Pump Up Your Workforce With These Unusual, Affordable Employee Perks

On-site gyms, therapeutic massages, gourmet meals — the list of employee perks provided by Silicon Valley tech companies goes on and on. The goal, of course, is to lure and retain top talent. How can small businesses compete?

Not every employee incentive has to be Google-size to be effective. “Perks do play a big role in employee retention,” says Mark Sinatra, CEO of Staff One, an HR solutions firm in Dallas. “[But] there’s no correlation between the cost of the perk and the impact it can have on morale [and] productivity.”

Besides, little extras can add up to a lot over the course of a year. To demonstrate just how much, small-business owners can provide employees with an annual total compensation statement that quantifies perks alongside salary and health benefits.

Here are some creative, inexpensive perks that small businesses are offering employees in 2014:

Bike Rental — The Expert Institute pays for a yearly subscription to Citi Bike, a New York City rental service. “Nearly every employee now bikes to and from work,” says Inna Kraner, the company’s managing editor. The perk, which costs $95 per person annually, has the added benefits of helping employees lead healthier lifestyles, taking cars off the streets, and reducing the load on public transit.

Pet Stipend — Rover in Seattle is in the business of connecting dog owners with certified pet sitters. So it makes sense that the company would do the same for its employees. Marketing manager Ingrid Belobradic says that when staffers can’t take Fido on vacation, Rover pays for a sitter.

Movie Outing — At Imagine Senior Living (various locations), company founder Karen Parente believes in acknowledging employees for a job well done. She celebrated the completion of a major project by closing the office, rerouting inbound calls to a service, and treating staff to a movie matinee. “The movie was relevant to our industry and the services we provide,” she explains. “It was great out of office team bonding.”

Tastings Trisha Beausaert, public relations manager for Voices.com, an online marketplace that helps businesses find professional voice talent, says the company employs 40 millennials. They “place a high value on good eats,” she notes. So she coordinates biweekly Foodie Fridays, during which staffers visit unique local eateries, and a Thursday Tea Club, which “meets in our kitchen at 2:30 p.m. to sample specialty brews.”

About Dave Clarke

Dave Clarke is an award-winning writer and editor who has written about business, technology, and marketing for Oracle, Symantec, VERITAS, and HubSpot and about food, travel, and lifestyle for Robb Report, Atlantic Monthly, Taste for Life, and the San Jose Mercury News. Follow him @HologramPublish.
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