Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Creative Benefit Offerings

               Following up to a previous Astronology® on wellness benefits, this Astronology® article will explore four additional creative benefits programs organizations can consider including in their total rewards packages.

Unlimited Vacation Time
              Unlimited vacation time started in the 1990s, especially in high tech fields. Today, unlimited vacation is becoming an increasingly popular benefit for many organizations, regardless of the field. Although sometimes advertised as liberating in contrast to “old-fashioned constraints such as assigned time off,” there are dangers associated with such programs. For an organization, there will be concerns of benefit abuse. In addition, employers must be aware that employees could collectively take the same days off, and in larger groups than under a traditional vacation time plan. For an employee, a challenge may be keeping a proper work / life balance, as open-ended vacations also can mean open-ended workdays. For instance, a spokesman from Netflix mentions that “we work weekends and around the clock; people work many hours, often from home or elsewhere via laptops/smartphones.” As a result, flexible work scheduling typically goes hand in hand with unlimited vacation time.

Flexible Work Schedules
              Flexible work scheduling is another popular benefit employees tend to enjoy. Whether it’s working from home a few days a week, or scheduling work time an hour before or an hour after the bulk of the staff has left the office, employees are able to find their own working pace and environment. This ensures the organization gets the production it wants from its employees. Some concerns include abuse of privilege and the expectation that employees will always be accessible, even for inaccurately perceived “emergencies.” Creating a policy that keeps both the employer’s and the employee’s needs in mind should curtail these concerns.

Family Focus
              Benefits that help the employee balance home and work life can be very eye-catching. Some of these benefits can include educational assistance for an employee’s dependent, in the form of a scholarship. An Entrepreneur online article notes that in a SHRM 2014 Employee Benefits Report, only 13% of those surveyed said their organizations offered an educational scholarships. Only 2% offered educational loans. These figures remained unchanged in the SHRM 2016 Employee Benefits Survey. Although these financial benefits are not widely popular, the article suggests that employers can set themselves apart by “offering educational scholarships, loans or pre-tax spending accounts.” Additional family oriented benefits include paid parental leave, on-site child care, and flexible scheduling in connection with children’s school breaks.

Paid Workouts
                Employers such as Clif Bar & Company (a nutrition business) offer not only access to an on-site gym, but workout time of 30 minutes every day, to 2.5 hours each week, while on the clock. The incentive of being paid to exercise can be appealing for an employee who needs an extra push to get healthy. Clearly this benefit helps, as Clif Bar in 2011 reported a 96% employee retention rate.

               Unique benefits programs can be an effective means of retaining employees. However, employers must be cautious to not offer a program simply because others are doing it. “Employers must consider the cost of the benefit, employees’ interest levels in such a benefit, and how the program fits with the existing total rewards program, before offering it to all employees,” explains National Director Jennifer Loftus. When it doubt? Try a pilot program first, to see if there’s sufficient momentum and interest to expand the benefit offering to all employees.

             Are you aware of other popular, creative employee benefits not mentioned in this article? Does your organization offer something unique to retain or motivate employees? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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