by Veer Gidwaney
As a startup, your biggest worries are probably making payroll and simply keeping the lights on. You don’t want to add employee benefits to that list of concerns.
But today, many companies are struggling to find qualified applicants to fill vacant positions and retain the employees they have. Top talent is being lured to large corporations that can offer a big name and a fat paycheck, often leaving startups in the dust.
While your startup can’t compete with the likes of Google and Facebook when it comes to salary, you can offer employees a competitive benefits package that makes your company stand out.
The Value of a Great Benefits Package
Benefits packages are an incredibly powerful bargaining chip for companies when it comes to recruitment. They’re like hotel amenities: The more worthwhile stuff that’s piled on (e.g., free continental breakfast or pool access), the more guests want to stay at that hotel.
But there are many other advantages to offering a competitive benefits package. When companies provide extensive healthcare coverage — especially if it includes wellness programs, wearable tech devices, or gym memberships — employees put more time and energy into their health and fitness.
Improved employee health leads to decreased absenteeism, which results in increased productivity. Additionally, fewer unnecessary doctor visits and ER trips incur lower out-of-pocket costs.
Employers that offer “fun benefits,” such as company-sponsored meals, outings, and other activities, help employees reduce stress, feel happier, and meet social needs. In return, employees have higher morale, believe their employer cares about them, and are less likely to look for another job.
Today’s Most Desirable Benefits
To attract the most qualified and experienced applicants, companies should pad their benefits portfolio with a few of the following perks:
- Health, life, dental, and vision insurance
- Fully funded access to health assessments, screenings, or on-site clinics
- 401(k) contributions or stock options
- Plenty of vacation time and sick leave
- Merit bonuses
- Telecommuting options
- Gym memberships, health devices, or wellness expense reimbursement
- Funded education or professional development
- Assistance with long-term care insurance, disability insurance, or eldercare
- Assistance with childcare or pet care costs
- Company-paid lunches, dinners, parties, and social gatherings
It goes without saying that all the benefits above may not be feasible for every company. The key is building a benefits package that’s right for your company’s values, culture, and finances.
For example, RunKeeper offers its employees unlimited vacation and sick time as long as time away does not affect job performance. The company has found that freedom and flexibility have made employees even more passionate about their work and the company. As a running tech company, it also offers reimbursement for races and fitness expenses like running shoes.
Automattic wants employees to feel comfortable working from home, so it pays for a home office setup, stocked with the latest technology. Buffer employees are free to live or move anywhere.
Boston-based tech company Intrepid Pursuits supports continued learning by holding internal hackathons and lectures, as well as setting aside time every week for learning new skills or educational pursuits.
How All Companies (Even Startups) Can Improve Benefits Packages
Small- and mid-sized companies won’t likely have the resources to offer every benefit known to man, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still make your employees feel taken care of and valued. Here are some tips to help your company boost benefits without going bottom-up:
- Find a way to offer health insurance. Providing health insurance is the first step to making employees happy and healthy, and it’s a great recruitment tool. Start with a basic program, and build on it as your business grows.
- Offer options. Look at doing a defined contribution plan for employees while still offering a slate of attractive benefits. Employees will appreciate having choices.
- Evaluate employees’ needs. Figure out what the company can do to make life better for employees outside the workplace. Are they pet owners who have to travel for work? Are they responsible for their elderly parents? Are they a younger crowd looking for ways to be social and fun? Add perks that fit your company culture.
- Consider freebie benefits. Offering staff flexibility and autonomy doesn’t cost the company a dime and makes employees feel appreciated. Tell employees they can work from home on certain days, take off early, or take full days off as long as they’re still getting work done and meeting goals.
- Combine fun and education. Sponsoring training sessions, professional development classes, or continued education opportunities in a cool environment (think arcades, coffee shops, or outdoor venues) is a great way to combine work and fun.
If you’re competing with big corporations for top talent, the best way to counter all the glitz, glamour, and moola is to build a stellar benefits package. Not only are they viewed as an added perk, but benefits will also make your employees feel happier, healthier, and truly valued by your company.
Veer Gidwaney is the CEO and co-founder of Maxwell Health. Maxwell Health provides a SaaS platform through health insurance brokers that drastically reduces the headaches associated with employee benefit systems. Tech Cocktail recently named Maxwell Health the “Hottest Startup in the Nation” in 2013.
Jan Tik | Courtesy of Veer Gidwaney