Providing your workforce with a comprehensive benefits package is essential for employee retention and recruitment. Especially when a tight labor market exists, organizations have to go the extra mile to hire the top talent they seek.
Employee benefits and perks are the best ways to support your current employees while making your organization stand out to job candidates.
With so many employee benefits options to choose from, how do you know which ones are best for your organization? This article will provide unique employee benefits ideas for all budgets and tips on how to implement them at your organization.
Why should employers offer employee perks?
Before we share our list of unique employee perks ideas, it's crucial to understand why you should offer employee benefits.
Benefits reduce employee turnover
According to the Pew Research Center1, 43% of employees who left their jobs in 2021 said poor or no employee benefits played a role in their decision to leave.
Offering employee perks that your current employees want helps convince them to stay with your organization. If your benefits package is better than what your competitors provide, your employees will be less interested in looking for other opportunities.
Improve company culture and morale
Giving employees more perks boosts productivity and improves employee morale. When you take care of your employees, they feel valued and appreciated. This results in employees working harder and supporting your organization's goals.
Employee happiness helps improve the atmosphere at work, contributing to a welcoming and positive company culture. Plus, employees who love their work are more willing to recruit friends and family to work at your organization when a job opens up, helping you reduce talent acquisition costs.
Attract top talent
One of the most important reasons to offer comprehensive employee benefits is to attract top talent. In a tight labor market, there are more job opportunities than workers to fill those positions. If you want to fill your open positions with qualified employees, you'll need to bolster your compensation package.
Our 2022 Employee Benefits Survey Report found that 82% of employees say the benefits package an employer offers is an important factor in whether or not they accept a job.
Additionally, some states, such as Colorado and Washington, require employers to list all the benefits and salary ranges available in their job descriptions. If you’re an employer in one of these states and see that your competitors’ compensation packages are more robust, job seekers could pass your job listings by.
To convince job seekers to apply for your open positions, you need to highlight your comprehensive benefits package.
Which employee benefits are in the highest demand?
Finding out which employee benefits are best for your organization is paramount. Before researching what employees across the country prefer, you should ask your current employees about their preferences.
A great place to start is by conducting an employee benefits survey. Your survey results will help you offer benefits that your employees value the most.
Every employee has individual benefits preferences. The benefits a Gen Z worker desires will likely differ from those a Baby Boomer would appreciate. Keep this in mind while designing your benefits package and looking at the benefit ideas below.
According to the Harvard Business Review2, these are the top benefits valued by job seekers:
- Health benefits such as health, dental, and vision insurance
- Flexible hours
- Paid vacation time
- Remote work
- Student loan assistance
- Tuition assistance
- Paid maternity/paternity leave
- Free gym membership
- Day-care services
- Fitness/yoga classes
We'll break down these benefits and more in the sections below.
Traditional employee benefits
While this article will provide unique employee benefits ideas, it wouldn't be a complete list without mentioning traditional employee benefits. Employers commonly offer these benefits, although many organizations now offer personalized benefits instead.
Offering various traditional benefits can help you attract and retain employees because most workers know how they work. Therefore, they’ll immediately see the value in their benefits.
Providing employee education benefits is an excellent way to invest in your organization's future. The more knowledge and skills your employees have, the better suited your organization is to tackle new challenges.
You can also promote from within your organization to fulfill management and specialized roles. Helping your employees with their education allows them to develop their skills and apply for these new roles.
Education benefits are also a great way to show your current employees that you appreciate their hard work and care for their future.
There are many different types of educational benefits that your organization can offer.
Student loan repayment plans
In a 2023 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management3 (SHRM), only 8% of employers offer a student loan benefit. This makes it advantageous if you want your organization to stand out to job candidates.
With the average student loan debt up to $37,717 and 43.6 million borrowers having student loan debt in 2023, according to Education Data4, offering a student loan repayment benefit can help you attract college graduates.
Student loan repayments made by employers are currently tax-advantaged through 2025 if you follow IRS guidelines. You can contribute up to $5,250 per employee each year without affecting your employees' income.
Tuition assistance is a popular employee education benefit for many organizations. You can reimburse employees for their college education costs with a tuition assistance benefit. Many organizations require employees to present a passing grade or earn their diploma as a prerequisite for tuition reimbursement, but it isn't required.
Professional development funds
In addition to college education benefits, employers can establish continuing education perks for professional development opportunities.
Our 2022 Employee Benefits Survey Report found that 61% of employees value professional development benefits, while only 40% of employers offer them.
You can encourage professional development by offering time and money for employees to take courses and earn licenses and certifications in skills that can benefit your organization. You can also provide group skills training for leadership, communication, and other topics.
If you want to avoid the hassles of establishing a professional development program, you can offer an employee stipend instead. This allows you to give your employees a monthly, quarterly, or annual allowance for various personal development experiences and items.
Personalized health benefits
Health benefits remain one of the most popular and desired employee perks. Given rising healthcare costs5, health benefits options are more important than ever. However, traditional health benefits like group health insurance don't work for all organizations.
These more personalized health benefits options give your employees more freedom in how they choose to use their medical benefits.
Let’s look at a few common health benefits in more detail below.
Health savings accounts (HSAs)
While you can't offer health savings accounts (HSAs) on their own, you can pair them with a high deductible health plan (HDHP) if your organization provides group health insurance. An HSA allows you and your employees to contribute funds tax-free to a savings account for qualifying medical expenses.
This allows your employees to use their HSA funds on the medical expenses they find most valuable for them.
Health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs)
Health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) allow you to reimburse your employees for their qualifying medical expenses using tax-free money. HRAs are often a better fit for organizations than traditional group health insurance because they give your employees more freedom over their healthcare.
With an HRA, employers give their employees a r set monthly allowance that they can use on either their individual insurance premiums, out-of-pocket expenses, or both. Once you approve an expense an employee submitted, you can reimburse them up to their allowance.
Three of the most popular types of HRAs are:
- Qualified small employer HRA (QSEHRA)
- Individual coverage HRA (ICHRA)
- Great for organizations of all sizes who want the ability to customize their benefit with eligible employee classes and no allowance caps. Employees must have individual health insurance with minimum essential coverage (MEC) to participate.
- Integrated HRA, also known as a group coverage HRA (GCHRA)
- Integrates with your existing group health insurance policy to supplement your benefit.
Another healthcare reimbursement option is a health stipend. A health stipend allows you to reimburse employees for their healthcare costs, similar to an HRA. However, stipends are taxable for both the employer and the employee.
A health stipend is an excellent choice for organizations with employees who receive advance premium tax credits (APTC) because they can use it and remain eligible for their APTC.
Providing your employees with paid time off (PTO) is essential for any employee benefits package. Employees need time to spend with their families, recharge, and take care of important tasks like going to the dentist.
PTO allows employees to relax and recharge so that they can come back to work feeling happier and more productive.
Below are a few PTO ideas for your organization.
Giving employees PTO for volunteering is a great way to promote selflessness and create a more positive work environment. According to Deloitte’s Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey6, Gen Z and millennial employees want to balance work with making a difference in society. They prefer businesses that let them serve the community.
Unlimited paid time off (PTO)
In a tight labor market many organizations are moving from an accrual-based vacation system to unlimited PTO because of the tight labor market. This gives employees unlimited vacation time as long as they finish their work and it doesn't impact the organization's overall productivity.
Unlimited PTO often replaces separate systems for vacation time, sick leave, and mental health days, rolling them into a single benefit.
Providing unlimited PTO helps improve your employees' quality of life, which will only come back to help your organization by reducing employee stress and improving overall productivity and culture.
Workplace events and outings
While events and workplace outings aren't technically employee benefits, they are great perks that can create a vibrant company culture. A positive culture promotes diversity and inclusion and makes everyone feel welcome.
Workplace events such as birthday celebrations, seminars, or DEI activities can occur during the workday. But, events can also take place outside the workplace or after work hours. For example, you could throw a summer BBQ on the weekend and invite your staff or take everyone on a retreat full of team-building activities. These activities can boost employee engagement and job satisfaction within your company.
Employee events don't need to be in person, either. Virtual events and games can be just as rewarding!
Providing financial wellness benefits can help your employees plan for their future and eliminate potential stressors that can carry over into the workplace.
Financial wellness benefits can include:
- Financial literacy programs
- Providing tools or access to financial advisors
- Classes and seminars
- Financial planning
Personalized employee rewards
Another personalized benefits trend that's grown exponentially is custom employee rewards and experiences. These employee rewards programs can improve company culture by delivering unique employee experiences for special occasions such as birthdays or work anniversaries.
They are also a great way to reduce employee turnover, as employees will want to stay at your organization to experience their employee rewards.
Personalized employee experiences include kayaking trips, vacations to other countries, spa days, and more.
You can also provide personalized employee rewards on a smaller scale, such as gift cards for popular stores or restaurants.
Many organizations provide these employee experiences, such as Blueboard and Bonusly.
If you require employees to come to the office every day, consider offering a commuter benefit. This can help your team offset the cost or time of commuting to and from work.
Popular commuter benefits include rideshares, carpooling programs, transit passes for public transportation, and private shuttles.
Commuter benefits can improve your employees' quality of life and help with recruitment in large urban areas. Plus, some commuter benefits are tax-free7.
Wellness benefits are one of the most desired employee benefits. According to MetLife's 2022 Employee Benefits Trends Survey8, 52% of respondents said health and wellness programs such as free gym memberships are a must-have in the workplace.
Establishing an employee wellness program is essential for reducing burnout and improving employee productivity.
Some popular employee wellness programs include:
- Smoking cessation programs
- Employee health screenings
- Stress management classes
- Mental health programs
- Gym memberships
- Yoga or meditation classes
- Wellness stipends
A taxable wellness stipend is a great way to provide your employees with a flexible wellness benefit. You can reimburse your employees for the wellness expenses they choose with a wellness stipend. Simply set up a monthly allowance that can cover the costs of things like gym memberships or mobile wellness app subscriptions.
Your employees request reimbursements for the wellness expenses they want, giving them more freedom over their benefits.
Remote work and flexible schedules
Remote work and flexible work schedules are desirable benefits for employees. Remote work gives employees more free time and saves them money thanks to eliminating their commutes, but it can also save money for your organization.
Flexible work hours allow employees to achieve a better work-life balance for their mental and physical health.
If you have remote employees at your organization, you can provide them with additional employee benefits such as a remote work stipend. This gives employees a monthly allowance that they can use on their home office setup costs, internet access, and cell phone bills to ensure they have all the tools they need to be successful while working remotely.
Other perk considerations
To round out our guide of unique employee benefits ideas for all budgets, here are a couple of fun perks you can try at your organization.
When the weather is warm and the sun's out, employees likely have weekend plans on their minds while finishing the workweek. Some organizations have begun offering half-days on Fridays between Memorial Day and Labor Day, while others give their employees the entire day off.
Summer Fridays can be a fun perk that employees look forward to each week.
Care packages are another fun and relatively inexpensive employee perk that can improve morale. You can give your employees a fun care package full of snacks or small gifts each month. This can be especially beneficial for remote workers who feel disconnected from your organization.
You can theme these care packages around holidays or company initiatives, such as Mental Health Awareness Month or the Fourth of July.
You can get creative and create these care packages yourself or use a third-party care package vendor.
Pet insurance is becoming a popular employee benefit thanks to increasing pet ownership and rising vet costs. According to the National Pet Owners Survey9, 70% of U.S. households own a pet.
For employees who have beloved pets, offering pet insurance is a great perk that provides peace of mind. The Society for Human Resource Management10 found that 19% of companies offer it as a benefit in 2023. That's up from 14% of companies offering pet insurance in 2022.
Inflation has increased prices at the grocery store on everything from milk and eggs to chicken and beef. People are also spending more money when they go out to eat.
One way to address the financial burden for your employees is by providing a meal allowance. It’s a set amount of money that employees can put toward food. Many employers provide meal stipends to enhance employee morale and increase productivity.
Employee benefits are essential for attracting and retaining employees, improving morale, boosting productivity, and ensuring that your employees remain happy and healthy while at work. It's best to offer a wide range of employee benefits to ensure your employees feel valued.
We hope this guide to unique employee benefits ideas for all budgets helped you gather ideas to build a comprehensive employee benefits package for your organization. While not all of these ideas will work for every organization, there's something for everyone. Remember, even employers with a small budget can build a benefits package that can significantly impact your employees' lives.
If you're interested in offering cost-effective, personalized health and lifestyle benefits to your workforce, PeopleKeep can help! Our HRA and stipend benefits administration software helps you easily set up a new employee benefit in minutes.
This blog article was originally published on May 11, 2022. It was last updated on September 5, 2023.