Despite the fact that reports of unemployment remain high, many sectors of small businesses are desperate to find qualified candidates to fill jobs. And many specialized workers are becoming more discerning. So how can you turn your company’s culture into a recruiting advantage?

Anne Nimke, Founder and CEO of The Good Jobs, and I have partnered to explore the topic “Extreme Benefits & Total Rewards – How Benefits Can Help Differentiate Your Employer Brand” at a couple of recent panels.

Now_HiringWhether you’ve formally defined it or not, your employer brand incorporates the qualities—both economic and emotional—that current and prospective employees identify with your company as an employer. When defined and reinforced, the employer brand can play a huge role in an organization’s ability to attract, engage and retain top talent and, thus, drive the company’s success.

Three key factors that are critical in recruitment and retention are: benefits, engagement, and branding.

Gallup polls tell us that employee engagement is a challenge across the generations, with only 29 percent of workers reporting they are “engaged.” The majority are “not engaged,” and about one-fifth of workers are “actively disengaged,” which means they are busy acting out on their unhappiness.

Can benefits really help employers address these challenges? Absolutely. If your company has a strong employer brand promise, implementing extreme or optional benefits that reinforce that brand can attract talent and motivate loyalty and engagement.

Start by thinking about what kinds of benefits you could offer that employees would brag to their friends about and are a good fit with your culture. For example, some companies are offering sabbaticals, stipends for drivers of electric or hybrid cars, pet insurance, wardrobe allowances, and personalized weight loss programs.

Obviously, company budgets are already being stretched by the rising costs of health care coverage, so adding extreme benefits may seem unrealistic. But it may pay off in the reduced workload and expense of recruitment and retention, and some don’t cost a lot.

A realistic, efficient and effective way to offer these types of benefits is through use of a defined contribution plan where employees can use what is left over after purchasing health insurance to select other benefits. Or, employers can provide a defined contribution across two or three buckets of benefits such as health care, ancillary and optional or extreme. The beauty of this approach is that the benefits package can reflect the promise of the employer brand effectively across the generations, who will have very different benefit desires and needs.

Technology can streamline the administrative process and make it easy for employers to maintain. An effective benefits portal will:

  • Showcase your offerings and effectively communicate your benefits package with features like a total compensation statement
  • Reflect the employer brand
  • Be up to date and intuitive to be in line with other sites your employees are using, such as travel and banking sites

We’d like to hear your thoughts about extreme benefits and what you are offering to your employees.