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5 (Non-Monetary) Benefits Employees Want

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If you have been keeping up with the news recently, you know that extreme workplace benefits are an extreme trend these days.

Companies like Netflix and Virgin are offering their employees big-time benefits like unlimited vacation time. Google delivers free haircuts, bowling alleys and laundry facilities. Johnson & Johnson provides private concierge services. Other popular perks include free gourmet lunch, subsidized gym memberships, and even on-site exercise classes.

Sure, extra money is nice. But this trend shows that employees want – and employers are providing –benefits other than cash, too. What are some of the top non-monetary benefits employees want?

More time off

The number one benefit employees want, after a raise? According to a 2012 Mercer survey, it’s more paid time off.

U.S. companies aren’t required to provide paid time off to their employees. But most do, both as a courtesy to their workers and as a way to stay competitive in the job market. And while extra time off is certainly a perk to employees, it can also benefit employers, as well. When employees are allowed to spend time away from work, they return refreshed, revitalized and ready to be more productive. Taking time off also helps employees reduce stress and improves job satisfaction.

The trick? Don’t just allow vacation time. Actually encourage employees to take it. Most U.S. workers only use about half of their paid time off. That’s a total of about 500 million lost vacation days every year.

Work-from-home policies

Another benefit many employees value is the opportunity to work from home. Though work-from-home policies certainly aren’t viable for every company, many employees out there could – and, in fact, would prefer to – work from home.

More and more companies are starting to allow workers to telecommute at least a few days a week. Those that do are seeing better productivity, better employee satisfaction, and less turnover. Employees can spend more time with their families, and more time on the job. In fact, employees who work from home are up to 13% more efficient, and log five to seven more hours of work per week, than non-telecommuters.

With technological advancements like cloud computing, video chat and instant messengers, there’s no reason not to let your employees to work from home, as their individual positions permit. Consider allowing employees to work from home one or two days a week, and you could see big returns.

Flexible schedules

Many people like their jobs and genuinely enjoy coming to work every day. But chances are, they have responsibilities to take care of outside of the office, too – whether it’s children, pets, or volunteer work. And for many people, the typical 9 to 5 schedule simply doesn’t work.

If your industry or field of work allows it, consider allowing employees to make more flexible schedules that work with their personal responsibilities. If your workforce includes a lot of parents, they may prefer to work 7 to 3 instead of 9 to 5, so they can be home when the kids are home from school. Other employees might prefer to work from 11 to 7, so they can have a few hours free in the morning. As long as it doesn’t conflict with business operations, flexible scheduling could help your employees be more productive and more satisfied in their jobs.

Totally flexible scheduling not an option? If that’s the case, at least try making occasional flexibility an option. Allow employees to come in and leave earlier or later than usual if they have a specific need, like a child’s soccer game or a volunteer event.

Training and educational opportunities

Though most companies offer on-the-job training, many stop at the bare minimum for an individual position. After all, training employees costs money – and time. However, recent studies have shown that employees would appreciate more opportunities for training and education within their fields.

According to a 2014 Glassdoor survey, 72% of employees value specialized training, and 63% think that it could lead them to promotions and pay raises. Consider providing and subsidizing more educational opportunities to your employees, whether it’s certificate programs, conferences, webinars, or massive open online courses (MOOCs). The skills learned in these courses or seminars can – and should – be beneficial both to your business and to employees’ future endeavors.

One idea? Seek out industry-specific opportunities and publicize them to your employees, but also allow employees to submit opportunities for your approval. Current employees may already know about and want to attend seminars, courses or conferences that could benefit your entire company.

Appreciation and recognition

Sometimes, the best things in life really are free. And employee benefits are no exception to that rule. One of the most common employee complaints is a lack of appreciation for the work they do. And that problem has an easy – and cheap – fix.

Adopting a strategy for employee recognition and appreciation can create huge positive change in your workplace – and it will cost your company very little. Consider implementing an Employee of the Month or Week program, and offer winners a small token of appreciation, like a gift card to a local restaurant. More importantly, make sure your managers know to recognize employees for their hard work on projects and even on day-to-day tasks.

As always, employees who consistently go above and beyond what is asked should be recognized on a different level. Just because you give daily verbal appreciation doesn’t mean you can forget about high-level recognition like raises and promotions.

The takeaway? Many employers think that the only way to make employees happy is to pay them more. But in reality, non-monetary benefits could be equally important to employee satisfaction. Every workplace is different, so find out what benefits your employees truly value, and try to provide them.

Abby Perkins is Managing Editor at Talent Tribune, a SoftwareProviders.com ­blog dedicated to all things HR.

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