Millennials make up the largest generational demographic in the U.S. workforce. And what do they want? Non-traditional employee benefits like unique employee perks and rewards and recognition.

Millennial workers (as well as employees who are part of Generation Z) have significant and reasonable expectations that go beyond their salary. They care about things like working toward a purpose, the company culture, diversity & inclusion, and unique employee perks that were unheard of a decade ago.

Making the case for unique employee perks

As the face of a more non-traditional workforce, it’s only fair that what they want are more non-traditional employee benefits. They’re interested in anything from rewards that help them financially to those that positively impact their lifestyle.

When putting together a set of unique employee perks for your company, you’ll want to keep these three things in mind:

  • Be true to your company culture
  • Listen to your employees with regard to what matters to them
  • Be honest about your budget—but don’t be afraid to fight for more

The reality is, there are employee perks that are more suitable for small businesses and some that are completely different for much larger corporations. It’s hard to imagine a small or medium-sized business being able to offer yearly retreats, catered lunches, or access to massage therapists. That’s why it’s so important that companies utilize a tool that makes their lives easier and gives more options to their employees.

However, no matter how big your company is, you’ll want to regularly assess your employee rewards packages, ditching those that have low engagement and working new recognition ideas into your program.

#1: Feeling empowered with a flexible work schedule

Employees are demanding a better work-life balance. Flexible work schedules are perhaps the best way you can honor that desire, as well as increase retention and engagement.

What a flexible schedule looks like at your company can vary drastically. At Netflix, it means unlimited vacation time.

That’s right, at Netflix’s California headquarters, they don’t keep track of vacation days or work hours. The company focuses on what employees get done. As long as they get their work taken care of and don’t leave anyone on their team in a lurch, they’re good to go.

That level of flexibility won’t work for every business. Identifying certain days where you can give employees more flexibility—so they can go watch their kids play soccer or meet an old friend for a drink—can be significant.

Another option that’s more feasible today than ever is to allow employees to work from home—at least on some days. Give your team the autonomy to choose when to be in the office; you might be surprised at their level of maturity and productivity.

The more extreme version of this type of flexibility is offering employees remote positions. Not only does this increase worker satisfaction and engagement, but it also means you can save on office space and its associated costs.

#2: Tools to help with unexpected expenses

The number one stressor in Americans’ lives is money—regardless of the economic climate.

Even if you can’t pay each employee enough for them to not have to worry about their finances ever, what you can do is create a financial safety net as a company reward.

Sadly, about 40% of Americans would struggle to find $400 to pay for an unexpected bill. They’re living paycheck to paycheck and don’t have a rainy day fund.

You can create a safety net for them by using a payroll service that gives them open access to money between paydays. This is exactly the service provided by Paylocity and Patriot.

#3: Student loan or continuing education assistance

Top talent is entering the workforce weighed down with a significant amount of student debt. One way to attract this talent is to recognize the impact the debt has on their lives—and offering to do something about it.

Since 1971, the cost of a college education has increased by 1,300% while the pressure to enter the workplace with a degree has also increased. This has put millennials and Gen Z employees in an understandably tough spot—because they still want to live a life full of travel and experiences.

Student loan assistance programs are designed so you contribute a certain amount per month toward employee loans as a reward.

And it’s important that this is not money deducted from their salary. With rising rent costs around the U.S., you don’t want your employees to have to choose between paying on a student loan and paying their rent.

If you’re worried about equality with regard to rewards for all employees, you can consider giving an education stipend to each employee. Those who don’t have school debt can use the money to further their education, while those with debt can use the money to pay them off.

Zestful customers are on top of their non-traditional employee benefits. 👏 Out of our customers that have education stipends as one of their Zestful Programs, on average, they give $68/mo. to their employees to put toward continued education. Whether it’s learning a new language, getting a certification, or simply attending a workshop to learn about something new, employees are more engaged when their employers invest in their professional development.

#4: Caring with career development opportunities

You want employees who want to be better at what they do, right? Attract employees with a life-learner attitude that fits your company culture by offering career development opportunities.

Providing professional development as a reward is a win-win.

But you’ll want to finesse this option. It’s not going to feel like a part of a benefits package if you’re basically forcing them to do specific job training—that’s just called training.

Instead, you’ll want to offer a variety of career development opportunities for employees to choose from, like a stipend to pursue additional training at external organizations.

Psst – Zestful makes career development stipends really easy for both employees and finance teams.

#5: Pet-friendly workspace rewards

Though a pet-friendly office isn’t for all businesses (you don’t want dogs running around a medical lab or restaurant), if it’s a possibility for yours, it can be a great (and free!) employee reward.

By allowing employees to bring their dogs to the office, you’re giving them a significant financial benefit: they won’t need to pay for a dog walker or doggie daycare.

Additionally, pets in the workplace have been shown to reduce stress and make teams feel more relaxed. Just be cognizant of whether or not you have employees who are allergic to pets—that may be a dealbreaker for this type of non-traditional employee benefit.

#6: Paid volunteer days or a charity balance

Paid time off for volunteering is another one of those great rewards that inevitably entices the kinds of people you want on your team.

Employees who are attracted to this benefit are the sort of people who care about what they do. They put a lot of weight on the idea of purpose and personally invest in their communities—and work.

Having employees who are engaged at the community level helps with retention. When these employees see that you support their efforts in a tangible way, you create greater loyalty.

Basically, you’re saying that what’s important to them is important to you.

Salesforce is a great example of this. Not only do they give employees six paid days off each year to do volunteer work, but they also give them $1,000 each to donate to a cause.

Our users are no stranger to this type of benefit. Zestful was used to donate $3,984 to charity in 2019.

#7: Optimizing office happiness

Another set of perks that can keep morale up and improve cross-departmental employee engagement are free snacks and breakroom games.

You don’t need an in-house chef (but, if you can afford one—do it!). Good coffee and a well-stocked pantry of snacks can really make a difference. When I worked at Groupon, free La Croix and VitaminWater were hot commodities—and those are easy & affordable to get.

Just make sure to be smart about what you stock your shelves with. Inclusivity applies to food, as well—Try to take employee allergies and dietary restrictions into account, so that your unique employee perks don’t have a negative impact on their health.

As for games, that almost always comes down to space. Ping pong tables tend to be a relatively cheap way to promote cross-department engagement and healthy competition in the workplace. Also, setting up a retro Nintendo 64 gaming console (or a newer Nintendo Switch) is affordable and fun.

#8: Dead unique employee perks

One of the most non-traditional employee benefits available by a Fortune 500 company is Google’s death benefit. This is not a reward for the faint of heart, but it is one that can help you show your team you really care about their families.

For this peculiar (but significant) reward, Google pays the surviving spouse or partner of a deceased employee 50% of their salary every year for 10 years following an employee’s death.

Final thoughts: unique employee perks that make a difference

What unique employee perks are going to work for your business will depend on who you’re trying to attract to your business, what your goals are, and your company culture.

It’s important to remember that your rewards and non-traditional employee benefits are not only an investment in your employees, but they also help increase retention rates and employee engagement.

Up next: Dive deeper into the how and why of employee engagement and retention—and how simple recognition programs can help.

Zestful: recognize and reward your employees—minus the admin work.
Author

Maddy Osman (she/her) is an SEO Content Strategist who works with clients like AAA, Automattic, Kinsta, and Sprout Social. Her background in WordPress web design contributes to a well-rounded understanding of SEO and how to connect brands to relevant search prospects. Learn more about her process and experience on her website, www.The-Blogsmith.com and read her latest articles on Twitter: @MaddyOsman.


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