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    Beyond Competitive Wages: The Top Benefits that Help You Attract and Keep Employees

    Businesses across the U.S. are increasing their starting hourly wage as the competition for hourly workers intensifies. Amazon recently announced that they will be offering a starting pay of $18 an hour, and Chipotle has already raised their hourly pay to $15 an hour. While competitive compensation matters and may give candidates a reason to look your way, boosting wages alone isn’t enough to solve your hiring and retention challenges.

    Beyond competitive wages, your employees want a fun, supportive environment that highlights a clear path for progression. Wondering how to create that? Here are a few programs you should consider rolling out.

    Scholarships and Professional Development

    Today’s workforce is primarily made up of millennials and Gen Z, many of whom are actively enrolled in school or have aspirations to receive higher education. The cost of attending school leaves most with large amounts of debt. Lifting this financial burden (and its associated stresses) by providing tuition reimbursement or scholarships will help you attract—and keep—committed employees. This benefit is especially important for candidates from low-income backgrounds; a benefit like this—while it may seem like just tuition—is an open door to a world of opportunities. 

    Take a page from Chick-fil-A’s book. This year, the company will issue scholarships to more than 7,400 employees. Employees can receive up to $25,000 in scholarships and can apply those funds toward tuition at a college, university or technical school of their choice. 

    Chipotle is also covering the full tuition fees for employees who choose to pursue college opportunities relevant to their area of work, such as agricultural science, hospitality and supply chain. This is a great way to help employees grow their careers with your company.

    Another way to help employees develop their careers with your company is through professional development. McDonald's, for example, provides career coaching, giving qualified employees the chance to learn from experts and influencers. Additionally, all employees are paired with free career and academic advising services. 

    Time Off

    Today’s workforce wants to know their employers have their back, and it’s important for you to show them how you’ll support them through the ups of downs of (pandemic) life. 

    Local businesses that employ hourly workers know that many of their employees are currently experiencing burnout from working understaffed shifts. Protect your employees by being more mindful of how you schedule their shifts, and encourage them to take time off—to preserve and care for their mental health and for fun.

    If you want to step up how you approach time off, consider giving all employees their birthday and work anniversaries off. And, for managers, go the extra mile. You can even introduce a performance-based incentive, like offering a travel stipend or concert tickets based on them meeting pre-determined goals.

    Employees also value time off to focus on family. Parental leave and short-term disability are important benefits that empower employees to attend to family needs without feeling like their job is at risk. 


    Employees want to be recognized for their contributions, and there are many ways you can meaningfully incentivize and reward them. 

    Referral Bonuses

    Referral bonuses encourage employees to refer capable candidates and help you hire another qualified employee. Papa John’s offers referral bonuses of $50 for each new hire, with an additional $50 given to the new member.

    Performance Bonuses

    Performance bonuses motivate employees to meet company objectives. Chipotle, for example, rolled out a bonus plan allowing employees to earn up to an additional month's pay when they meet criteria, including sales, cashflows and throughput goals. 

    Spot Bonuses

    Looking for a team that shows up to work on time, keeps energy high and is obsessed with the overall customer experience? Launch a spot bonus program to recognize their hard work as you see it happen. This can be in the form of movie tickets, iTunes gift cards or the like.

    Employee-Exclusive Discounts

    Your employees are working for a paycheck, so help them stretch their dollar. An alternative to giving them additional cash is providing them with exclusive employee discounts. This can be for child/elderly care, cell phone rates, theme park tickets and gym memberships.

    Financial Planning Applications

    Help your employees gain financial skills that set them up for long-term financial success. Give them access to classes or applications that will teach them how to better manage their money. KFC, for example, took a step towards this by launching a budgeting tool and giving employees access to financial coaches. Their aim is to help employees make better financial decisions.

    A Fun Work Environment 

    Did you expect this to make the list? A fun work culture is important in keeping employees engaged and motivated at work. Bonding activities and events are a great way to help improve inclusivity and teamwork. If you offer all the perks under the sun but employees dread coming to work, you’re missing the mark. Employees spend a significant amount of time at work. Make it enjoyable. Shake Shack does this well by hosting a yearly company retreat coupled with leadership development classes and guest speakers, and employee appreciation days. 

    What's Next?

    Local businesses are re-evaluating their employment packages—monetary and non-monetary benefits—and stepping up their game. They know that in order to win, their employees have to win too. It’s crucial for you to understand the needs of your employees, to effectively pivot the benefits offered, beyond wages. 

    To get applicants in the door, you also need to make sure that your recruitment processes are convenient for candidates, and today, the best way to do that is with text-to-apply tools and automated interview scheduling. Looking for more ways to hire quality candidates or automate your recruitment processes? Schedule a call to learn more.

    Sng Kai Lin

    Kai Lin is a freelance writer and digital marketer well-versed in SEO. Apart from writing, she also seeks solace in traveling, photography and playing the piano.

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