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Extra Benefits: Employee Perks That Work for Small Businesses

Date: August 18, 2010

A benefits program is a key way to not only show your current employees that you appreciate them, but also to attract new potential employees. You can set your business apart by offering perks that are simple and inexpensive enough for any small business owner to provide but valuable enough for any employee to enjoy. Here are some ideas of employee perks that work (also see: 5 Small Business Perks that the Big Guys Can’t Match):

Offer Your Services to Employees for Free or at a Discount

Cathy Cluff, president of Oaks at Ojai, a fitness spa in Ojai, Calif., allows her employees to use the fitness equipment when they’re on a break or even when they’re not on the schedule. She also offers a complimentary yoga class twice a week to all employees. It costs little to nothing in overhead, and Cluff says is the payoff is twofold: It’s a great way to show employee appreciation, and it also reinforces the spa’s mission of health and fitness among its employees.

Anny Chih, marketing and PR coordinator for Bikehike Adventures Inc., a multi-sport travel company based in Vancouver, B.C., also says keeping the company’s mission strong is a reason to offer the company’s services to employees—one free trip a year to each employee. Not only do the employees enjoy a free trip, but Chih says it also makes them more informed of the service they offer, and therefore, better able to answer customers’ questions and engage interest in Bikehike’s outings.

“Customers want to hear from someone who has actually been on a trip,” she says.

Make Work More Convenient

Lori Rosen, managing partner of Blacksocks.com, a black socks delivery and “sockscription” company based in New York City, offers summer hours to her employees, allowing them to get a head start on the weekend. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, in exchange for coming in a half hour early Monday through Thursday, employees are permitted to leave at 2:30 p.m. on Friday. She says this perk is especially convenient because mobile technology makes everyone easily reachable anyway. And the hours worked are the same.

If your work environment allows it, you could allow your employees to bring their pets to work, like Cindy Lukacevic, owner of Dinovite Inc., an organic pet product manufacturer based in Crittenden, Ky.

“Recently, one of our employees adopted a dog. . . and she was ?able to bring him to work from day one,” she says. “This was a huge benefit and ?actually a deciding factor in whether she and her husband could adopt ?the dog.”

Offer Cash Benefits

Everyone likes a little financial help, even if it’s a small amount. That’s why Rosen contributes 50 dollars a month to her employees’ BlackBerry bills. It’s an immediate, tangible benefit that almost anyone would appreciate, she says. For this same reason, Rosen also offers merit-based, paid-for subway cards for certain employees.

If you can afford it, you can also set up a matched savings program for your hourly employees. Cluff implements one at her spa, which usually costs her a few thousand dollars a year. (See: How to Develop a Bonus System for Your Employees.)

“For every appointment [an employee] works, 25 cents is set aside [from their pay] and the company matches it,” she says. “When they withdraw, usually at Christmas time or before going on vacation, they are pleasantly surprised to find hundreds of dollars in their accounts.”

Provide Personal Perks
It’s critical to maintain a life-work balance, and that’s why employees especially appreciate when you show an interest in their personal well being. Rosen offers discounted gym memberships to her employees.

“You want to encourage a healthy lifestyle,” she says. “Anyone who works out regularly is going to have a better outlook on life.”

Cluff says her spa receives many complimentary theater, music festival and film tickets, which she is more than happy to pass along to her employees. She says they appreciate event incentives because it encourages them to do something they might not otherwise do on their own.
 

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