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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

13 competitive benefits even new businesses can offer

Salary alone isn’t enough to attract and retain top talent amid the Great Resignation. You need great benefits, too.

13 competitive benefits even new businesses can offer
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

Over the course of the last few years, employees’ values and priorities for their work lives have shifted. Many are searching for employers that will provide them with not only a competitive salary but comprehensive benefits that offer them balance, stability and overall well-being.

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As the labor pool continues to tighten, it’s essential to make your business stand out to top-notch talent by providing competitive benefits, especially if your business is just starting out. To that end, 13 members of Fast Company Executive Board each described how new businesses can provide a solid benefits package for employees without breaking the bank.

1. OFFER SIMPLE PERKS.

When employees are offered over-the-top yet simple perks like flexible working hours and more paid vacation time, such benefits win over job seekers and can incline current employees to stick to their jobs for much longer. This combined with recognition of employee hard work and talent will do wonders for the team as well as the start-up. – Irfan Khan, CLOUDSUFI

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2. PRIORITIZE YOUR EMPLOYEES’ HEALTH AND WELLBEING.

Study after study is showing that employees want employers who care about their health and wellbeing, above all else. Prioritizing your staff’s holistic wellness needs is not only the best thing you can do for them; it’s necessary for staying competitive in the market. Keep this benefit budget-friendly by seeking partnerships with turnkey providers-from mental health apps to healthy meal programs. – Tom Futch, FreshlyWell

3. PROVIDE FLEXIBILITY AND BALANCE.

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Benefits are not only transactional. There are countless ways to build a people-first company and culture that don’t cost a penny. Start with flexibility and balance. At Spool Marketing, if someone is emailing late into the night that’s considered a red flag, not a badge of honor. Ensure people are living full lives outside of work and that they’re working smarter vs. harder to achieve that. – Catherine Merritt, Spool

4. ALLOW FOR FLEXIBLE WORK SCHEDULES.

Allow flexibility in choosing when they can work. The traditional 9-to-5 is a thing of the past. Move beyond those traditional hours to give greater flexibility. – Mark Bryan, MA Design

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5. PROMOTE A STRONG COMPANY CULTURE.

If you’re starting a company and recruiting the same people that Google, Amazon and Meta are recruiting, you’re never going to win on benefits. The greatest benefit a startup can offer is a dynamic culture where the team is enabled to do their best work, grow and build something better than whatever exists on the market. – Beau Oyler, Enlisted Design

6. SUPPORT YOUR EMPLOYEES’ PASSIONS.

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Support your employee’s side gigs. Today’s workers don’t want to give their whole self to a company. But I would argue, that’s fine. An employee’s side passion project is fuel for the expertise and energy they’ll bring to their full-time job. So give them room to create on the side. And be vocal about recognizing it for the value it brings to your core business. They’ll love you for it. – Barry Fiske, Merkle

7. PROVIDE EXPENSE REIMBURSEMENT.

Quality of life and expense reimbursement. Allow your people the opportunity to work, but don’t force it on them, and set the expectations that their expenses are your expenses insofar as the tools they need to best complete the work you need from them are concerned. If you aren’t remote like we are, then find ways to make life at work feel less like work and more like life. – Wyatt Clouse, Rearden Consulting

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8. OFFER TAILORED FRINGE BENEFITS.

Competing purely through financial benefits will be an unending perpetual cycle that keeps coming north. If able, it’s best to offer fringe benefits that are tailored to what each specific staff values, for example, whether it’s laundry service, pet service, childcare, mental health counseling, and more. We should apply different strokes for different folks in what each person values more to them and offer that. – Royston G King, Royston G King Group & Companies

9. GIVE EMPLOYEES A CHANCE TO FEEL HEARD.

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Real-time platforms that allow employee voices to be heard are valuable. This could look like a weekly stand-up roundtable or pulse engagement surveys or Town Halls where an employee’s connection back to the vision and business can be amplified. – Michelle Hayward, Bluedog

10. OFFER CREATIVE PERKS.

Think outside the box and offer creative perks such as flexible hours, early release Fridays or weekly company meals that show you care about your employees. You should also put an emphasis on the accessibility all of your team has to executives as well as the ability to learn and grow quickly, as these are benefits of a smaller startup company. – Kelley Higney, Bug Bite Thing

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11. BUILD UP EMPLOYEE SKILLS.

Focus on skill building and experience. Even if you’re working exclusively with contractors and not offering any formal benefits, you can invest in team members by helping them build skills. This may mean empowering them to take on increasingly complex and demanding projects. Whether they stay with you and help you scale your company or move on, this is an investment that carries a lot of value. – Camille Preston, AIM Leadership, LLC

12. CONSIDER OFFERING EQUITY.

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Startup companies often replace the cushy benefits of corporate positions with vested ownership in the company. Equity is the most expensive form of compensation because it can grow dramatically over time, but if you’re competing with larger organizations and your employees or potential employees believe in the mission, it may behoove you to offer equity in lieu of other forms of compensation. – Tyrone Foster, InvestNet, LLC

13. CREATE A REWARDS PROGRAM AND LEAVE OPTIONS.

It is essential for today’s start-ups to offer competitive benefits to attract and retain top talent. But how can that be affordable, especially in a recession? Get creative and think free. Offer flexible working hours, gamify a rewards program, or offer unpaid (or partially paid) leave options like a sabbatical program. – Ashleigh Vogstad, Transcends Marketing Ltd

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