Understanding the 21st Century Workforce – “New” Employee Benefits
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Apr 18, 2013
This is the finale, part six of the series Understanding the 21st Century Workforce. First, let me link back to all the other articles:
The culmination of this series concentrates on possible benefits or employee perks that companies could offer or think about offering in some fashion. I came up with this because I was giving a presentation and the question came up, and I hadn’t given any thought to the topic previously. When I was a director I came up with things like birthday clubs, “goal” luncheons and holiday parties; kind of typical fare but people enjoyed them. Turns out that not only are there other ideas, but I actually had put some of these in place without really thinking about it.
Not everyone can do this because you might not be high enough to push it through, and some of them will probably cost something. Still, they’re ideas, with the intention of seeing what you might come up with that I didn’t mention. Let’s go!
1 Health club benefits. If you work at a large company you can probably get this one for free. What happens is you go to a health club and negotiate a discount off both signing up as a member and the monthly fee if so many people from your organization sign up within a certain period of time. Then you promote it and, if enough people go, you look like a hero. If enough don’t go you haven’t lost anything.
2 Child care. This one could cost a lot of money, including liability insurance. Yet mothers love knowing their children are taken care of, can visit during lunches or breaks, and it both reduces absenteeism and increases recruitment.
3 “Memberships” (BJ’s, Sam’s, etc). Once again, this cost nothing to the company and employees love being able to participate at a lower rate.
4 Company events. Picnics, lunches, parties… Anything that brings employees of all statuses together is never a bad thing, although I’d recommend not having alcohol at most of these unless they’re outside the office. They can sometimes get costly, but I’ve found that if you have them offsite that many people are happy to pony up a little bit of their own money to help defray costs.
5 Educational opportunities (degrees, certifications). What I see most often is companies saying they’ll reimburse an employee for taking classes that are within the scope of the job they’re presently doing, which is a nice first step. A scholarship program of even $500 that doesn’t limit anyone wouldn’t hurt, as well as paying someone a bit more if they become certified in what they do.
6 Earned time off. This is different than vacation time. It’s a way for a company to allow employees to build up time equity without having to use vacation time so they can do things like go to doctors appointments, leave a couple of hours early one day, etc. Most of the companies I’ve seen do this allow employees to accumulate up to 24 hours of free time a year, which is a nice number.
7 “Selling” vacation time. This one is controversial so it needs to be well thought out. If an employee is in a financial bind and has available vacation time, some companies allow them to “buy time” so they can use the boost of money to take care of their issues. It’s a great benefit, but it can be a monster to track without proper systems in place.
8 Flex time. Unless you only have one or two employees, there’s often no real reason why employers can’t offer flex time to their employees, within reason. I offered it to one of my departments because those with young children wanted to wait and see their kids get on the school bus while those without young children didn’t care about coming in early, which many of them did anyway. If someone had wanted to come in 4 hours later though that might not have been as fair because half of their time would have meant they wouldn’t be dealing with consumers, which would be beneficial to them but not fair to everyone else.
9 Job sharing. You don’t see this all that often and yet it’s not all that bad an idea. You take a full time position and hire two people to work different halves of it during the day. You end up with more people trained on doing the job, possibly fill a need easier because there are a lot of people who love working part time, and offer the caveat that if one of them needs time off they work it out with their counterpart so you don’t have to.
10 Re-evaluation of sick time. I’ve always rejected the notion that employees should only get 3 “sick events” a year across the board. Some people get sick more often than others, and not all illnesses are the same. Also, in many ways it’s punitive against families with children because children get sick often, and the more children there are the more times a parent will have to deal with it. Even if some of the time goes unpaid, companies need to figure out how to be more family friendly when it comes to this.
11 Recognition of differences between married female and married male employees with children. This ties in a bit with the previous topic because most of the time it’s the mother that’s expected to stay home with their children rather than the father. Sure, families need to figure out this fairness thing as well but you can’t control that side of things.
12 Dress code; ouch!. I always hated this issue but I had two standards. The first standard was that if the position interacted with the consumer, they had to dress professionally at all times. If they didn’t, I relaxed the policy with the expectation that if they ended up having to go to the main facility for any reason that they would be presentable, since during the day they would still be representing the corporation. Some brought in a second set of clothing, while others determined ways to dress that was both comfortable and professional. I also named someone else to be the “clothes police”, since I only had women reporting to me & didn’t want the responsibility.
13 Ask the employees what they might want, and what they’re willing to do for it.. I did this, actually asking for volunteers to get together and come up with different things. I also asked another director to sit in with them to make sure they didn’t suggest something that they knew would never get permission for. It worked out really well.
That’s the end of this series. This was a 3-hour seminar when I initially presented it, and I hope it didn’t take 3 hours to read all parts of it. Please comment and share your thoughts.