13 Unique Employee Benefits to Attract and Retain Top Talent
Designing or updating your company's benefits package? Get inspiration from this list of 13 unique benefits.
In today’s competitive hiring market, offering creative benefits is a crucial differentiator for any organization. A great benefits package can be the difference between retaining your employees or losing them to your competitors: 43% of employees who left their jobs in 2021 cited poor benefits as a factor.
Many employers of choice today are already offering excellent insurance plans, hybrid work schedules, PTO, and more. So what are the next steps they can take to provide the most competitive benefits that have top talent knocking on their door?
To help you create top-notch benefits packages that stand out, we’ve collected a list of unique employee benefits below.
More organizations are offering fertility benefits, but only 1 in 5 companies that offer them also offer coverage for adoption assistance. Families that want to adopt are faced with astronomical costs, spending anywhere from $15,000 to $40,000 throughout the process. These costs can have an especially negative impact on cisgender men in same-sex relationships or those considering single fatherhood since surrogacy may cost between $100,000 to $200,000. Today, leading organizations such as American Express reimburse employees up to $35,000 of adoption and surrogacy costs for up to two children.
A survey from The Conference Board found that 58% of employees are more likely to leave an employer if they do not offer professional development opportunities. Flexibility is key to building a successful professional development program. Every employee will have different needs when it comes to their professional development, whether it's career coaching, conference tickets, online courses, or newsletter subscriptions. Restricting employees to pre-set classes or one specific course platform limits the potential of a professional development program.
Personal development and enrichment programs have also been on the rise at leading organizations. These programs allow employees to pursue hobbies such as art, music, cooking, creative writing, or photography. Research has shown that participating in creative activities can reduce cortisol levels, providing an instant feeling of calm. Engaging in creative work also causes us to use different parts of our brain, developing previously untapped problem-solving and thinking skills.
Highlighting your wellness initiatives can be a selling point to potential hires, particularly Millennials and Gen Zers who strongly value mental health, wellness, and work-life balance. In fact, 87% of employees consider health and wellness packages when choosing where to work. Health programs may come in the form of a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA), where employees can use pre-tax dollars to cut healthcare costs. Wellness programs can also include lifestyle spending accounts (LSAs) that provide employees a monthly stipend to use toward wellness items of their choosing, including gym memberships, groceries, or massages.
Student loan repayment is a unique employee benefit that can make a big impact on your employees’ lives. Employers with a large Millennial population may want to consider this benefit as over 14 million Millennials have student loan debt, more than any other generation. PwC offers a benefit where they pay up to $1,200 a year toward student loans. Over time, this may reduce student loan principal and interest obligations by $10,000 and shorten loan payoff by up to three years.
Rested employees are healthier, more productive, and less stressed. But some employees may struggle to take time off because they feel pressure to stay on top of work or they can’t afford an expensive vacation. To encourage employees to take PTO and recharge, some employers are offering travel and vacation stipends that cover airfare, rental homes, and other vacation expenses. Companies like Airbnb, Calendly, and BambooHR offer employees flexible stipends they can use toward vacation because they recognize the positive impact of stepping away from work to travel and relax. Vacation stipends go one step further than PTO in showing employees that your company truly supports their time off.
People spend a lot of money on their pets. Research by Finmasters found that Americans spent $124 billion on pet products and services in 2021. Two out of three households own a pet, with the average dog owner spending $1,480 and the average cat owner spending $902. Many companies offer subsidized pet insurance to help employees pay for vet services, but more are beginning to offer flexible pet care stipends that cover a wider range of pet expenses, such as toys, food, dog training, and other supplies.
Employees can also use these funds to pay for dog walking or pet sitting, a huge plus for employees who welcomed new pets during the pandemic and may now be returning to the office or working hybrid schedules. For these employees, this benefit can relieve any worries about leaving their pets at home when they are used to being home all day with them.
Office snacks have long been a staple of work culture. But more companies are realizing the benefits of providing flexible food and meal stipends that employees can use to purchase groceries, food deliveries, or meal kits. As more companies shift to hybrid or remote work arrangements, in-office perks such as cold brew on tap or on-site cafeterias no longer make sense.
Instead, flexible stipends give employees more power to purchase the food options that fit their lifestyles and personal preferences. They are also more equitable than providing food benefits through a corporate account with a delivery service company such as Grubhub or DoorDash because they provide more options for employees who live far from urban centers. Companies who move away from corporate accounts can save a considerable amount in delivery service charges and fees.
Website development platform Wix previously provided employees a food benefit through a Grubhub corporate account. They recently launched a more flexible, equitable, and cost-effective food benefit for employees through Benepass. The program now receives participation rates of over 90% thanks to its flexibility and ease of use. By eliminating service charges and fees, the program has saved Wix an estimated $75,000.
Childcare is an enormous expense for your employees who are parents. Recent research by The Penny Hoarder found that 84% of parents feel overwhelmed by the cost of childcare. Almost 28% of parents have had to choose between paying for childcare or paying their rent or mortgage on time, while about 35% have had to choose between paying for childcare or paying credit card bills on time.
To help working parents with childcare expenses, companies such as Patagonia, Bank of America, Google, and Microsoft are offering some version of childcare benefits. Many companies realized the need for these benefits during the pandemic and are now continuing to support parents as they return to the office. A dependent care FSA (DCFSA) is a tax-advantaged option that helps allocate pre-tax dollars toward eligible childcare expenses.
Our recent 2022 Benepass Benefits Benchmarking Guide showed that DCFSAs were the second-most popular pre-tax benefit, with 80% of companies offering it as part of their benefits package. Flexible family and childcare stipends are another option for helping your employees pay for childcare.
As more companies have shifted toward a remote-first or hybrid work model, they have begun offering WFH stipends that allow employees to furnish their home offices. Tech leaders such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google offer $1,000 for remote work expenses such as office chairs, desks, or computer monitors. Companies can also create WFH stipends that cover coworking. For example, project management software company Basecamp offers employees $100 a month to rent coworking space.
At Benepass, employees receive a one-time stipend of $500 when they are hired to purchase anything they need to feel comfortable working remotely. They also receive $150 a month to put toward ongoing home office needs and coworking space. Our benchmarking guide found that WFH stipends were the third most-popular benefit, with 37% companies offering them at an average of $821.
Many companies also choose to provide monthly phone and internet stipends so employees can use their personal devices for work and have the high-speed service they need to work remotely. Ultimately, WFH stipends are a great way to ensure that employees are set up for success at home.
A health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) is an employer-funded account that offers employees money to pay for eligible healthcare expenses. Employers can offer these pre-tax accounts to help employees pay for mental healthcare, fertility treatments, gender confirmation surgery, or medical travel.
HRAs are one way to live out your company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) values. Traditional health insurance plans are not inclusive and may not cover certain services for underrepresented populations. For example, many insurance companies providing coverage for fertility treatments rely on outdated policies that don’t take into account the many different ways families come to be. A Mercer survey found that 40% of companies offer fertility benefits to support DEI efforts. Over a third (35%) designed the benefit to be available to LGBTQ+ and/or single employees. With an HRA, you can help employees receive the care they need without driving up health insurance premiums for the entire group.
Similar to personal enrichment benefits, some companies are offering employees entertainment or cultural experience funds because they know that when employees feel fulfilled in their personal lives, it’s easier to bring their best selves to work. These funds can help employees pay for concert or movie tickets, streaming services, podcasts, Spotify subscriptions, books, and more.
To make their home life comfortable and conducive to productive work, some companies are offering home services stipends that allow employees to pay for cleaning services, trash pickup, or pet care. These stipends are sometimes rolled up into WFH benefits because they create a better working environment for remote employees.
The most flexible benefit of all is an LSA. An LSA is a non-salaried allowance that is fully funded by the employer and considered taxable income when spent. Employers design the LSA to include a variety of eligible spending categories, and employees spend the funds as they wish. Eligible expenses can include gym memberships, fitness equipment, therapy, massages, nail salon appointments, plants, WFH equipment, professional development, groceries, meal deliveries, and more. LSAs are becoming more popular because their inherent flexibility allows employees to get the most out of the benefit. They are also very easy to scale as companies grow because eligible spending categories can be quickly added at any time.
LSAs were the second most-popular perk in our benchmarking guide, with 37% of companies offering them at an average of $171 in monthly funds. A recent Mercer Insights Survey also found that 70% of companies are considering adding an LSA to their benefits package. The chart below shows a breakdown of the most common eligible spending categories we found in our benchmarking report. Fitness, nutrition, and mental health top the list. If you are looking for ways to attract and retain top talent or increase engagement with your benefits programs, LSAs are a great option.
To learn more about the types of benefits leading companies are offering their employees, download the 2022 Benepass Benefits Benchmarking Guide. The report breaks down how companies of all sizes are creating programs for wellness, LSA, WFH, personal enrichment, meals, and more. Download the report to get started.