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Build Competitive & Creative Benefit Packages

You probably already know that nonprofits generally work with lower budgets than large corporations, especially when it comes to employee benefits and perks. That means you must make your nonprofit appealing to job seekers in other ways. This is the time to deploy your creative genius and stand out in the employment marketplace. The global pandemic put just about everyone through a life-altering experience. And as a result, many career trajectories are changing. Seize the opportunity to offer something attractive that will improve their quality of life, enriching them in ways that go beyond dollar signs—and it must be more than your mission.

Offered in many shapes, the employee benefits package has kept its golden status as a form of compensation that goes beyond wages to draw job seekers. Often referred to as perks, the varied benefits included are special and not offered by all employers. You should begin by re-examining your basics to see if you’re already offering any of the following:

  • Improved Work-Life Balance. Given that so many spent more than a year at home, it might seem contrary to offer additional personal time off. But the pandemic lock downs, complete with furloughs and layoffs, were not the same as paid leave from a job that inspires you to return with energy. Flexible hours can also help families cope with new work routines. And longstanding employees might appreciate the opportunity to take an educational sabbatical, especially if they return with helpful new skills. That's a win/win!
  • Healthy is Happy. The pandemic exposed a health divide across the nation. Help your workers enjoy greater wellness by providing budget-friendly benefits they will appreciate. Organize a lunchtime walking group or offer healthy snacks instead of the traditional vending machine. Those working in the office again may need a quiet space for relaxing breaks. Put that empty office space to good use. If your nonprofit can afford it, consider partnering with a local gym to reimburse part of their membership fees.
  • Teach and Learn. Offer opportunities for staff to share special skills, such as a foreign language. Or set up links to crafty educational YouTube videos for crafts in the break room coupled with basic supplies for beginners. At lunch, they can learn to crochet or make a mosaic.
  • Form an Affinity Group. If your nonprofit is large enough, you may be able to take advantage of affinity group benefits⁸, such as insurance deals or club memberships. Check into offering a discounted membership in Auto Club (AAA), for example, which would then provide numerous discounts and services to your employees.
  • Have Fun Together. Bring some joy to your workforce culture by offering memorable enjoyable events. For example, cell phones are ubiquitous, so how about a photo contest? Dedicate some wall space, perhaps in the lunchroom (or an online page) for your employees’ artwork—photographic or otherwise. They can share around-town selfies, landscapes, or perhaps local architecture.

When you must work with a limited benefits budget, it’s crucial to choose only the benefits that your employees will care about. Clearly, most workers need help with healthcare costs. If your nonprofit is small, and you don’t provide a group health insurance plan, consider offering a Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement (QSEHRA) — an affordable way to help defray your employees’ healthcare costs. The pandemic left many Americans in debt and reducing these expenses will help reduce their risks of financial devastation. Even before the pandemic, millennials struggled with deficient wages, affordable housing shortages, and outrageous student debt. They already make up the largest segment of the workforce, so whatever you can do to help them with essential expenses will be appreciated.

Financial Tools That Help

Americans are recovering financially, as the economy revives, though it breaks along socioeconomic and racial lines. About 60% of White and Asian adults report that their finances are in excellent or good shape. By contrast, about two thirds of Black adults and nearly 60% of Hispanic adults report that their finances are in fair or poor shape. Roughly half of non-retired Americans say the economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak have made it harder for them to achieve their financial goals moving forward. These employees need your help managing their budgets. Consider the following tools for this purpose:

  • Access to Funds. Work with a payroll service that provides free access to funds between paydays. This can help protect your workers experiencing surprise expenses from credit card late fees and overdraft charges, as they return to work and rebuild their financial wellbeing.
  • HSAs and FSAs. Provide a tax-free way to pay for covered expenses.
  • Set Up a Retirement Plan. Whether it’s a 401(K) or a 403(B), you can help your staff prepare for the future with deposits that are automatically deducted from their pay. Make it spectacular by including a plan to match contributions up to a specified amount.
  • Identity Theft Protection. Scams and security breaches are rampant. When you offer free enrollment in a credit monitoring program, you’re showing how much you care by protecting their safety and security.
  • Student Loan Assistance. This will be huge for millennials, their parents and recent graduates from other generations who might be feeling abandoned by governmental agencies that allowed promised funds to dwindle. Just a hundred dollars a month could save your employee three years of payments.

Nearly 86% of workers between 22 and 33 years old say they would commit to an employer for five years if the deal included student loan assistance. Encourage loyalty with a monthly payment that helps reduce their debt.

  • Help Families Flourish. Is your family leave package robust? Find creative means to help with child or elder care. Celebrate families with bring-your-child-to-work days. Whatever helps busy moms and dads get through their week with less stress could be just the ticket.
  • Share the Swag. Does your nonprofit use branded swag for fundraising or other purposes? Share some of those goodies with your employees, so they can really feel like part of the team without having to donate part of their paycheck to do it.
  • Paid Volunteer Time. You’ve hired people who care. Let them put in some extra time without sacrificing a paycheck. It’s good for the community, the employee, and your employer brand!
  • Auto Insurance Premiums. With more employees working from home, their car insurance rates likely dropped significantly – perhaps enough for you to help with the premiums.
  • Supplemental Insurance. Offer these programs at group rates for employees, including spousal insurance, long-term care, disability and more.
  • Make the Workplace Comfortable. As the pandemic slowly subsides, it’s time to rethink office supplies that go beyond hand sanitizer. Save your employees the expense of caring for their comfort by providing blankets for those under air conditioning vents, free healthy snacks to keep energy up, and perhaps serve lattes once a month as a sign of appreciation for all they do. And remember birthdays because it's personal to the employee and it shows you care. Give them reason to connect you with empathy and caring.

With so many members of the American workforce continuing to work from home, you should also consider helping to defray their communication and efficiency costs. Offer a corporate cell phone plan or give them one to use for work. If you’re not already doing this, it’s time to cover the cost of upgrading their internet speed.

Party Heart-y

And one virtually free method of supporting your staff with joyful memories is to ask employees to recognize each other. Co-workers feel highly motivated to earn the esteem of their peers and will network better, gaining newfound appreciation for their teammates, as they seek reasons to recognize each other.

Seize the opportunity to go over the top by coupling it with a seasonal party event. Serve in-season snacks, such as cocoa for winter, and warm each other’s hearts with your very own mutual-admiration society.

Virtual Team Building

If your staff is now working remote, you can find virtual events to enjoy online. Many types of fun shared experiences await, from game shows to virtual escape rooms, virtual tropical beach gatherings, online shared puzzles to solve, trivial challenges, and more. Your team could be lounging on a virtual tropical beach together. Just a few clicks away! If your budget doesn’t allow for a third-party provider, simply visit Google Earth, and plug in far-away cities, then share the domain and enjoy virtual travel together! Wander the streets of Italy’s Positano or a Japanese fishing village. The opportunities are global!

Experience Success

Whether your employees enjoy them at home or someplace around town, experiences are the hot new perk. Even before the pandemic, Millennials had developed a reputation as seekers of experiences rather than accumulators of goods. That’s not to suggest ignoring their monetary needs; they still have student loans and other high costs disempowering their buying choices. But prior to COVID-19, HR teams were already searching for emotionally impactful activities that could act as bonus incentives. And Millennials largely took them up on experiences that boosted a sense of interpersonal contact and community.

The pandemic galvanized this mindset and spread a desire for recreation to all workforce generations. Of course, the sporadic need for social distancing has complicated fulfilling desires for contact and community. So, be sure to include engaging experiences that they can enjoy from the safety and comfort of their homes. Some companies offer memberships in Peloton or virtual leadership coaching. It could be something fun and relaxing like an in-home cooking class or even a meal prepared by a private chef. Or it could be hiring professional respite care for an elderly family member so that the employee can enjoy a break from routine. The limit to this is your creativity and the dreams of your workers. The truth is, an experience given as a gift or reward is more personal than a gift card or bonus check. Look to provide moments of connection, even if it requires using digital tools to deliver them. Online platforms offering curated activities as incentives are available, and employees can even choose what is most meaningful to them. The menu options are abundant and worth considering. As the nation reopens, many more opportunities will become available – from tours to scuba lessons. Whatever the offerings, each activity celebrates the person who works on your team and will build your employer brand to new levels of success.

Set Up Your New Employee Benefits Packages

Now that you’ve considered the new possibilities, you’re ready to leap in, right? Of course, setting up a new employee benefits package will take some expertise. But you should allow your creativity to provide foundational ideas that will build the package of your employees’ dreams. It’s an opportunity to stand out. First, however, you need to know these startling facts:

• A full 40% of US employees report that their employer is not currently offering employee benefits programs that help.

• An impressive 69% say that having a wider array of benefits would increase their workplace loyalty.

• A frightful 32 million members of the US workforce don’t receive paid sick time off, which is especially horrifying to note in pandemic times.

Of course, there are some basics: Many employers offer life insurance, retirement plans, overtime pay, and PTO or sick pay. The US federal government does require larger organizations to offer medical benefits and unpaid family leave to full-time employees. Some states add to this. Beyond that, benefits are an ideal way to serve budget-conscious nonprofits in the current job market. Excellent benefits that are affordable for an organization can incentivize employees to stay longer despite lower cash wages. Lower turnover saves your nonprofit as well. A great benefits package can build workforce loyalty and push your team toward greater success with your nonprofit’s mission.

Be Their Best Friend’s Best Friend

For something truly unusual, offer a paid day off for a staff member to bond with her newly adopted puppy or kitten, offering to send a treat for rescued pets. Some nonprofits offer subsidized or group-rate pet insurance as an option. The most affordable option may simply to offer a pet-friendly office space for worksite employees. Take precautions to protect employees with allergies and specify the kinds of pets that are allowed, normally well-behaved dogs. Some organizations bring in animal therapy to help de-stress their staff. When a puppy makes the rounds, he’s always followed by a lot of smiles. These benefits aren’t too common, so you’ll make your brand stand out by offering furry wellness perks.

Expand a Popular Offering

What’s better than PTO? Extended PTO! Look into stretching paid time off to include some half-day Fridays. Every other week, staff members who have their assignments completed on time can take the afternoon off, paid. The benefit supports mental wellness with extra-long weekends to rest and relax—some companies offer unlimited vacation time. Even if you only offer these time-related benefits during summers or perhaps on a once-monthly basis, it could keep your staff motivated and excited about employment at your organization.

Perks Work!

The good news is that most benefits you select can be customized to suit your budget, workforce, and nonprofit culture. Business strategist Kenichi Ohmae said, “Rowing harder doesn’t help if the boat is headed in the wrong direction.” If you’re offering the wrong benefits, or you’re trying to find other means of remaining competitive in today’s tight job market, it’s time to consider a new direction in benefits packaging. Ask your staff about their dream rewards, come up with creative offerings that speak to those dreams, and then share the news with everyone.

This is an excerpt from UST’s eBook, “Workforce Management Tactics that Strengthen Nonprofit Brands” in collaboration with Beth Black, Writer and Editor.

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