The Number One Benefit Your Employees Want (That Will Cost You Exactly Nothing)

Every few months you see news media organizations come out with rankings of what benefits employees rank as most desirable, or most valuable to them, or ones they wouldn’t give up, etc. And the list always includes stuff like:

  1. Compensation
  2. Health Insurance
  3. Paid time off
  4. Retirement

blah, blah, blah…

It’s always the same crap, usually just ranked slightly different based on age, sex, where you live, etc. But, this data never tells us anything new. “Oh, look! Free lunches moved up from 8th to 7th! We better take a look at the choices we’re offering, one company said all organic really helped them recruit more talent!” No, it didn’t.

This is the new reality in employee benefits: we’ve reached an era where certain things are now expected.  If you want talent that actually is talented and will show up to work, and work, you are now expected to have health insurance, competitive PTO, retirement of some sort and life insurance. As an employer, you no longer get credit for acting like these are “benefits”! These are now status quo, and practically required. You better have them, or you’re not even in the game.

So then, what is it that can really set you apart from everyone else that basically has the exact same benefit package as you?

To me, the holy grail is this: flexible work schedules.

The difficult part of this is that flexible work schedules work great for some employers because they fit their business model. But for other employers, it’s just not realistic. An insurance company can have some folks come in at 10am and work until 7pm, and it’s probably not going to affect their business much. Applebee’s on the other hand, can’t have a cook decide to show up at 2pm when the lunch rush is at 11:30 am!

This is the talent divide of 2016.  If you can run your business the way you need to and offer flexible work schedules, you have a talent advantage. If you can’t, you’ll likely be fighting for talent that’s second tier.

So why aren’t more companies making a real effort to add this choice benefit to their roster? Well, I think a ton of industries and organizations that traditionally haven’t offered flexible work schedules easily could with very minor adjustments, but they’re being run by baby boomers (and some Gen Xers) who still believe if I can’t “see” you, you must not be working!

In my opinion, there is no longer a reason to believe time-in-the-seat is an actual productivity measure. Most of us now have technology that measures the productivity and performance of our workforce. And unless one of your workers (let’s call her Jenny) is working a cut-and-dried shift, is there really a need for her to come in at 7:30am and leave at 4:30 when she’s would probably rather come in at 9am and work until 6pm?

The other argument I hear people make against flexible schedules is that it’s not fair to offer them unless everyone can do it. But think about it: everyone doesn’t get a company car either, but does that stop you from getting them? People who can’t work flexible schedules because they absolutely need to be present at certain times aren’t going to be upset. They get it. So instead of penalizing everybody in the name of equality, why not do what you can for the folks who could be more flexible, and take a more individualized approach?  Not only is it going to be appreciated, you don’t have to spend a dime.

(Want to know how to keep your remote or working-weird-schedules folks in the loop and happy once you’ve hired them? Check out this great blog post by the folks at ALEX: Five Ways to Maintain a Human Touch in the Virtual Workplace.)



7 thoughts on “The Number One Benefit Your Employees Want (That Will Cost You Exactly Nothing)

  1. I love this Tim! I think that flexible schedules are a sign that the company has the employees best interest in mind which is why it make employees love it so much. What are your thoughts?

  2. Agreed Tim. The reality is that workplace flexibility that goes beyond policies on paper and toward actual utilization is a key driver of employee recruitment and retention. And this applies to all employees — millennials, boomers, parents, singles.

    One key aspect of flexibility that still requires attention is recognizing that flexibility cannot be limited to infancy or elder care but must address the breadth of life cycle events that are…part of life.

    Employee needs for flexibility are individual, complex, and often shift, requiring companies to integrate work/life policies that address and support these needs. And workplace flexibility tops the list.

  3. It’s great to simplify it down to your number one factor and it would be difficult to argue with the importance of this both now and in the future, but the reality is the data shows that there are a multitude of factors contributing to engagement and satisfaction at work. SHRM report on this does not even have work flexibility as a factor (they list over 30 others). My own view is flexibility is generally very high along with cultural, leadership and opportunity factors.

  4. Hey there Tim,
    I agree that work scheduling is one of the biggest limiting factors.
    Of course it’s different for service workers compare to business services professionals, but what’s really strange to me is how rigid the part-time scheduling still is.

    Loads of healthcare, hospitality, retail, and restaurant employers are using tools like Kronos, yet employees have no access to their schedules via mobile phone.
    Instead, the employee’s schedules are locked deep within the confines of a black box or hosted server, such that no one, other than the manager can get access to the schedule except through a printer and a printed schedule that gets posted on the wall in the back office or break room.

    While some solutions like HotSchedules is solving this problem within hospitality and restaurants, it just amazes me that no one has figured this out.

    Creating a Flexible Workforce, isn’t just about managing shifts, it’s about giving employees the ability to communicate with their management.

    Employees who have the ability to create flexible schedules, or the ability to flexibly schedule their work, are going to have a better work/ life balance.

    Having Black Box, printed schedules is a big limitations to employers and employees.

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