Competing for great talent doesn't require pricey perks.

Staff Writer

With seven years of post-economic crisis growth, the job market has shifted from favoring employers to employees. As a result, the market for great talent has tightened–and some employers are resorting to outrageous perks to find and keep great employees.

Office masseurs, daily catered lunches, kombucha on tap, space for weekly in-house concerts and happy hours…you name it. So how does a smaller company that doesn’t have excess capital to spend on pricey perks compete for great talent? It’s easier than you think.

Here are the top four ways your business can outplay high-priced perks offered by competitors to attract and keep great employees. While the perks listed do come with a soft cost, they don’t require an outlay of cash.

Offer generous paid time off (PTO) and a sane work schedule

Work-life balance is one of the most sought-after perks by employees. Increasingly, people are realizing that they need not sacrifice having a life for building a career. Businesses with generous PTO policies and a culture where it is okay to leave the office at a reasonable time are far more attractive places to work than a competitor with grueling hours and a foosball table.

In my experience, having a PTO policy that encourages actually taking the days off (or losing them) is much more effective at encouraging work-life balance than a policy of so-called “unlimited time off,” which is an illusion.

It’s also a great perk to give employees the week off between Christmas and New Year’s Day–industry permitting.

Allow work-from-home days

Many modern offices have open floor plans which can be great for collaboration, but challenging when you need to hunker down and draft a complicated proposal. Allowing employees to occasionally work from home gives them the flexibility to manage their tasks more effectively. It shows trust and makes people feel valued.

If you’re considering this perk, make sure to put a specific policy in place so that it can’t be easily abused. At my company, for example, we allow one work-from-home day a month that can’t be carried over.

Recognize good performance both publicly and privately

Tell people that they’re doing a good job when they deserve to hear it. A TinyPulse survey found 79 percent of employees feel undervalued, mainly due to a lack of recognition.

Simply saying “good job” is always a confidence boost, and finding ways to fully engage the office for a quick celebration can make those successes even more meaningful.

For example, at my company, when a new deal is signed we blast some music and announce it for the whole office to enjoy and celebrate. It’s fun, easy to do, and adds energy to the room without any additional cost.

Hold events during the week and Invite S.O.S and Family

Allowing employees to bring their significant others and families to company events shows that you are interested in them as a whole person, not just an employee.

Also, don’t host these events on the weekend. Host them during a work day: it shows you respect their time and personal lives.

You can tell a great deal about a company when you walk through the door.

When top talent comes for an interview, they will quickly notice how these free perks–which keep employee interest for years to come, unlike that disused popcorn cart in the kitchen–have created the kind of work environment that they will want to join.