve the quality of your employees’ lives is crucial for a positive employee experience and can be a key competitive differentiator in a crowded space. Nearly every company offers benefits (and are often required to), but the perks you offer can make or break a promising candidate’s decision to work at your company.
“Companies that invest in employee experience are four times more profitable than those that don’t.”
–Blake Morgan, Forbes
Benefits vs. perks
Before we dive into today's topic, let's take a look at the difference between benefits and perks. The benefits and perks you offer your team say a lot about your company culture and the employee experience you want to promote. It's essential to look outside the box and provide employee benefits and perks that speak to your company’s values.
Here’s how we think about it:
Employees need benefits.
Employees want perks.
As you’re deciding how to invest in your employees, you’ll likely want to focus on benefits first. Benefits are typically the most necessary and valuable to your employees, and are likely to be more of a financial investment for your company. On the other hand, perks tend to be less costly, but can still have an outsized impact on employee engagement and company culture.
Oftentimes, employees expect you to offer certain benefits—like healthcare or time off—while perks are an opportunity to set your company apart with unique, fun offerings—like on-site fitness classes or a pet-friendly office.
5 benefits you should invest in
Let’s start with the four best company benefits that will help your employees feel appreciated and help them feel more focused at work.
If you’re based in the United States, navigating healthcare costs can be a nightmare. If you’re an uninsured American, you could be paying thousands of dollars for just a ride in an ambulance. Makes you want to seek help, doesn’t it? 🤦♀️
This financial burden can make it challenging for American workers to get the care they need. But according to Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs, our physical needs are essential (sometimes referred to as hygiene factors). To do fantastic work and continue to grow, we need to be healthy, have food and water, feel safe—pretty standard stuff!
If you want your employees to feel comfortable at work, they can't do so while struggling with their health—including their mental health.
Providing healthcare coverage for your employees if they don't have access to a plan can be a literal lifesaver. Plus, it’s required for companies with more than 50 employees!
If you live outside of the United States, you may not need to worry about healthcare coverage due to universal health coverage or some other form of healthcare, but it may still be worth it to look into how you can support your employees through preventative healthcare and wellness programs.
Consider the various types of health insurance you can offer your employees. Providing health, dental, vision insurance, or even health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) will ensure your employees are covered and able to take care of a wide range of health problems.
Life insurance is another great benefit that secures an employee’s family’s future in unfortunate situations. If a family loses one source of income, they could end up in a dire financial position. Utilizing life insurance allows your employee's families to be protected if something horrible happens.
Offering life insurance will give every employee and their family peace of mind. You should also educate your employees on the benefits of purchasing their own plans as well. Many employees are underprepared and underinsured when it comes to life insurance.
Paid time off—that actually gets taken
We need time away from work to recharge, but there’s an issue: employees aren’t using vacation time as much as they should be. Paid time off can boost employee productivity when implemented effectively, giving your employees time to rediscover their love for your company and battle burnout.
It's not enough to give paid time off—your employees need to feel comfortable taking it. How does your current company culture treat vacations? Are people proud of the time they spend traveling, or are they scared to request a day off? And when they’re on vacation, are they still responding to emails? Make it part of your culture to really unplug on vacations.
Offering paid sick days is also critical. Sick employees coming into the office because they don’t want to lose a day of income or don’t have enough vacation days doesn’t help your bottom line. The employees aren't as productive as they could be, and they’re spreading germs! 😷
The arrival of a new family member is an exhilarating—and exhausting—time, and having to go back to work immediately can be challenging for your employees. Offering parental leave—for both mothers and fathers—makes a huge difference in your employees’ personal lives and ensures that when they come back, they’re ready to be back and engaged with their work.
Even with a great leave policy, company culture needs to support it. With this bonus, a longtime Bonusly employee publicly recognized our CEO for taking his parental leave and living our company’s core values:
While the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) lets employees take unpaid leave for certain life events, your company can get ahead of the curve by offering paid parental leave. It’ll help you stand out as an employer and communicate that you fully support your employees’ personal lives! 🍼
401(k) and retirement planning
As much as you don't want to see your employees leave, retirement is a part of the employee lifecycle. It's hard for anyone to retire when they don’t have enough saved for retirement.
Thoughtful employers make sure their employees are informed about retirement savings and help them by matching their contributions. According to Fidelity, the average 401(k) match is around 4.7%. Many people are underprepared for retirement, so giving your employees advice on retirement savings will help them be better prepared for life after your company.
8 perks your employees will love
Next, let’s move on to the eight perks you can offer your employees in addition to your benefits. These perks are what can truly set your company apart from the rest!
Need other ideas to differentiate your company? Here's how to celebrate work anniversaries like a pro.
Student loan assistance
Student loan debt has reached over $1.7 trillion in the United States. Many of your employees are likely dealing with student loan debt. If your employees’ monthly payments are high, this is likely stopping them from giving you their best work due to stress, or even because they have to work multiple jobs to pay off their debt. Both public and private companies are beginning to offer student loan assistance as a perk to lift some of the weight off their loyal employees.
Many employees want student loan assistance, as much as they want 401(k) matching. By helping your employees pay off their student loan debt faster, they have more money to reinvest into their retirement savings. Offering both student loan assistance and 401(k) matching would be ideal to help your employees find their financial footing, and set them up for success in the future!
Flexible scheduling and remote work
While working in an office environment can be great for bringing your employees together face-to-face, many employees want flexible scheduling or work-from-home opportunities. You might find that many employees are much more productive on their own schedule, rather than the traditional 9-5!
This is something you can ease into. Giving employees the ability to work from home a few times a week—or even every workday—can help promote flexibility and demonstrate your trust in your employees.
Your employees want to learn how to do their job more effectively—and they want to know they have advancement and career growth opportunities. Are you afraid of training your employees because they might leave with your training? This typically only happens when you train employees, but don’t give them a path for upward mobility in your company.
91% of Highly Engaged employees are satisfied with their professional development opportunities compared to only 28% of Actively Disengaged employees.
–Bonusly State of Employee Engagement 2019
Professional development, along with the ability to make more income and take on additional responsibility within the company, has a huge impact on employee experience. Large or small, offering continuing education or training opportunities like these can really make a difference:
- Paying for or keeping a library of professional development books
- Tuition reimbursement for continuing education
- Conference tickets
- Professional organization dues (For example, SHRM dues)
- Coaching or mentoring programs
- Sending newly promoted employees to trainings
- Engaging external speakers to host learning for your team or company
If you want to amplify the parental leave benefit, you could also offer child care as a perk for working parents. Some companies provide child care stipends or even create on-site daycare centers for their employees.
On average, American workers stay late 2.5 days a week, whether in their home or company office. Most of the time, workers stay late because they feel pressured to do so. While this time may add to some extra money in your pocket, it makes you lose out on family time, sleep, and time to create healthy meals. Working late is an intense strain on work/life balance.
Creating a balance between work and life is the best way for your employees to come to work each day feeling refreshed. Try to keep an eye on employees who are continuously burning the midnight oil, instill out-of-office policies, and work with your employees to understand how you can create a healthier work/life balance for them.
Remember to encourage turning on that Do Not Disturb before and after working hours! 🚫
Lunch stipend or team lunch
This is a perk everyone loves! The simple act of eating lunch together can go a long way in building stronger teams. It’s more than just eating together—it’s the concept of putting aside time during a busy day to take a break with your colleagues.
Many companies are investing in providing lunch for their employees, and it’s often tax-deductible! That includes Bonusly! Before the pandemic, our company provided Wednesday team lunches, which were a big highlight. Now, every employee receives a lunch stipend for food delivery to their home.
Creating an experience around food is one of the easiest things a company can do to increase employee morale and overall company culture.
–Christine Marcus, founder and CEO of Alchemista, a corporate catering service.
Just as health insurance is an excellent employee benefit, you can increase the value of health insurance by investing in an employee wellness program. Wellness programs promote an active lifestyle and fill in the gaps not covered by health insurance. Your wellness program might include things like providing healthy snacks at work, subsidizing a gym membership, offering standing desks, and more.
Make sure that your employee wellness program is inclusive and can address the full spectrum of healthy lifestyles. Health and wellness look different for all employees, and your program should reflect that variety.
Employee recognition and reward programs
Last but not least, a fantastic perk is creating an employee recognition and reward program for your team. Your employees do great work every day, and they deserve to be recognized for it. Employee rewards can be as simple as saying thank you or providing branded swag, or you can reward your employees with things like basketball tickets, hotels, laptops, and more.
If you are looking for an easy-to-implement system, Bonusly is a stellar recognition and rewards platform. Your employees are each given a monthly allowance they can spend on giving small bonuses to their team members. Your team can give recognition based on your company’s core values, and they also get a chance to write why they are giving the bonus, add GIFs, and personalize the bonus. Once your team members accumulate enough points, they can redeem them for a wide variety of donations and gift cards.
How to know if your benefits and perks are working
While benefits and perks look good on paper, it can be hard to understand whether your employees appreciate or even make use of them. For the highest ROI, always assess your employees’ needs before and after you start offering a new benefit or perk with a survey or by running the data. Here are a few questions to ask yourself and your employees:
- Do employees know that this benefit or perk exists?
- Are employees taking advantage of this benefit or perk long-term? (did employees use perks once and then never again, or is it a staple in their lives?)
- What do they think about the perk in general?
- Would they prefer a different benefit or perk over an existing one?
You must give company benefits and perks time to be adopted. Are you giving your benefits and perks a fair shot by making sure your employees know where to find them and how to use them? Are you using the right benefits administration software?
Communication is key so your employees can take advantage of the offerings you spend money on.
A great way to gather opinions is by using pulse surveys to check in on your employees and how they feel about your current menu of perks and benefits.
Employee benefits and perks are an integral part of your employee experience. Creating the right package takes time and experimentation, but comes with significant competitive advantages.
Keep in mind that your employees’ needs and wants will change over time. As your business grows and your employees move into different life stages, they may require different things from your company. To stay ahead of the curve, it's crucial that you survey your employees about their benefits and perks preferences, and keep an eye out for new ways to reward and engage your team.