The HR Specialist

8 no-cost and low-cost perks that workers love

When you think of rewards that retain employees, you might see only dollar signs. Lots of them. But keeping morale high and employees engaged need not rely only on pay raises.

Being able to offer rewards that don’t necessarily show up in paychecks is important for businesses trying to re-establish themselves in a slowly rebounding economy.

One option is to add low-cost perks. Of course, adding anything of value during an economic slump may seem counterintuitive. But employees often interpret perks as a sign of care and concern on their employer’s part. That makes them far more valuable than their cost in dollars and cents.

There are plenty of low-cost or even no-cost benefits you can offer to help keep employees engaged and committed not only during a tough economy but, more important, into the future.

Benefits employees appreciate

Everyone appreciates having more time and spending less money. These perks either give employees more control over their free time or help them stretch their dollars.

  1. Repackage vacation, sick and personal time off into a single paid time off (PTO) bank, giving employees greater leave flexibility. As long as the work is getting done, do you really care why a good employee might not be at work today?
  2. Add an extra paid holiday, additional vacation or more PTO hours.
  3. Offer employees free or discounted products and services that your business sells to customers. This is already the norm in some industries. Airline employees fly at substantially discounted fares. Hospitality workers stay free when hotel rooms are available. University staff are welcome to audit classes. Can your employees use the products or services you normally sell? Let them.
  4. Subsidize or reimburse employees for part of their daily commuting ex­­penses, on a tax-free basis, up to IRS-imposed monthly limits (adjusted annually for inflation).
  5. Demonstrate your organization’s concern for employees’ financial future. Invite a financial advisor from your retirement plan to come in quarterly to one-on-one money-management meetings with em­­ployees.
  6. Offer small retention bonuses to employees who agree to stay on for a specified amount of time after a reduction-in-force.
  7. Offer comp time to exempt employees who need to work extra hours to complete a big project or handle an expanded workload. Caution: Don’t offer comp time in lieu of pay to nonexempts. When they work more than 40 hours in a workweek, you must pay them overtime.
  8. Schedule occasional early dismissals on Fridays, either during the summer or during your industry’s slow season.

Which perk to choose?

So how do you know which low- or no-cost reward will work best for your organization? Follow this simple process:

  1. Consider your budget and other resources to decide what’s doable and what’s not.
  2. Gather input, ideas and buy-in from upper management.
  3. Survey employees to see what perks and practices would motivate them, both as a group and individually, from the list you and management have compiled.
  4. Implement the chosen perks and practices. Be sure to thank employees for their input and ask them for feedback on the new rewards.

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