Employee retention: 6 low-cost perks your employees will love

Looking to compete with the firms that can offer on-site chefs and massages? The truth is that most companies can’t afford to offer the perks common among the buzziest names in high tech, and yet while you might already have the basic covered—from health and disability insurance to retirement savings—many employees today are looking for a little “sizzle” in their perk program. In fact, a recent study by recruiting site Glassdoor found that 63 percent of applicants focus on available benefits nearly as much as salary.

The good news is that not every shiny perk has to break the bank. Here are six low- or no-cost perks that your employees will totally love at a price tag that will make you happy, too.

  1. Offer flexible hours. (Cost: Free)

This is frequently the No. 1 perk that employees covet, and the good news is that it is totally free to implement. The key is to make sure that you have an environment that allows for flexible hours to work; i.e. you won’t be sacrificing customer service or inhibiting team meetings. Once you’re figured out if flexible work is appropriate for your team, set some parameters about what’s acceptable and fine tune as needed.

  1. Let your employees bring their pet to work. (Cost: Free to nominal for cleaning fees)

This “pet project” has gained prominence in Corporate America, moving past something that’s critical for those with certain disabilities to a benefit for the entire team. In fact, with more than 80 percent of dog owners claiming their pet provides companionship, love, company and affection, that can translate into more productive workplaces. One survey finds that 88 percent of employees and a corresponding 91 percent of HR directors agree that a pet-friendly workplace leads to improved morale.

Of course you’ll need to make sure no one in your office is allergic, and then set guidelines about only bringing healthy, trained, friendly pets into the office.

  1. Set up a volunteering program (Cost: Free to a small investment in program materials and marketing)

The opportunity to volunteer is important to employees: A Deloitte survey found that nearly 90 percent of employees think that companies that sponsor volunteer activities offer a better working environment. It can help more than the outside community, too; another study found that 64 percent of respondents agreed that volunteering together strengthens relationships among colleagues.

Talk to your team about a cause that interests them or settle on a few. Maybe you collect mittens during the next cold snap and help landscape a school when spring arrives. The choices are endless.

  1. Create a walking club or other health activity.

Wellness programs have been shown to reduce absenteeism—up to one additional productive day per month per employee, finds one study. But while professional onsite classes or underwriting a fancy gym membership might be out of your budget, any workplace can help facilitate group activities like a walking or hiking club. Check around; you might have someone on staff who would love to lead a lunchtime Cross Fit group or can teach yoga fundamentals.

  1. Brew up better coffee (Cost: Low-cost)

Employees boycotting your coffee in favor of pricey lattes down the street? These side trips add up—not just for your team’s wallet but in lost work time as they continually leave to get their caffeine fix outside your four walls. Rather than offering a watery subpar beverage, invest in a good system that will make café-quality coffee and then stock up on the add-ins your employees prefer, from oat milk to flavored creamer. If you really want to score bonus points, consider ordering in lunch or dinner for teams that are working late now and then. Sometimes the unexpectedness of a perk like that can make it seem even more noteworthy.

  1. Give them their birthday day off. (Cost: No cost – sort of; employees aren’t all that productive on their birthdays anyway!)

Birthdays just aren’t as much fun as when we were kids, when everyone made a big deal over our big day. While you probably do a small staff celebration (and if you don’t, you should!), giving employees their special day as a day off can build incredible goodwill. Naturally you’ll want to put some common-sense rules around it—for example your accounting team lead can’t have April 13 off. But in most cases you can let employees know to make a wise choice on a day that’s around their birthday and use it as they see fit, whether it’s binging on Netflix or riding the Ferris wheel and eating all the ice cream like back in the day.