Forget Free Food and Cold Brew; These Benefits Will Attract and Retain Top Talent

If you’re hoping to draw exceptional employees to your company, here are the most persuasive benefits to offer a new employee. 

Many companies offer their employees free lunch as a benefit, or at least snacks in the office. In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control discovered that nearly a quarter of over 5,000 employees received free food at work over a seven-day period. 

While free lunch is a perk employees enjoy, it’s not enough to lure top talent from one firm to another. Instead, employees want meaningful benefits when choosing a company to work for.

“I’ve always thought that the benefits that a company provides can really say a lot about a company’s culture, what they value and how they treat their employees. But over the past year, a lot has changed about what we value and seek in company benefits,” writes Ashley Stahl, a Forbes contributor. 

If you’re hoping to draw exceptional employees to your company, here are the most persuasive benefits to offer a new employee. 


Over the last year, employees have appreciated the flexibility to work when and where they wanted. Once perceived as a hindrance to productivity, this work style actually helps employees feel more engaged at work, as well. 

Flexibility doesn’t have to mean an employee works from home each and every day. Rather, consider letting your employees plan a flexible work schedule that would build their motivation. Perhaps they want to work four 10-hour days. Maybe they want to skip their commute to work at home on Fridays. 

Another piece of flexibility is offering employees the tools they need to work out of the office effectively, including headphones, desktop computers, and other technology. 

Time off.

Another benefit employees appreciate is considerable time off, otherwise known as a sabbatical, especially if they’ve dedicated themselves to a company for several years. Advertising company TripleLift gives its employees a one-month sabbatical – with a $5,000 stipend – after they have worked at the company for five years.

Affinity groups.

Affinity groups, otherwise known as Employee Resource Groups, are designed for employees who share certain traits to connect with others like themselves. An “affinity” might be race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, or even parental status. These groups not only give top talent a place of belonging but also encourage more diverse principles in the company culture. 

“Investment in ERGs can provide an excellent space in which to confront these issues, as well as an opportunity to provide staff with resources, support and opportunities for professional development,” writes Stahl. 

Childcare and family benefits.

The pandemic brought into stark relief how important childcare is for working parents. Even before this crisis, more employers were offering childcare and family benefits, but this number increased significantly during this year-long period. For instance, the family benefits company Cleo saw a 167 percent increase in membership in 2020. 

Other companies offer family benefits, like eldercare stipends, for employees in charge of aging relatives. Hyperscience, a document-processing company, pays up to $72,000 each year for eldercare reimbursement. 

If companies want to attract top talent, they should recognize that childcare and family benefits are important to many employees. 

Mental health resources.

It’s no surprise that mental health woes like depression and anxiety increased during the pandemic, with more than 41 percent of employees reporting anxiety and depression, an increase of nearly four times from the pre-pandemic numbers. 

In turn, companies have started providing more mental health benefits to employees. These include employee assistance programs, or other resources. 

Improving mental health for employees is not just a financial objective either. The Society for Human Resource Management suggests baking improved mental health into the workplace culture. For instance, communicating about available mental health resources and making cultural changes that get employees away from their computers, like getting teams together offline, encouraging breaks, and suggesting employees spend time in nature.

Other voluntary benefits.

Voluntary benefits are different insurance plans that employees can enroll in at lower membership fees when joining with a group. Typically, employees who opt into voluntary benefits pay for them through payroll deductions. 

According to Sophie Downes of Inc., “Voluntary benefits cover familiar things, like long-term disability care, and novel ones, like legal services, identity theft protection, financial counseling, and veterinary bills.”

If a company wants to add voluntary benefits, they should do their research and ask employees what types of insurance they might want. Then, make sure not to add more than three voluntary benefit options per year, so employees know what is available to them and don’t become overwhelmed. 

Offering Top Talent More Than “Sexy” Perks

We often hear about how employees appreciate benefits like catered lunches or state-of-the-art workout facilities. But really, most employees want to make their lives more stable and less hectic. So, if you’re choosing between the flash of a free lunch and more substantial perks like flexibility and voluntary benefits, you should choose the latter every time. 

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