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Low-Cost Benefits That'll Make Your Employees Happy Boost satisfaction and loyalty with these inexpensive extras for your benefits package.

In addition to standard benefits like retirement plans and health insurance, there are plenty of benefits that cost your company little or nothing but reap huge rewards in terms of employee satisfaction and loyalty. Consider these ideas:

  • Negotiate discounts with local merchants for your employees. Hotels, restaurants and amusement parks may offer discounts on their various attractions, including lodging and food through corporate customer programs. Warehouse stores, such as Sam's Club, allow discounted membership to employees of their corporate members. Move theaters provide reduced-rate tickets for companies' employees. Do not forget to offer employees free or discounted prices on your own company products and services.
  • Ask a local dry cleaner for free pickup and delivery of your employees' clothes. Or ask a garage for free transportation to and from work for employees having their cars serviced there. Many businesses are willing to provide this service to capture--and keep--new customers.
  • Offer free lunch-time seminars to employees. Health-care workers, financial planners, safety experts, attorneys and other professionals will often offer their speaking services at no charge. Education is beneficial for both your employees and your business.
  • Offer supplemental insurance plans that are administered through payroll but are paid for by the employee. Carriers of health, life, auto and accident, insurance typically offer these plans at a lower rate to employers, so everybody benefits.
  • Offer a prepaid legal-services plan administered through payroll but paid for by the employee. Like insurance, the purpose of the prepaid legal service is to provide protection against the emotional and financial stress of an employee's legal problems. Such services include phone consultations regarding personal or business-related legal matters, contract and document review, preparation of wills, legal representation in cases involving motor vehicle violates, trial defense services and IRS-audit legal services.

The employer deducts the monthly service fee from the paychecks of those employees who want to take advantage of the service. Typical fees range from $15 to $25 per month per employee and cover most routine and preventative legal services at no additional cost. More extensive legal services are provided at a lower rate when offered in this manner, saving employees money.

  • How about an interest-free computer-loan program? Making it easier for employees to purchase computers for their personal use increase the technical productivity of employees on the job. The employee chooses the computer and peripherals based on the employer's parameters. (For example, the computer must be a Mac, and the entire package may not exceed $3,000.) the company purchases the system, allows the employee to take it home and deducts the payments from his or her paycheck. Although there's some initial capital outlay, it is recouped quickly. Any computer experience an employee can gain at home will most likely help enhance his or her proficiency in the workplace.
  • Let employees purchase excess inventory from your business at a significant discount via sample sales or employee auctions. Arrange these purchases in conjunction with regularly schedule companywide "yard sales" for employees to buy and sell their personal belongings.
  • Offer a credit union membership. One of the most appreciated, but most overlooked, benefits is membership in a credit union. There are some 6,000 well-established, state-chartered credit unions throughout the United States and Canada that accept start-up businesses as members--at no charge.

The benefits to your employees are threefold: most likely they'll increase their savings rates (especially if you offer automatic payroll deduction), have access to lower loan rates, and pay lower fees--if any--for services.

Services credit unions frequently offer include:

  • Automatic payroll deductions
  • Individual retirement accounts
  • Savings certificates (often at higher yields than at banks or savings and loans)
  • Personal and auto loans
  • Lines of credit
  • Checking accounts
  • Christmas club accounts

Only state-chartered credit unions are allowed to add new companies to their membership rosters. To find a credit union that will accept your company, call your state's league of credit unions or call a few local credit unions. When comparing credit unions, get references and check them. Find out how communicative and flexible the credit union is. Examine the accessibility. Are there ATMs? Is there a location near your business? Consider the end user--your employees.

Once your company is approved, designate one person to be the primary liaison with the credit union. That person will maintain information about memberships as well as enrollment forms and loan applications. Kick things off by asking a credit union representative to conduct on-site enrollment and perhaps return periodically for follow-up or new sign-ups.

Excerpted from Start Your Own Business.

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