3 benefits employees crave (that don’t cost anything)

Determining which benefits to offer is something that can cause major headaches for employers. The balancing act between offering attractive benefits while also attempting to keep costs down requires employers to research and strategize to determine the optimum benefits package for their employees. In this highly competitive job market, the right benefits will attract the best talent.


What employers tend to forget is that not all “benefits” have to be financially related. Instead of only focusing on tangible benefits such as medical insurance and paid time off, it’s important to consider those intangible benefits that employees really want and look for in a job.


Intangible benefits can be appealing to employees and job seekers deciding between organizations. These benefits can enhance employee morale, lead to greater job satisfaction and even boost productivity among all workers. Here are three of the most popular, no-cost benefits you can offer employees.


1. Autonomy

Employees want to be empowered and responsible for their own work and workday. Feeling micromanaged is one of the biggest complaints workers have about their jobs, and it’s something that can be easily corrected. In a recent Trinity Solutions survey, a staggering 85% of respondents said that their morale was impacted negatively by being micromanaged, while 69% considered changing jobs.


A recent study published in the journal Work and Occupations found that employee job control boosts satisfaction and perceived well-being, especially among women. Autonomy comes down to this: if your company believes in an employee enough to hire them, the company should also set clear expectations and train them to achieve your desired results. Investing in training from the start allows your employees to feel supported and confident handling tasks and projects on their own, and it frees up your leadership to focus on the company’s bigger picture priorities because your leaders won’t be bogged down scrutinizing every employee’s work product.


2. Flexibility

Workplace flexibility is becoming more and more prevalent across organizations. As more companies implement various initiatives to highlight their flexibility, it requires other organizations to follow suit or risk losing talented employees.


The demand for flexible work environments continues to grow. A 2016 survey by FlexJobs found that working parents ranked workplace flexibility ahead of salary. A whopping 84% of working parents said work flexibility is the number one most important factor in a job, with work-life balance ranking in a close second at 80%.


In addition to flexible working hours, remote work is becoming more prevalent and more desired. Studies put the rise in telecommuting and other remote work as high as 114% within a 10-year span. A study by Softchoice found that 85% of office workers want the tools that make it possible to work in remote locations. And, 74%  of workers said they would quit their current jobs to work for an organization offering remote-work options.


3. Recognition

Employee recognition programs are very important and easy for organizations to implement. Research from Glassdoor shows more than 80% of employees are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work.


How productive can you expect employees to be if no one seems to notice any of the hard work they do? Employees that receive little or no recognition for their job are more likely to have lower morale levels and can become detractors to the organization’s growth and success.


One under-appreciated employee may not be able to impact your entire organization, but a lack of support and recognition for any employee may be indicative of a larger cultural problem and that can result in a major downturn for your organization. Something as simple as a sincere “Thank you!” text or an email commending a job well done can make a big difference in whether employees feel valued. Making your appreciation public, in a department meeting or using an in-house communication venue like a bulletin board or Slack, can help amplify that morale boost. Establishing programs that allow your employees to publicly and regularly recognize their peers can also help to build a culture of empowerment.


BONUS: Working with a purpose

Perhaps the most underrated want of employees – especially millennials – is their desire to work with a purpose. Many employees want to feel that they are contributing to the greater good and not just working for a paycheck.


Now, I know this solution isn’t always “no-cost,” (which is why it’s a bonus and not number four) especially if your company’s purpose comes from supporting a non-profit organization and/or offering paid time to volunteer, but it should not be discounted as a reason people enjoy where they work. The no-cost version of purpose can be shared through a company’s vision statement, or by letting employees know how their work impacts their community and sharing customer success stories that wouldn’t be possible without the company’s efforts.


Working with a sense of purpose boosts employee motivation, productivity, morale and overall job satisfaction. According to the Mercer study, thriving employees are three times more likely to work for a company with a strong sense of purpose.


Focusing on cultural benefits for your employees is a great way for organizations to increase overall employee satisfaction and attract top talent while keeping costs down.


About the author
Brooke Norbert serves as HR Generalist for Synergis. She has more than 7 years of experience in human resources, including payroll, benefits, recruiting, training and development, performance management, workers’ compensation, unemployment, and federal/state/local labor and safety compliance. Brooke earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern University in anthropology.

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