Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Mary Mazzoni headshot

3p Weekend: Employee Benefits That Enhance Corporate Culture

By Mary Mazzoni

Over the first three months of 2016, TriplePundit has sparked a conversation around workplace diversity through an editorial series in partnership with PwC and our custom hashtag #3pDiversity on social media. Of course, creating a diverse workplace is about more than hiring people of different backgrounds. That's only the start.

Once your company brings on people with different ethnicities, religions and sexual orientation, that's when the work really begins. It's up to the core management of your company to make sure each of these individuals feels welcome and part of the team. That means creating an inclusive environment in which all voices can be heard.

One way to create a corporate culture that's welcoming to all employees is by going above and beyond with employee benefits. While it can be tricky to calculate the ROI of giving employees sweet perks like gym memberships and subsidized daycare, countless success stories prove such efforts can pay dividends in the form of an engaged workforce and lower turnover. Read on for 10 ideas to help show employees you care.

1. 401(k) matching

As millennials begin to take over the workforce, you're likely hearing more employees say things like "I was the first person in my family to go to college" or "I'm the first person in my family to live and work in this neighborhood." These are powerful sentiments that signal a 21st-century workforce that is more inclusive than ever before.

Chances are these same first-generation college graduates will also be the first in their families to have the luxury of saving for a secure retirement. And when you're thinking about ways to offer benefits to your employees, it's best to start with the basics.

Offering a 401(k) matching program is a great way to show these employees -- and indeed, your entire team -- that you value their contributions and care about their futures. It doesn't have to be a 1:1 match if that isn't within the reach of your company. Even matching half or 25 percent of your employees' contributions to their 401(k) can significantly boost their savings plans, relieve stress and free them up to focus on tasks at hand.

2. (Inclusive) gift-matching programs

Gift-matching programs are a great way to get employees engaged in your philanthropy efforts. But keep in mind that these programs should be as diverse as your workforce.

Some of your employees may be more focused on nonprofits that benefit neighborhoods within your home city, while others seek the opportunity to donate internationally. It should be easy for your employees to suggest a nonprofit to be added to your matching gift program or suggest ways you could do things differently.

3. Volunteer and team-building days

Getting everyone together to make a difference is a great way to build camaraderie within your team -- and you can even get your remote employees involved.

In a post on TriplePundit, Wauker Matthews of @Pay suggests selecting a national nonprofit with local branches -- such as Habitat for Humanity or Big Brothers Big Sisters -- so all of your employees can take part in your volunteer day, wherever they live.

When your company isn't giving back, be sure to offer other team-building activities -- whether it's an after-work happy hour or an afternoon bike ride -- to give your employees a chance to mix it up with folks from other departments. Your whole team will be stronger for it.

4. Consider a remote workplace

Speaking of remote employees, allowing employees to live and work wherever they want is the ultimate benefit. And while you may think it could lead to a detached team, the truth is the freedom to check out a new city and still keep your job is something that will make your employees happy and proud to work for you.

Take Basecamp as an example. The company is headquartered in Chicago, but all of its employees are free to live and work anywhere -- and they're scattered across more than 30 cities around the world. The Basecamp team also works four-day, 32-hour weeks during the summer, and everyone can take a one-month sabbatical every three years. The company has been so successful with its flexible model and its diverse team that CEO and co-founder Jason Fried even wrote a best-selling book, "Rework," about Basecamp's business model.

5. Go BYOD

Not ready to abandon your HQ in favor of a fully remote workplace? Try giving BYOD (bring your own device) a try instead. Okay, we know what you're thinking: But we already have all of these dusty desktop computers! Yes, that may be so, but your employees likely have their favorite laptops, tablets and other devices gathering their own layer of dust at home -- and they'd be much happier if they were allowed to use them at work.

Even Forbes reports that BYOD programs increase employee satisfaction and productivity. And when it comes to employees with disabilities like autism or hearing impairment, a BYOD program moves from luxury to necessity, as hardware and software on their personal devices is likely already equipped with everything they need to do their jobs better.

6. Meals (and mingling) for all

You don't have to serve up a lavish spread of artisanal cuisine a-la-Google, but there's something to be said for having a cafeteria or eating space at your headquarters. Just think about it: Without one, most of your employees will either eat at their desks (probably alone) or go out for lunch, most likely with co-workers they already know and who are probably a lot like them.

Providing a space where employees from all departments and all walks of life can break bread together gives them a chance to talk to people they may have otherwise only exchanged "good mornings" with. It definitely helps if the food is free, but the togetherness is what will really build your team.

7. Discounted daycare

Daycare can cost a fortune, and it's a heavy burden on working families. That's why some companies, like Emeryville, California-based Clif Bar, choose to offer subsidized daycare services to their employees.

Clif Bar actually goes a step further and offers discounted daycare to employees' family members as well. And really, what's a better way to show you care about your team than to look out for their families, too? If you opt for a daycare service, just be sure it's inclusive. It should be just as seamless for a same-sex couple to sign up their adopted child as it is for any of your other employees.

8. Wellness programs

We've all heard the statistics about how wellness programs can decrease healthcare costs, but they also show your employees you care about their well-being. Basecamp offers a $100 fitness allowance and a $100 massage allowance to all employees each month, while Clif Bar pays employees for 30 minutes of workout time in the company gym.

However you choose to approach wellness, be sure to tell your employees why you're doing it -- because their health and well-being matters to the company and they're not just a cog in the wheel. They'll take notice and appreciate it. Don't believe us? Check out Clif Bar's measly 5 percent turnover rate for proof.

9. Time off to vote

Your company can do a lot to make the world a better place through your corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, but of course some things are out of your hands.

That's why it's so vital to encourage your employees to be part of the political process by casting their vote on Election Day. But the vast majority of people have to line up at the polls early in the morning or in the evening hours to get around their strict 9-5, which makes the whole thing take longer for everyone. Be different: Give your employees time off to vote, and let them know you care about their voices and want them to be heard.

10. Fun freebies

Let's be honest: Everyone loves free stuff. And while giving things away won't create a united and engaged team on its own, it's a fun perk that employees are sure to tell all their friends about.

REI gives employees and their families sick discounts on outdoor gear, while Clif Bar opts to give every new employee a free bike. Choose something that makes sense with your company's mission and vision, and start rewarding your employees for all of their hard work.

Image courtesy of Clif Bar & Co. 

Mary Mazzoni headshot

Mary has reported on sustainability and social impact for over a decade and now serves as executive editor of TriplePundit. She is also the general manager of TriplePundit's Brand Studio, which has worked with dozens of organizations on sustainability storytelling, and VP of content for TriplePundit's parent company 3BL. 

Read more stories by Mary Mazzoni