A nontraditional approach Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2009

Most benefit packages include medical, dental and vision benefits as well as life and disability insurance. These benefits are very beneficial for employees. But what about on-site child care and fitness facilities, legal assistance and/or pet insurance?

While these types of benefits may be outside of the norm, nontraditional benefits are becoming more and more common as employers are trying to help employees achieve a better work-life balance.

There is no argument that companies must continue to offer “standard” benefits commensurate with their industry in order to attract and retain employees. But, to be truly competitive, many employers offer nontraditional benefits, which not only helps capture the best and brightest talent, but also keeps them feeling motivated and appreciated.

Besides that, nontraditional benefits help create a better balance between the demands of the job and enjoyment of life outside work. Perks such as flextime, telecommuting, job-sharing, on-site child care and fitness facilities or fitness membership assistance can really help an employee with busy schedules at work and at home.

Not to mention all the studies that have shown that successful work-life balance strategies reduce stress levels and increase employee job satisfaction. Nontraditional benefits can also increase productivity and reduce absenteeism and turnover.

“Employers are getting creative, offering perks once reserved for top executives that go far beyond the basic employee benefits package,” says Craig Pritts, a sales executive for JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice. “Nontraditional benefits are designed as convenience benefits that focus on saving time and making the work-life balancing act easier.”

Smart Business spoke with Pritts about nontraditional benefits and how they can help employees with their work-life balances, thus benefiting the overall company.

What are some examples of nontraditional benefits?

Besides those benefits already mentioned, there are more radical nontraditional benefits, including onsite meals prepared by gourmet chefs, on-site doctors and hairstylists, oil changes, car washes and massage therapy. Of course, many of these ‘benefits’ come with a hefty price tag for which few companies have the resources, particularly in today’s economy.

Therefore, many employers are offering less radical nontraditional benefits to attract qualified employees. A big attraction for workers is some form of child care, including on-site day care, on-site care for sick children, after-school care or reimbursement for child-related issues throughout the year.

Research by the Society for Human Resources Management shows that close to 75 percent of employers offer flexible savings accounts for dependent care. Only small percentages of companies offer on-site or after-school care, but these benefits are a hit with employees.

How do nontraditional benefits help attract and retain employees?

More companies are attracting and retaining employees by offering comprehensive wellness benefits, finding they can foster a healthy workplace and impact health care costs in the long run. Encouraging healthy lifestyles is assisted through such nontraditional benefits as discounts on gym memberships, company-sponsored health fairs, walking/running clubs, etc. Much of what an employer can expect from wellness programs depends on how they define wellness. Some nontraditional companies are offering such benefits as executive physical exams and spa retreats to encourage key leaders’ health and well-being. Other companies take a more holistic approach to wellness and offer yoga, meditation and stress reduction programs.

What does the future hold for nontraditional benefits?

The scope of nontraditional benefits is broad and ever-growing as companies become more innovative. Whether offering nontraditional benefits in hopes of having a positive impact on the company’s bottom line or helping employees juggle work-life demands, they are always well received by employees. It is no surprise that many of the companies included within Fortune magazine’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ offer nontraditional benefits. These same companies rank among the lowest in their industries in turnover.

Perhaps these employers are finding that nontraditional work-life benefits enable them to get the best from their employees as a result of offering a means to reduce stress and ‘recharge their batteries.’ It is safe to assume such forward-thinking companies will continue to adopt emerging benefits trends to ensure they attract and retain the best employees.

Craig Pritts is a sales executive for JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice. Reach him at (412) 456-7253 or craig.pritts@jrgadvisors.net.