Small Business

Yes, your small business can offer employee benefits without going broke

By: Jesse Sumrack

Employee benefits, the non-taboo part of total compensation that everyone talks about. Think about it. Touting your 6-figure salary around is a big cultural no-no, but discussing your 12-week paternity leave is generally acceptable. For some unexplained reason, talking openly about benefits is a-ok. Sharing salaries—not so much.

Which is fine and dandy for the working generation because it turns out money isn’t as important anyway. While money may make the world go round, Glassdoor’s Employment Confidence Survey discovered that 79% of employees prefer extra benefits to a pay increase. 

As you would expect, money can’t buy happiness—but apparently, employee benefits can.

To compete in the recruiting war, small businesses have to go head-to-head with corporations practically drowning in money. Of course, these behemoths can offer company gyms, in-house massage therapists, unlimited PTO, free lunch, relocation, spa treatments, and yadda yadda yadda. 

However, David can take down Goliath with the right tools and the appropriate strategy. Your small business might not have the capital to shower your staff in high-end perks, but you can harness powerful, cost-effective employee benefits to attract, retain, and motivate your workforce without breaking the bank.

Pull up your colorful socks and get ready—we’re going to get a little creative here.

1. Provide health care benefits

We know—it’s not what you wanted to hear. But survey after survey after survey shows that health care benefits are the #1 employee consideration when choosing a job. For many employees, it’s non-negotiable, and for good reason.

Yet we see where you’re coming from, too. In just 15 years, the cost to cover 1 employee under group health insurance skyrocketed nearly 200%. That’s not pocket change.

Nonetheless, if you want to attract and retain the best employees (heck, even mediocre employees), you have to cough up the cash on this benefit.

We know it hurts. It was rough for us to start with this one, but now that we’ve dealt with the scary elephant in the room, we can move on to the creative benefits your accountant will love.

2. Offer flexible work schedules

According to QuickBooks’ recent survey, a flexible work schedule is the second most important benefit to employees. Fortunately for you, it doesn’t cost a penny.

So what’s a flexible schedule look like? It means letting employees work from home and choosing the hours that best fit their schedules. With the recent rise of remote employees, getting work done from home is easier than ever. For some employees, it’s even more productive.

As for hours, does it matter if your employees work 9-5 or 7-3? Does it hurt the bottom line if they skip the traffic and go skiing Thursday and work Saturday instead? Or perhaps your employees don’t want to waste their valuable PTO suffering at the dentist. These are small amenities that can make a huge difference in the lives of your employees, and they don’t cost you a thing.

This option is more than just a nifty perk. Employee benefits like this build a culture of trust, autonomy, and work-life balance. It shows that you, the employer, care about your employees and will be flexible to accommodate their needs. As an employee, you feel greater ownership over your career and life.

Because let’s be real—work can feel like a prison. The liberty to get your work done with a little personal freedom goes a long way.

3. Spice up your rewards

Rewarding employees with raises and bonuses is peachy if you have money sitting around, but for small businesses strapped for cash, the idea of bumping up employees’ wages by 10% is borderline hilarious. Other highly motivating perks are much more cost-effective.

  • Prime parking: That’s right. A coveted parking spot. Adobe’s office in Lehi, Utah, offers cleverly named parking spots close to the office entrance for outstanding employees. Handing out a parking spot likely costs you nothing, but it’s a great way to recognize and reward your employees.
  • Recognition awards: Speaking of recognition, awards are a great way to celebrate employee wins and business victories. It’s perfect for building morale and driving the company toward business goals. Get quarterly custom-made trophies and offer simple benefits: an extra day of PTO, $100 towards a vacation, or lunch with the head honcho (you).
  • Team outings: Reward your employees with catered lunch or team excursions. An afternoon at a baseball game isn’t too expensive, and it’ll connect your team in deeper ways. Win, win.

With companies fighting for talent with extreme and fantastic perks—from free wine on tap to domestic-partner benefits—small businesses can still compete by getting imaginative with their employee benefits.

Yes, your small business can provide benefits. You’ll need to get creative and nail what employees want—not just try to match what other competitors are providing. 

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About The Author

Jesse Sumrack

Jesse Sumrak is a Social Media Manager for SendGrid, a leading digital communication platform. He's created and managed content for startups, growth-stage companies, and publicly-traded businesses. Jesse has spent almost a decade writing about small business and entrepreneurship topics, having built and sold his own post-apocalyptic fitness bootstrapped startup. When he's not dabbling in digital marketing, you'll find him ultrarunning in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Jesse studied Public Relations at Brigham Young University.

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