The national unemployment rate is generally a pretty good indicator of the overall health of the American economy. Currently, the unemployment rate is lower than it’s been for much of the past century. And while this is good news for individuals, it creates some distinct challenges for businesses that are constantly focused on hiring and retaining the best possible talent they can find.
Unemployment Rate at Lowest Levels in Half a Century
According to a recent report out of the White House, the national unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in June 2019 – marking the 16th consecutive month at or below 4 percent. While this is a slight tick up from the 3.1 percent unemployment rate in April – the lowest point in more than 50 years – it’s still a historically impressive figure that means Americans who want jobs have very little trouble finding jobs.
For businesses, this presents unique hiring challenges that haven’t been dealt with in many decades. Virtually every qualified candidate is already employed. Talent is at a premium and companies must go to greater lengths to find people they want and need. They’re also forced to hang on to the employees they already have in house, lest a competitor come in and steal them away with a more enticing package.
This has led to an increased emphasis on wowing job candidates and keeping employees happy in their current roles. One of the biggest effects of this has been the amplification of lavish job benefits and unique perks.
The Crazy and Cool Perks Businesses Are Offering
From local small businesses to large companies, there’s an arm’s race for who can provide the most compelling benefits packages and employment perks. Here are some of the more interesting offerings:
- Generous maternal/paternal leave. America has long trailed behind European countries in providing employees with time off after the birth of a child. More recently, a handful of major employers have gone on the hook and promised to offer more to new moms and dads. IKEA, for example, offers up to four months of paid leave to both full-time and part-time employees with at least one year of time at the company.
- White glove corporate relocation. Corporate relocation packages have become more comprehensive and beneficial than ever before. It’s no longer just about packing up and paying for moving expenses. Many companies offer white glove services that include compensation for scouting trips, temporary housing, spousal support, and even cash stipends for miscellaneous expenses. With perks like these, employees are much more likely to make a move out of state.
- Four-day workweeks. There’s a growing body of evidence to suggest that the traditional schedule of working Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. isn’t conducive to maximizing productivity. In fact, many companies are benefiting from offering four-day workweeks and three-day weekends. Some accomplish this only requiring 32-hour weeks, while other businesses lengthen the workday from eight hours to 10 hours.
- Student loan repayments. Major companies like PWC, Penguin Random House, Honeywell, IBM, Peloton, and First Republic Bank are offering matching employee contributions to student loans in an effort to help employees pay off their college debt faster. Other organizations offer a flat payback amount after employees have been at the company for a certain amount of time.
- No official work hours. Millennials aren’t fond of punching the clock, requesting PTO, calling in sick days, and jumping through all of the different hoops required to satisfy strict employer requirements regarding working hours. In response, many organizations have stopped tracking work hours and vacation days. Instead, companies like Netflix only measure output and productivity. So if employees get their work done, they can spend as much or as little time in the office as they want.
This is just a small sampling of what’s happening in the world of employee benefits and perks. Whether this is a trend or a new reality remains to be seen. But one thing we can be certain of: As long as unemployment rates stay this low, employers will continue to do whatever it takes to hire and retain top talent.
Benefits and Job Satisfaction
Research shows that employees who are extremely satisfied with their benefits also tend to be extremely satisfied with their overall job. The flip side of this is true as well. Those who feel like they don’t get competitive perks tend to have a less than satisfactory view of their employment.
For smaller businesses, the goal isn’t to copy what larger companies with deeper pockets are doing. Instead, let this provide a glimpse into the psychology of employees and what they’re looking for. By offering greater flexibility and more opportunities, even the smallest of companies can keep talented employees happy in a job marketplace where skilled workers are at a premium.