Low-Cost Benefits That Attract Great Startup Employees
By: Catherine Conlan
Is your startup cash-strapped? These relatively low-cost startup employee benefits will help attract new hires and complement your compensation packages. An added benefit: these start up perks will help differentiate your new employer brand.
1. Flexible Work Options
Startups are by their very nature flexible, so why not pass that along to employees? Benefits such as flexible work schedules as well as telecommuting options are highly-valued from any employer.
“I think that, by far, letting employees work remotely is the best low-cost employee benefit a startup can offer,” says Michael Kuhn, president of GLG America in Fishers, Indiana. “I am in a startup phase now and we all work in our home office or on-site with clients. It saves the expense of office space, wasted time in commuting to work, plus it saves the expense of commuting such as gas, parking and wear and tear.”
2. Voluntary Benefits
A startup benefits package doesn’t have to come out of your own pocket. It can include benefits in which employees can elect to pay themselves. This can help round out your startup employee benefits as revenue grows. These self-elected benefits include life, disability income, critical illness and accident insurance policies, Kuhn says.
“As a startup, depending on the number of employees you have, you can negotiate better rates, better underwriting and the convenience of payroll deduction,” he says.
Another component of a valuable startup employee benefits is healthcare. Healthcare reform has changed the benefits landscape for startups. Under the Affordable Care Act, companies with more than 50 full-time workers can provide healthcare benefits at a low cost, says Roy E. Taylor III, CEO of Taylor Insurance Services in Valdosta, Georgia.
“A small early-stage company can send its employees to a private exchange to purchase their benefits and adopt a defined-contribution model,” he says. Employees can make their own decisions on their core benefits.
This will allow you to focus on less-pricey yet still valuable start up perks that make your company more attractive.
3. Discounts and Gifts
Speaking of startup perks, Zeus Legal Funding, a Los Angeles-based startup that provides lawsuit settlement funding, has negotiated deals with department stores, health clubs and restaurants for discounts, says Jesse Harrison, founder and CEO.
In addition, the company offers a free car wash every two weeks, and covers the cost of attending some sports events for employees and families. “We also provide free bus passes and free parking for anyone that brings their car,” Harrison says. These kinds of startup perks are the ones employees love and aren’t too costly, he says.
4. Food, Marvelous Food
It may sound funny, but food is a fantastic startup employee benefit, says Brandon Adams, the founder and chief technical officer of Loftii, a tech company in Draper, Utah that helps customers donate to charities.
Adams says the company keeps healthy snacks (and occasional bags of bite-sized candy bars) on hand for employees to eat when they want. “People love having food available during the day,” Adams says. “It’s what our employees are always telling their friends and family about.”
Adams says people tend to work longer hours because their internal clocks don’t tell them to go home to dinner. “We’ve found it does also lead to more interdepartmental collaboration and relationship building. People who rarely have the opportunity to work together often meet at the snack closet. The relationship formed over a KitKat helps when the time comes for them to work together.”
Adams says it’s a good recruiting tool, especially when you are looking to impress a candidate. “During interviews, we always include our snack closet on the tour and the candidate’s eyes light up.”
Free breakfast or lunch is another option, says Terence Channon, managing director at SaltMines Group, a startup studio in Vero Beach, Florida. “If Google, the world's ultimate startup that came out of nowhere, can provide free lunch to its more than 50,000 employees, you can do the same for your five to 10,” Channon says.
“You can buy a lot of lunches for what you would spend on health insurance or issuing stock options. Your employees are already taking on a big risk by joining a startup. Keep them fed.”
5. Offer Exercise Options
With all the food you’ll be providing your employees, you’ll also want to offer them some healthy workplace wellness options.
Channon is a big believer in the importance of physical activity, thus SaltMines Group has exercise equipment to get employees’ blood pumping. Exercising together can help keep your team stay upbeat and focused. It can also give them the stamina they need to endure longer shifts.
In addition, exercise helps employees reach their own wellness goals and can help build collaboration through friendly wellness challenges. Those are the type of benefits that any company – especially a startup — can benefit from.