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If you’re in the hiring world, the struggle to recruit and retain talented employees is real. While pay and benefits have long been the driving force to competitive recruitment, changing attitudes about workplace culture are reshaping what it means to be compensated. And for those companies that are rethinking the incentives they offer, many are finding that it’s not only good for business but their recruitment efforts, too.

Enter the intangible benefit, an incentive designed to improve work-life balance with a focus on employee wellbeing. And while absent from most paystubs, intangible benefits work alongside compensation like traditional wages, health insurance, and vacation time to create a bigger, better-perceived salary.

Consider the company that revolutionized the intangible benefit–Google. The tech giant designed a workplace complete with gyms, massage therapists, chef-prepared lunches, laundry service and more.

And the result? Strategic, competitive advantage in hiring and retention. Google created a perceived salary that could not be matched by dollars and cents alone.

Elevating Perceived Salary with Intangible Benefits

Healthy Work Environment Of course, you don’t need a chef de cuisine in your small business to elevate perceived salary with intangibles. In fact, you don’t really need to spend a dime.

Create a work setting of flexibility and accountability 

Consider giving employees the option to skip the commute and work from home. Telecommuting policies create a perception that companies value staff for their talent, rather than their commitment to a particular desk and chair. Similarly, “flextime” allows staff to adapt their workday to better accommodate personal schedules and obligations. For both intangible benefits, understand you’re trusting staff will be accountable for their productivity, in return for greater flexibility.

Make the workplace an attractive place to be

An often-overlooked indicator of employee satisfaction is the comfort and aesthetic of the office. Ditch the suits for a smart casual dress code. Allow a dog-friendly office space. Install standing workstations. Encourage that staff to eat lunch together when time permits. Rethink your workplace to account for the perceptions that your policies create. Do they add value or are they simply relics of an outdated business tradition?

Whether or not you strive to make the office a pleasant place, know those candidates deciding to work for you will know the difference.

Foster an environment that recognizes good work

Praise and recognition of an employee’s work are key to overall satisfaction and productivity. A staff that feel valued improves turnover rates and builds a company reputation that attracts the best and the brightest. Making a point to say you appreciate an employee for their work on a particular project or problem produces great returns. But short of creating your own employee of the month board, this might be the most intangible of the intangibles. In this way, recognition underscores the silver thread that ties intangible benefits together: it’s a culture thing.

Intangible benefits and your culture

Intangible benefits are less about the perks and more about the culture, and in this way, they’re trickier to roll out than a bonus. Notice that behind each intangible benefit, a value–like trust or openness–must exist. And while some companies gawk at this brave new world, others are changing their employer-employee relationship, and it’s making them look more attractive. These companies above all else understand millennials, a generation that is quickly becoming the most important to recruitment efforts.   

In 2016, millennials became the largest generation in the workforce, according to the Pew Research Center. With values like respect, appreciation, and inclusion considered as integral to their employment, young people are the most likely to seek incentives beyond financial compensation, such as intangibles. A Gallup poll, for instance, recently discovered 62% of millennials that felt they were unable to share non-work-related issues with their manager would leave in a year. But while young people lead the charge in changing workplace attitudes, they are not the only generation that hold company culture and values in high esteem.

Across all generations, employers who adapt to the evolving standards of workplace culture are simply more attractive. And that should be no surprise. Intangible benefits come from values where staff and leadership are on the same team. They smooth out the traditionally sensitive and hostile wrinkles that arise out of a dogmatic corporate culture. And in a world of incredible transparency, thanks to the internet, there is far less room for negative company perceptions. It is often the difference between stellar hiring and not.

The Bottom Line

Intangible benefits have become an important tool in attracting talented candidates and keeping the ones you have happy. But it takes overcoming the culture shock of changing times to create a workplace that elevates work-life balance and individual freedoms higher on the ladder than ever before. In the end, it is a strategy that will revolutionize your recruitment and retention, and you won’t have to tap into your bottom line to see the benefits.


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