Affordable startup benefits
If your startup is cash-strapped, then you’re not alone. Most startups are burning the candle at both ends and doing more with less as they work to differentiate themselves from competitors and get to the break-even point.
But even though you can’t justify exotic employee retreats or luxury boxes at the local sports arena, you need to provide some benefits in addition to base compensation.
These relatively low-cost startup benefits will help attract new hires and complement your compensation packages, helping you to retain the talent you worked so hard to recruit. An added benefit: these startup perks will help differentiate your new employer brand.
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.”
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 benefit 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.
“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, based on the availability in their state. This will allow you to focus on less-pricey yet still valuable startup perks that make your company more attractive.
Discounts and gifts
Los Angeles-based startup Zeus Legal Funding, which 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.
Feed your people
It may sound funny, but food is a fantastic startup employee benefit, says Brandon Adams, the founder 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. Supplying food and snacks also leads to more interdepartmental collaboration and relationship building, he adds.
“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 explains.
In-office snacks also are a good recruiting tool, especially when you are looking to impress a candidate. “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,” says Terence Channon, managing director at SaltMines Group, a startup studio in Vero Beach, Florida.
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.
Exercise also helps employees reach their own wellness goals and can help build collaboration through friendly wellness challenges. Those are the type of startup benefits that can be a win-win for employer and employees alike.
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