HR 101: Benefits That Will Give You a Competitive Edge

What is the first thing that you notice while reading a job ad? While you’re reviewing the qualifications and requirements of the job – you’re likely thinking to yourself, “does this role match up with what I’m looking for?” You’re also probably thinking to yourself, “what does this company offer me compared to the others?”

The salary package and the offered benefits are the main focus of any employee while on the hunt for their next job. The job itself and the company are great for attracting talent, but the salary and benefits are crucial to closing the deal.

A 2015 Glassdoor survey found 68% of people reporting salary and compensation among their top considerations in accepting a job; 57% give similar weight to benefits and perks.

If a candidate is deciding between two competitive offers, there are ways that you can give your company an extra edge: Think medical benefits, vacation time, onsite perks, and other benefits that improve quality of life at work.

Tech sets the bar

Big tech companies like Google provide extremely competitive and attractive benefits. In addition to what they offer on paper, they also have high quality facilities and amenities.

Unfortunately, even though it may be apples to oranges, candidates are likely going to compare you to these highly publicized companies. So it’s important you set up your benefits package to match or at least be competitive with companies of your size and industry. Look for ways you can add value to any offer, and note: it’s not always a higher salary. Does your company have a great location, transportation benefits, is it dog-friendly, etc? Make sure you have a well-rounded complement of benefits so that it stands out to every candidate coming through the door.

It’s not necessarily the most expensive benefits that are the most popular. We think it’s all about balance. For example, if you can’t afford lengthy paid time off policies, supplement it with more remote work options. There are ways you can provide great employee benefits without breaking the bank.

Healthcare benefits

We think a must in all benefits packages is healthcare coverage. When deciding what you want your benefits package to look like, ensure you have reasonable coverage options for your employees. It’s one of the biggest asks during the recruiting process, and it makes a big difference in income when workers have to shoulder large insurance costs. Researching what your competitors offer and what’s expected of a firm your size will ensure you’re medical benefits are competitive in the market.

Job flexibility

The workplace has been evolving to celebrate companies that offer flexible work schedules and work from home options. These types of benefits can be a great way to buff up your offers, particularly since it’s one of the benefits most desired by employees.

Remote work and flexible schedules can be a win-win for you and your employees. Employees that routinely work at home will save you some operating costs, as well as reducing your office space needs. It drastically reduces eliminates sick leave. Eliminating or at least reducing commuting is a big plus to retaining workers; long commute times have been show to be one of the leading reasons for turnover.

Employees also appreciate the flexibility of being able to schedule medical appointments, ease child care worries and fit their workday around their personal needs. Multiple studies have shown remote workers to be more productive.

Vacation time and office culture

Many companies are moving towards more and more time off.

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One option that is becoming increasingly popular is unlimited time off. It sounds daunting at first, but most workers take no more time off than they did previously. Unlimited PTO can also save you money because you are not obligated to pay workers for accrued vacation time when they leave

The other benefit of unlimited vacation time is the positive effect it has on the culture. It shows employees (and candidates) you are invested in their personal lives and trust them to take the time as needed.

Unlimited vacation time also delivers a message that the workers of the firm are responsible and good managers of their tasks and time. They will try to accomplish their assigned tasks in the given deadline no matter how many days they take off from the office. It creates the sense of trust and reliability among the employees and employer.

Student loans

Education expenses and student loans burden a large majority of the workforce. Especially for younger workers, student debt may be their biggest financial burden and they will be looking for companies that support or even subsidize those payments.

Consider building out a policy to help the student pay off their debt. The least expensive programs are simply payroll deductions and refinancing assistance. They make sure the employee doesn’t fall behind in paying off their debt. Many companies are also providing subsidies. One of the more creative programs, just endorsed by the IRS is for a company with a 401(k) to match the student loan payment with a deposit into the employee’s retirement account.

These are just a sample of the kinds of benefits that help improve your employees’ quality of life. They don’t require significant new investments; some, like remote work, may even save you a few dollars. Other benefits we haven’t discussed here – pet insurance, for instance – don’t have to cost you anything.

Top talent has high expectations for company benefits, and the more you have, the more desirable your company is. Where possible, offer something unique that your employees would benefit from (survey them if you need to!) and you’ll stand out among your less creative competitors.

Jason Elkin is the founder and chief people officer of WERKLABS, a talent acquisition-as-a-service venture that primarily focuses on startups in California.

With over 15+ years of experience developing lean & scalable solutions for some of the most recognizable names in tech, Jason brings a unique lens to the talent paradigms of today’s hiring challenges. In 2009 Jason pioneered the “Lean Organic Talent Acquisition” method for early/mid-stage startups. This method was a fist to incorporate Lean-Agile principles with Behavioral Neuroscience. This method blended a streamlined hiring process with a superior candidate experience to accelerate candidate acquisition. By integrating Lean Organic Talent Acquisition principles into the hiring culture of startups, Jason has been able to build best-in-class organizations for many companies.

Jason holds a BA from Tel-Aviv University and is currently working on his first book for millennial job seekers who are pursuing a career in the startup world.

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