11 Positive Employee Relations Strategies that Haven’t Jumped the Shark

JumpedTheShark_billboardCompanies are realizing the critical connection between employee engagement and factors like retention rates, productivity and profits. As employees seek out work-life balance, many major companies are making unconventional cultural changes. Smaller business owners might feel constricted in their ability to keep up and offer competitive, quirky employee benefits; however, there are ways to transform those over-the-top perks into affordable, effective employee benefits and remain an employer of choice in your industry.

1. Work When You Please

Netflix reportedly keeps little watch over their employees’ work hours, with no 9-5 schedule. For small business owners, how do you ensure employees are available during periods of high volume? This extreme approach can be made more practical by creating flexibility outside of “core hours.” In this case, employees would have a set of mandatory hours in their week, while the rest could be altered to fit, thus providing a guilt-free option for employees who need to leave early or arrive late.

2. Vacation Anytime!

Netflix has also gone above and beyond with vacation time, offering employees free rein over their days off. Management simply doesn’t track or control how often or when employees take time off, trusting them to make reasonable decisions. While you may trust your employees, you know a “vacation anytime” approach could lead to short-staffed situations. Instead, employers can close for the day or reduce holiday hours of operation, eliminating the resentment that often comes with working on holidays.

3. Onsite Healthcare

Google provides its staff with onsite doctors, chiropractors and therapists. Undoubtedly, most businesses cannot afford this pricey endeavor, but any company can invite simple programs that benefit employee health. For example, midweek, half-hour office yoga sessions, taught by an affordable instructor, would help break up the week and refresh employees.

4. Fresh Flowers

The Institute for Integrative Nutrition employees receive fresh flowers on their desk each morning. What can regular companies do to boost the mood and atmosphere with a simple touch? Give your staff free rein to decorate their personal spaces or rearrange furniture to suit their work needs. Dedicating one day to this project each year can strengthen employee communication and serve as a fun break.

5. Paid Education

Every employee dreams of having college tuition paid for in full, which is just what Starbucks does for those staff members who want a bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately, education isn’t cheap and most young employees will change jobs several times in their early professional life. However, you can offer relevant employee training for leaders and supervisors through abetterleader.com.

6. Surfing Through the Workday

Taking advantage of its beautiful California location, Patagonia encourages its employees to take a surf break during the day. Retail Marketing Coordinator Danielle Egge says the luxurious break improves her daily productivity dramatically. While most businesses aren’t stationed by the beach, managers can coordinate running or cycling groups to encourage daily activity during or after lunch breaks.

7. Trips to Disney World

Education technology company 2U knows how to spoil its employees — with free trips to Disney World, of course. Coordinating and financing such a trip is a huge undertaking, especially for a larger staff, but simply inserting a bland employee picnic in its place won’t cut it. Instead, managers can poll the office to determine what local destinations employees want to visit. From outdoor parks to great local restaurants, employee trips will be appreciated for the time, money and effort involved in a fun day/night out.

8. Foreign Travel

What better way to inform your employees about different cultures and build stronger teams than by traveling abroad? Epic does just that, even offering paid sabbaticals to countries like New Zealand and Germany. Your employees may not have the time to skip off into the sunset, but you can bring other cultures into the workplace. Consider inviting unique speakers with topics that appeal to your employees, or even hiring caterers for an ethnic mini food festival. As you mix up their regular environment, your employees will feel as though they’re receiving mini vacations throughout the year.

9. Tech Cash

AnswerLab answers tech nerds’ dreams by offering a $400 allowance for employee devices or apps. Even with a small staff these allowances add up fast, but not all apps and software are expensive. Businesses can consider holding monthly meetings in which managers introduce a new tool that can help make employees’ jobs easier. These tools can be low cost or even free, provided directly to employees or offered as an option.

10. Vacation Cash

A step up from simple vacation time, Full Contact offers to pay $7500 toward its employees’ getaways, as long as they disconnect and actually travel somewhere. This perk, dubbed “Paid Paid Vacations,” is in addition to employees’ already paid 15-day vacation. Companies can mimic this perk by notifying employees of discount travel packages and programs throughout the year.

11. Bring Your Dog to Work

Real Estate software company BoomTown allows employees to bring their dogs to work, calling dogs an “important part of the workforce.” Depending on your business, you might not find it safe or practical for pups to roam the workspace. However, companies can arrange a day in which the space is opened to friends and family, allowing employees to proudly show what they do. This event can also generate employment interest and help identify potential candidates.

You don’t have to break the bank to connect with your employees and provide them with meaningful experiences they can appreciate. Ultimately, employees will recognize and value sincerity over flashy employee perks, and be more inclined to remain union-free — because it’s respect your staff truly desires.

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