group of happy employees

7 Work Perks for the 21st Century

From free food to student loan payment assistance, employee benefits are evolving. To recruit and retain top talent in today’s tight labor market, employers must provide something unique, exciting, and valuable beyond traditional health insurance or profit-sharing options.

But which “work perks” do employees desire most? In surveying 2,520 U.S. job seekers in April 2019, we found the following: More than 73.2% of respondents cited fair salary as one of their top three most important offerings of a potential employer, followed by health benefits (44.1%) and a work/life balance (41.8%).

While important, these responses aren’t particularly surprising or innovative – 90% of large and mid-sized businesses offer health insurance, and you really can’t argue with the appeal of adequate compensation and work/life balance. What’s more interesting, however, is how more modern work benefits and employee incentives are creeping their way into the conversation. For example, nearly 10% of job seekers ranked unlimited paid time off (PTO) among their top offerings and 5.5% were interested in wellness programs:


graph depicting favorite employer offerings


How to retain employees with unique work benefits

As we continue to see more creative workplace perks grow in popularity, companies should think about which employee incentives they can weave into their recruitment marketing and employee retention strategies. Here are seven ideas – ranging from practical to progressive – to get the wheels turning.


  1. Wellness Programs: Employers agree that healthier and happier employees are more productive and engaged, making wellness programs a relatively easy place to start. Studies show that nearly half of all U.S. workplaces offer some type of health or wellness program while large employers are expected to spend an average of $3.6 million on such programs in 2019. Your wellness program can comprise any number of initiatives – on-site yoga classes, subsidized gym memberships, a company-wide “steps” challenge, a Wellness Spending Account (WSA), and more.


volunteer cleaning up trash


  1. Volunteer Time Off (VTO): VTO is an emerging perk that appeals to employees’ desire to give back to their community and supports corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts. Allow staff to take time away from work (paid or unpaid) to serve meals at a food bank, clean up a nearby park, or play with animals at a local shelter. Don’t forget to showcase your initiatives on social media or your blog. You’ll enhance your brand’s reputation and inspire employees – especially socially conscious millennials – to stick with you.


  1. Unlimited Paid Time Off (PTO): A step up from accrued or earned PTO, unlimited PTO supports a healthy work/life balance, inspires productivity, and even attracts new hires. For a successful implementation, unlimited PTO requires trust, accountability, and transparency across your staff, with keen attention to results. While unlimited PTO can provide positive impacts, it isn’t for every company – so proceed with caution.


two people lounging on the beach


  1. Paid Paid Vacation: Even with unlimited PTO, there will always be employees who rarely take days off. In fact, U.S. workers tend to use just half of their allotted vacation time, which can negatively impact morale and lead to burnout. If your staff is hesitant to take time off, consider offering a bonus, reimbursement, or discount for vacation. Several forward-thinking companies offer this benefit, such as FullContact, which provides a $7,500 annual stiped for travel expenses.


  1. Free Food: Who doesn’t love free food? According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 32 percent of employers offer snacks and beverages – a 20% increase from 2014. But as with unlimited PTO, proceed carefully: the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that free food accounts for 71% of all calories consumed at work. If you’re also building a wellness program, just make sure to provide healthy options.


coworkers eating


  1. Student Loan Assistance: In addition to offering tuition reimbursement for ongoing education, employers are experimenting with helping employees pay off their student loans. While SHRM reports that just 3% of U.S. companies offer this perk, it’s certainly enticing, given the trillions owed by American students. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is one company lending a hand, offering up to $1,200 annually toward associates’ student loan debt.


  1. Rage Rooms: Maybe this one is a little “out there,” but we like the concept. Whether on- or off-site, rage or anger rooms give frustrated and stressed out employees the opportunity to vent by smashing objects with sledgehammers, bats, shovels, and other tools. If a rage room is a little too intense for your liking, consider repurposing an unused conference room into a napping pod or turn an old office into a meditation room. Giving employees an outlet to de-stress and relax is one simple perk that can go a long way.


Money talks, but there is more to employee satisfaction than salary. While these modern benefits shouldn’t replace proper compensation, they are powerful employee retention strategies and recruitment marketing tactics for attracting top talent. For more ideas on employee benefits that can help improve engagement and reduce turnover, check out our free tip sheet.  


by: Kristina Kelly, iHire
June 17, 2019