The unemployment rate is down again, and employees are saying they want more money to stay put. Maybe it’s time to brush off some of the low- or no-cost benefits we used back in the late 1990s to attract and keep good employees.
Here are some of the classics, plus a few new ones for the way we work and live today.
College admission advice
No, not for employees, but for their children. Getting into a good college is getting harder, and middle-aged parents say the process is stressful for them and their children. Plus, college costs keep rising, and financial aid isn’t keeping up. That’s where employers come in. Smart employers are bringing in former admissions counselors to lecture parents on the process and offer tips on getting the most financial aid. The cost to employers is minimal, but the service may be priceless for parents. You can add value to the benefit by offering a small scholarship contest for employees' children. (For more, read "Help parents navigate the college application process.")
Many gyms—including the YMCA and YWCA—work with employers to offer membership discounts. Employers pick up a small percentage of the tab, usually 10%. Employees get some much-needed exercise and appreciate the discount. Plus, in the long run, healthy employees mean lower insurance premiums, reducedand a generally more productive work force.
It’s not just parents who want time off or schedule shifts to accommodate parent/teacher conferences and ballgames. Single mid-career employees completing an undergraduate or master's program may need to leave earlier on class days, or take time off to study at the end of the semester. Boomers may need time to care for aging parents and don’t necessarily want to take unpaid. Plus, with schedule flexibility, there’s no lost productivity.
More vacation time
Here’s an interesting innovation: Employees who want more time off for vacation—such as three-day weekends in the summer—pay for the privilege. Some companies are experimenting with extra vacation time throughdeduction. It doesn’t cost employers anything, and employees can easily budget for it. At Xerox, 7% of employees recently signed up for such a plan.
Concierge services, either at work or nearby
When the General Services Administration announced plans for a new federal courthouse in Harrisburg, PA, one important site-selection factor was local amenities—such as access to a lunchtime barber and nail salon, a newsstand and a dry cleaners. You don’t have to be a federal agency to offer such amenities. Consider contracting with local businesses such as dry cleaners for pickup and delivery services.