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Innovative Perks for Small Businesses

Netflix recently announced unlimited maternity and paternity leave for employees. Other companies like Adobe and Microsofthave some sweet maternity leave policies as well. Companies like Google and Apple not only provide great health insurance benefits but they have on site physicians and other medical professionals for main campus employees (Google employees also get oil changes and car washes, massages and yoga, a play room, back-up child care assistance, and $12,000 annually in tuition reimbursement).

In a survey, job candidates revealed just how important great benefits can be. The survey results ranked benefits like the company healthcare plan (32 percent) and vacation policy (25 percent) well above a pay raise (15 percent) in order of importance to prospective employees. So, with many of these progressive companies with such shockingly great employee benefits hiring in Texas—in your own backyard—how can a small  business compete? With your “hidden paycheck,” says Caroline Valentine, president at Austin-based ValentineHR.

“A lot of small business owners are so stressed about not having the cash to pay top people that they don’t stop and really assess what they have to offer employees beyond cash,” Valentine recently wrote. Those offerings include something a small company can give job candidates just as easily as a large company can:

  • Work/life balance
  • Opportunity to learn
  • Closer-knit work environment

Small businesses have some extra advantages, too. Like the ability to tailor these priorities to each employee. It’s in this flexibility and employee empowerment that small companies can really shine.

“A colleague of mine recently left his large company because the cog-in-wheel feeling drove him away. My employees feel empowered to make changes in our company and I listen carefully to their ideas,” writes Daniel Andrew, founder of Trademark Tours, LLC.

Andrew goes on to explain that small businesses should offer job candidates unique perks that don’t necessarily follow the trends. For instance, if you’re in a seasonal business, find a way to offer added flexibility or time off during the slow times. Or, while you may not be able to offer stock options, what about quarterly cash bonuses or another incentive program? Austin-based employee-recognition company YouEarnedIt came up with “25 Staff Appreciation and Recognition Ideas that Won’t Break the Bank.” Ideas include:

  • Arranging for a team to showcase a successful project or idea to upper management.
  • Asking peers to nominate and vote for employee of the month.
  • Setting up a suggestion program.
  • Writing thank you notes to employees who go above and beyond.

Creating a culture focused on gratitude and positive reinforcement for your employees can go a long way. Some of Austin’s Best Places to Work according to the Austin Business Journal’s annual list include small businesses that have mastered this art. Small-company category winner Supreme Lending’s McClellan Branch takes employee flexibility seriously, for example.

“Some folks like coming in at 6 a.m. and leaving earlier. Natural night owls may prefer coming in at 10 a.m. and staying late,” McClellan Branch Owner John McClellan tells ABJ.

Others among Austin’s best small businesses have gotten a bit more inventive with their perks. In the past, we’ve featured’s culture of autonomy and giving employees time and resources to volunteer. Car insurance comparison platform companyThe Zebra offers what they call a Treat Yo’Self perk: A quarterly allotment to employees to spend on anything that makes them happy. ABJ reports that employees have used the perk toward happiness-boosters such as yoga classes, a deep-tissue massage and…bird seed.  The company also offers to cover monthly maid services for employees.

What about your company? Ask your current employees: What benefits or perks would attract them away from the Netflix and Google recruiters? What unique conditions at your company already exist that could be formally communicated as a recruitment tool for job candidates?


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