We live in a world where we often glamorize the way huge tech companies incentivize their employees with lavish perks and extravagant benefits, but in doing so, often forget the effect that has on our workforce and the pressure it puts on companies to find ways to match the growing demand from the workforce, as these are often very impractical to sustain for smaller businesses.

This can often drive a demand to come up with new benefits and incentives in the private small business sector, who may not have the budget to match the expectation which puts pressure on management to come up with benefits that have little to no financial impact. Many of these types of benefits often need to be introduced softly and if pressed too hard by organizations, can run the risk of being interpreted the wrong way by their employees.

If you find your company is particularly struggling with these types of stigmas, try to find ways to maximize the effectiveness of those benefits by doing some of the following:

  • Add a small monetary component to existing “free” benefits. If your company is prone to regular or scheduled potluck lunches, try switching it up & grabbing a few pizzas from a local pizza shop.
  • Change up benefits. If you are already doing regular pizza lunches, how about getting something from a local sandwich shop for a change?
  • Do not only focus on new benefits. If you’re having trouble finding a new benefit that is attractive and works with your budget, instead try to come up with ways to enhance existing benefits with the same criteria.
  • Do more than just tell an employee about a benefit, sell it. Know it. Own it. If your HR staff isn’t excited about the benefits, then you’ve got the wrong benefits in place – or even worse – the wrong HR staff.
  • Discuss every unused benefit with every employee. Most companies typically remind employees of existing benefits that exist that are underutilized; but remember to also remind people about the ones that may be common, if they aren’t being used by everyone.
  • Focus your attention on benefits that aim to offer a better life to your employees. If you offer a 401k match, try to encourage your employees to contribute & make sure they understand it’s benefits.
  • Do not let things get stale. If you guys are doing “dress-up days” & it feels like less & less people are dressing up, put that one in the closet for awhile.

I urge you to fill some of your HR staff’s time, by sitting with each employee and asking them why they might not be utilizing certain benefits. Though sometimes we believe some benefits are common and your employees know about them, a reminder is always helpful and may remind an employee they are interested in something now that a recent change they’ve kept private in their life has occurred that they’ve never utilized.

Lastly, it is very important to completely explain how your benefits can affect an employee; especially indirectly. I would wager that if you poll your employees who aren’t contributing to a 401k, if they were aware the contribution was “pre-tax” and would not affect their paycheck on a 1:1 ratio, you’re likely to get more surprised faces than you’d expect.


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