7 Employee Benefits That Won't Bust Your Budget
In addition to the standard health insurance or 401(k), find out what you can offer without breaking the bank.
In their book Start Your Own Business, the Staff of Entrepreneur Media Inc. guides you through the critical steps to starting your business, then supports you in surviving the first three years as a business owner. In this edited excerpt, the authors discuss a few benefits that may not cost much but have a big impact on employee satisfaction.
There are plenty of benefits that will cost your company little or nothing but reap huge rewards in terms of employee satisfaction and loyalty. Consider these ideas:
1. 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. Movie theaters provide reduced-rate tickets for companies' employees. Don't forget to offer employees free or discounted prices on your own company products and services.
2. 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.
3. Offer free lunchtime 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.
4. 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.
5. 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 violations, 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 $10 to $16 per month per employee and cover most routine and preventive legal services at no additional cost. More extensive legal services are provided at a lower rate when offered in this manner, saving employees money.
6. How about an interest-free computer loan program?
Making it easier for employees to purchase computers for their personal use increases 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 Macintosh, 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 enhance his or her proficiency in the workplace.
7. 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 scheduled companywide "yard sales" for employees to buy and sell their personal belongings.
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 startup 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), they'll have access to lower loan rates, and they'll pay lower fees—if any—for services. Services credit unions frequently offer include:
- Automatic payroll deductions
- Individual retirement accounts
- Savings certificates
- 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. You can also write to the National Credit Union Administration, 1775 Duke St., Alexandria, VA 22314-3428, or call (703) 518-6300 for more information, or visit their website for a list of consumer resources.
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 users—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.