Embroker Team May 13, 2024 8 min read

Unique Employee Benefits to Help Your Business Stand Out in Saturated Job Markets

Two hiring managers are considering new, unique employee benefits plans to increase hiring and improve retention.

Employee benefits are changing, and unique employee benefits are emerging. Virtual cocktail hours, Zoom-hosted paint nights, scavenger hunts: the gang’s all here. But not for long. Cancel your quarterly pizza parties and off-site barbecues while you’re at it. 

These are the usual suspects of probably every job posting you’ve come across since March 2020. Half-hearted yet admirable attempts to retain company culture, camaraderie, and a sense of fun in our newly digital workplaces. 

Unless you find yourself on a street corner in a shopping bag costume, educating the leaders of tomorrow, or literally saving our lives in a hospital wing, you’ve encountered an overworked recruiter trying desperately to outdo the competition and nab the perfect candidate. 

Maybe that recruiter even works for you. Maybe you’re a business owner contributing to the record 10.1 million job openings reported in June 2021 by economists for the Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOTL) survey. If so, you’re one of the millions of employers looking for any way to attract the best talent possible, by any means necessary. Well, we’re here to help.

Employers around the world are finding new and creative ways to set their businesses apart for their remote staff. Unfortunately, whether you’re recruiting or retaining, the traditional methods businesses have used to set themselves apart are really par for the course these days.

Given the number of options newly remote employees have for work and the saturated job market as a result of what experts have called “The Great Resignation,” employee benefits packages and hiring bonuses look much different than they did even two years ago. 

Pie graph and bar chart for 2022 benchmark report

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While it might be daunting to imagine reworking your hiring policies and processes, customized and unique employee benefits offerings are much easier to provide than you might think. On top of that, many employee benefits providers are helping businesses to create customized plans for their staff.

Let’s check out the types of unique employee benefits that companies are using to both lure and retain high-level talent.

Fertility Benefits

Fertility benefits, including IVF and medications, are a vital, yet unique employee benefit. But, they're increasing in popularity, and in necessity, around the world.

While this benefit may not be something you or your recruiter have thought of, many would-be parents are looking to their employers to offer it. More commonly known as “family building,” this benefit can include anything from medications and IVF treatments to surrogacy, counseling, and more. 

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), “the average IVF cycle can cost anywhere from $12,000 to $19,000 (not including medication). With medication, that cost can rise to closer to $25,000.”

Given that, it’s no wonder workers are looking to their employers for assistance. 

A report from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that 30% of US employers offered fertility benefits in 2020. While there was a marked decrease in the number of exercised IVF benefits due to the pandemic, there was a spike in egg freezing as hopeful parents look to continue on their journey once COVID-19 has eased. 

As restrictions begin to lift and economies recover, employers could consider family-building employee benefits as a differentiator from nearly 70% of all US employers for their staff.

Child Care Benefits

Closely related to fertility or family-building benefits are childcare benefits. 

Before the pandemic, CNBC reported that only one in five employers offered childcare benefits for their staff. But, they also noted that the pandemic had begun to change some minds, as the shadow labor of parenthood crept into virtual meetings, pushed deadlines, and shifted work schedules. Though parents are more “present” when it comes to working remotely, child care has ironically become a much hotter issue given the interruptions that parenthood can cause to the daily 9-5 grind

A national survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that “of 2,500 working parents…nearly 20%…had to leave work or reduce their work hours solely due to lack of child care.”

While childcare benefits are often seen as a perk for parents, the reality of today’s remote work environment has elevated it into a major business concern. 

In a June 2021 follow-up report, CNBC noted that employers were now adding babysitting and tutoring to existing childcare benefits in an attempt to lure higher-level talent to their organizations. The job market seems to be catching on.

Student Loan Repayment

Even reading that title hurts. We’ve all been there. Unfortunately, some of us are still there. 

With a record $1.6 trillion in outstanding student loans in the United States alone, it’s more than likely that you or one of your staff members may still be paying your dues. On top of that, the average student loan debt in the United States sits at around $32,000. Not a small chunk of change by any means.

While President Biden’s Emergency Action Plan includes $10,000 of debt forgiveness per borrower, we haven’t seen much movement quite yet. Former students around the country are struggling to make their payments and are looking to their employers for assistance. 

While larger companies make up the majority of organizations offering this unique employee benefit, they only make up about 10% of the market. Meanwhile, a recent survey found that over 60% of employees would consider switching jobs if a company offered student loan repayment as a benefit.

Plus, thanks to the CARES Act, “until the end of 2020, employers can contribute up to $5,250 toward an employee’s student loan balance, and the payment will be free from payroll and income tax.”

A tax-free benefit to get young, high-level talent through the door? That’s a great benefit for all parties.

Pet Insurance

A person holds their cat, considering the importance of getting pet insurance from their employer as part of a unique employee benefits plan.

For those of us who are fur-parents, we know this term all too well. For those of you who don’t know, pet insurance helps pet owners pay for the unforeseen and often unimaginably high animal healthcare costs. 

With record numbers of pets being adopted, it’s no surprise that American workers are looking for employee benefits for their new companions. The average vet visit can cost anywhere from $50 to $400, leaving aside major issues such as surgeries, dental work, or x-rays, which can cost thousands of dollars.

On the employer’s side, pet insurance benefits would simply cover part of or the entire monthly cost of insuring a pet against high medical costs. Interestingly, these seemingly new, unique employee benefits are seeing a major spike in popularity. Spike? Get it? Great. Moving on.

According to a recent survey from HRDive, 69% of employers said they expect to offer pet insurance as a “post-pandemic benefit (a 22% increase from the 47% who already offer it).” 

Ultimately, a pet insurance benefit is an easy, cost-effective way to show your employees that you care while showing animal lovers everywhere that you’re a pet-friendly organization. There’s no better PR than that.

Mental Health Benefits

While mental health benefits aren’t necessarily new and definitely aren’t unique in the grand scheme of things, most employee benefits packages are insufficient in their support of mental health. 

Mental health was a major issue before the pandemic and has only been exacerbated by the isolation of the past two years. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the very same one that we look to for pandemic updates, released a report on it. The report noted that “nearly one in five US adults aged 18 or older reported any mental illness in 2016. In addition, 71% of adults reported at least one symptom of stress, such as headache or feeling overwhelmed or anxious.” 

A major part of the Mass Resignation was that employees had begun to realize the psychological toll that workplaces have on them. Whether it be long hours, demanding managers, or stressful industries, work is often cited as a major contributor to employee mental health concerns, even while working from home.

Much like child care benefits, mental health benefits are as much a business expense as they are helpful to individual staff.

As a recent McKinsey report states, “Employees need, and increasingly demand, resources to help them cope with mental health problems. If companies make mental health services more accessible and intervene in the workplace in ways that improve well-being, they will simultaneously make investments that will provide real improvements in employee outcomes and consequently in company performance.”

These benefits don’t necessarily need to come in the form of therapy coverage (though that’s always nice). Employers can develop flexible work schedules for employees, continually address workloads, regularly check in on performance, and offer softer, unique employee benefits, such as wellness programs, that may help staff with their self-care needs.

Wellness Programs

A unique employee benefits program must include a wellness program to keep staff happy, healthy, and active.

And finally, we’ve arrived at the self-care portion of our program. Let’s make this one quick. I know you don’t have it all day. 

So, what are the benefits of an employee wellness program?

  • Curb the risk of lifestyle-related diseases and posture problems
  • Increase employee engagement
  • Boost productivity
  • Elevate company culture and togetherness in a remote work environment
  • Increase retention, reduce turnover
  • Assist in recruiting

A robust employee wellness program is a great way to help your business stand out in a crowd. Especially for remote staff, wellness programs can help establish camaraderie with coworkers that your employees have never and may never meet in person.

Here are some wellness programs and services employers can offer their staff: 

  • Gym memberships
  • A wellness/fitness allowance for their home gym
  • Yoga classes
  • Walk and talk meetings
  • Fitness challenges/events
  • Monthly wellness or fitness content such as a newsletter

There are many more examples depending on the size of your business, but these are a few that employers can provide at a relatively low cost.

Unique Employee Benefits Benefit Us All

While unique employee benefits can seem like an indulgence, in reality, these are the types of things that can truly drive staff growth. Employees are a company’s number one resource and priority and keeping them happy will ensure that your organization continues to thrive.

Does this all sound like a bit much to take on? No worries: Embroker has a solution for you.

Embroker’s employee benefits experts go beyond a one-dimensional spreadsheet, so your HR team can put the human back into human resources. We draw on third-party data and integrate it with your HR system to find you the best value for the right coverage for your employees.

Want to learn more? Check out our ultimate guide to unique employee benefits here, or set up a meeting with one of our employee benefits experts today.

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