12 Solid Alternative Small Business Employee Benefits
  by:  |  Aug 18, 2016
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Last updated on September 15th, 2016 at 11:49 am

Most small businesses don’t have a lot of capital. This often makes it difficult to compete for talent with larger companies. That is, at least, on the basis of raw compensation alone. Fortunately, small business employee benefits have really come a long way.

The past generation has brought about a revolution in how employees from smaller businesses are compensated. The need for the latest batch of entrepreneurs to compete with established businesses has created a situation where ideas considered silly a generation ago are now an established convention in startup circles.

The biggest advantage to these alternatives is they don’t necessarily have to cost that much. Yet they can mean the most when it comes to attracting and retaining talent.

Here are some of the popular alternative small business employee benefits that will soon become the new standard everywhere.

Flexible schedules

This means different days off, compressed workweeks, or shifting to a performance-based rather than time-based system, or any system allowing employees more control over their time. The adoption of such systems can mean a better work-life balance, or at least a lifestyle more conducive to real productivity.

12.) Telecommutes


Allowing employees to work from home or anywhere else with a decent enough internet connection if their job does not require them to meet with others, is now a fact of life in many industries. This is more true for jobs that do not require face-to-face client interaction. It’s not only cheaper for employees who no longer need to commute to work, it may be better for the environment by lowering the associated carbon emissions generated by travelling.

However, studies have shown it may not be ideal for everyone’s productivity over the long term, and that perhaps most people and teams will be more productive if everyone meets with their coworkers a few times a week.

11.) Paid leave for volunteer/charity work

Encouraging and allowing employees a paid leave to do work with an accredited charity can help encourage them to stay. This benefit can also form the core of your corporate social responsibility efforts. Be sure you’re specific with your guidelines about which volunteer groups and charities you recognize.

10.) Pet-friendly workplaces

depressed dog rests on files model released. Image shot 2006. Exact date unknown.
From Flickr via Creative Commons licenses.

It’s hard to stay mad or stressed when a puppy is nibbling at your heels or a kitten is purring in your lap. As if you needed a study to prove it, office pets can decrease stress. Provided everyone agrees on who takes care of them.

9.) Relaxed dress codes

Business casual and dressed down

There continues to be solid arguments that dress codes are “dressing the part” for work, especially when you have a specific brand and often face customers or investors. But the often oppressive nature of strict dress codes for employees can lead to some resentment. This is especially true if there is not much interaction with customers, or if the dress code is impractical for some reason. A relaxed dress code lets employees feel more like themselves, which makes work more enjoyable.

8.) Professional development

The prospect of being able to develop skills and specific knowledge can be attractive to truly driven personalities — exactly the kind of people you want to attract to your team.

7.) Better insurance or health-savings plans

While you might not be necessarily able to give everyone a pay increase, it’s usually possible to help expand their insurance or health coverage. In an economy where young people are earning considerably less compared to previous generations, this may be the one critical benefit that get you the talent you need.

6.) Custom business cards

Custom Business Cards

Giving employees their own business cards isn’t just good for promoting your brand. It’s one of those small gestures that can make anyone feel special. Thanks to the affordability of good quality personalized business cards, it’s possible for most small businesses to give each employee a pack of business cards. Whether you want them to have free reign over their purpose and design, or keep their business cards strictly in line with your brand is up to you.

5.) Relaxed napping policies

Getting enough sleep is essential for long term productivity. In many contexts, it’s also important for a safe work environment. A workplace that has reasonable policies on employee napping can make a small but very real impact over an employee’s decision to stay with a company.

4.) Profit-sharing

What better way to ensure everyone stays together than giving everyone a stake in your company’s success? While profit-sharing structures and collective enterprises aren’t new, they have recently become a very popular way to attract talent — particularly in the start-up world. Whether it’s stock options or company-performance incentives, profit-sharing is definitely something a cash-strapped start-up needs to consider.

3.) Educational assistance

Educational assistance

The prospect of continuing higher education while working is extremely attractive to many talents, and you get to benefit from what they learn! This incentive is particularly attractive given the unprecedented costs associated with higher education today.

2.) Wellness programs

Wellness programs

Healthy, de-stressed employees tend to be happier employees. And happier employees tend to be more productive. Even something as simple as a gym discount or spa coupon can make a job offer more attractive.

1.) Employee clubs

Whether it’s for a basketball league or Pokémon Go club, sponsoring these kinds of special interest groups can be a huge boost for employee morale, helping them bond, and reducing turnover.

Whatever alternative small business employee benefits you choose, it helps if there’s sincerity behind it. Potential and current employees are nearly always far more sophisticated and smarter than many managers and business owners give them credit for. If you insult their intelligence and belittle their talents and efforts with a half-hearted benefit plan, prepare for the high employee turnover that’s sure to follow.

What other alternative small business employee benefits can you recommend? Comment below!

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