50+ Low-Cost Perks to Boost Employee Engagement, Retention & ROI

Discover the payoff of taking care of your employees.

You’ve likely noticed attracting and retaining top talent is getting harder, costing employers a ton of dough and driving recruiters to drink. Enter the perks arms race, as The Washington Post calls it.

Worker expectations have changed considerably, and astute employers must change with it. A 2020 study by Glassdoor reveals that benefits are one of the top pieces of information job seekers look for when researching a company – exceeded only by salary – and 48% of job seekers say an attractive benefits packages is a key factor in deciding whether to apply for a job. What’s more, USA today reports that 58% of employees say they’d be willing to forgo a pay raise in exchange for an equivalent increase in paid time off. (Read that to mean they’d rather have more enjoyable, lower-stress days than more money.)

As for traditional perks like free coffee, granola bars, and wearing jeans on Fridays? They’re no longer enough to woo a disputed candidate or keep your best workers from jumping ship. That’s especially true for smaller businesses that don’t have the dollars or sway of a large brand.

Sure, employees want purpose-filled jobs and advancement opportunities above all, but benefits and perks go a long way to differentiate your company from the competition, enhance employees’ bottom line and quality of life. As it turns out, perks are also good for your organization’s bottom line.

What’s the Difference Between a Benefit and a Perk?

If you’re wondering what the difference between a “perk” and “benefit” is think of a benefit as any form of non-wage compensation. A perk is a nice-to-have addition in addition to salary and wages. Perks may come and go, but benefits are often included in the contractual agreement.

Perks = Employee Engagement = Revenue Growth

Before you dismiss employee perks as nice-to-have-but-kinda-pricey luxury offerings, consider the documented impact of employee engagement on the bottom line:

  • Organizations with the most engaged employees achieve 4x better earnings-per-share growth than their competitors. (Gallup)
  • Engaged employees deliver substantially better customer engagement, higher productivity, better retention, fewer accidents, and 21% higher productivity. (Gallup)
  • A disengaged employee can cost a business as much as $3,400 for every $10,000 in annual salary, as a result of higher absenteeism and lower productivity. (Forbes)

Perks are also much cheaper and easier to cut later than salaries, Elliott points out. “When a downturn does come,” he explained, “employees view it much more harshly when we cut salary versus cutting a benefit.”

Cultivating a menu of perks is one way to foster those outcomes, especially when perks align with life issues millennials face like paying bills after college and starting a family, says Bruce Elliott, manager of compensation and benefits at the Society for Human Resource Management, in an interview with The Washington Post.

Low-Cost, High-Return Perks That Will Make You Money

An earlier version of this subhead read “perks that won’t make you poor.” But, heck, we believe these can actually make you money in terms of employee performance, satisfaction, retention and commitment to your mission and clients.

The Big Three

First, we hit on the big three in terms of impact and ROI. A roundup of 40+ other low-cost perks will follow.

  • Unlimited/Generous PTO
  • Health & Wellness
  • Flexibility: Schedules & Locations

Don’t freak. We know the thought of unlimited or exceptionally generous paid time off (PTO) triggers anxieties for some talent managers. If that’s you, consider it’s in your best interest to focus on results, not output.

Here’s what we mean: If employees deliver on performance goals, does it matter how many hours or days they spend seated at their desks?

You’ll find that when you trust employees to decide how much time to take off, they make sure work gets done faster and more efficiently. They’re also more likely to stick around.

Whether it’s an in-house gym, external gym membership, discounts or incentives for getting healthier, wellness and health benefits are hot, says the Society for Human Resource Management.

Want a zero-cost option to kick-start or upgrade your wellness perks? Seek out reputable gyms, trainers, and spas near your offices and ask for a group discount. Or, invite health service providers to an on-site health fair each year, provided they bring great deals and goodies for your employees.

How do I know people are working if they’re not at their desks,” you ask. For one, how do you know people are actually working while at their desks, versus checking Facebook or chatting up Game of Thrones with their peers? Two, focus on results (remember we talked about this?) and trust employees to get work done their way, when and where they prefer.

Look, some of us are night owls, some aren’t. Some of us are easily distracted or interrupted by colleagues, or stinky microwave dinners that throw off our train of thought a dozen times a day. Your employees’ best work, creativity and focus won’t always happen during official office hours or at their cubicle. Want their best work? Then let them decide when, where and how to deliver it.

If you still feel trepidation over loosening the leash, note this doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing perk: Some flexibility is better than none. Stretch your flexibility in small doses. Remote Fridays? Telecommuting options around the holidays, or when a child is sick? A choice of start and end times for their workday? Give it a trial run and see what happens.

The Mother-Load Round-Up: Low-Cost Perks

We’ve searched high and low for perks you could adopt or adapt to your needs without undue strain on your budget. You’ll find 50+ ideas below; we trust at least a handful will be worthy of your consideration or will spark new ideas for you.

A list of 50+ Low-Cost Perks
to Boost Employee Engagement, Retention, and ROI

A Caveat

It should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: For perks to deliver their best ROI, they can’t be the only ways you show employees you care and value their contributions. A healthy culture and genuine appreciation for your workforce comes first, with perks as the icing on the cake.
Employees who feel valued — not bribed — will frequently do more than required, keep your best interests at heart, and stick around for the long run. You want to be the doting partner who is head-over-heels in love — not the gold digger who’s after a transaction.

Your Turn: Pinpointing Your Next Perk

What’s one thing you can do to lighten your employees’ load and relieve stress, either at work or at home? Not sure? Ask them.

Pinpoint what problems you can solve for them, then give it a go: test-drive it for a season, watch how employees react, adapt, and repeat. Employees will thank you and, before long, you’ll start reaping the benefits.

If you’re looking to offer the best benefits and perks for attracting your ideal candidate, reach out to us today!