By Bryan Orr

Small businesses are often at a disadvantage when it comes to “traditional” benefits packages like health insurance, 401K and paid vacation, but with some creativity, small businesses can create benefits that don’t necessarily scale as well, but may be more personal and attractive.

Before you offer employee benefits it is a good idea to consult with an HR consultant in your state to ensure that you aren’t breaking any laws or exposing yourself to unnecessary risk. Your liability or workers comp insurance provider may even provide consultation at no cost to you.

1. Health Club / Gym Memberships

You can often negotiate great group deals to a local gym or other fitness / health program that can then be offered to your employees as a benefit. There is a crossfit gym next door to our office and we offer memberships to it as an employee benefit. Another great option is to offer nutritional coaching or other preventative health related services as a benefit. Not only does it demonstrate that you care about the health of your staff, but it can also improve the energy and mental focus of your team.

2. Birthdays

For small businesses it is an easy thing to notice the birthdays of your team. Providing a card and gift can be a simple gesture that goes a long way. If you want to bring it to the next level you can buy the office lunch in their honor or give them the day off.

Personally, I’m not a big birthday guy, but for many employees this small gesture of personal recognition can go a long way. If you are going to do birthdays, it’s a good idea to make someone who likes birthdays the “birthday person” in charge of making sure it gets done right. There is nothing worse than doing it for some employees and accidentally missing it for others; make sure it gets done for all, or not at all.

3. Flexible Schedules

If you work in an industry where the “where and when” of  work is done is not mission critical, it is seen as a great benefit for employees to have flexible working hours/location. When you allow a flexible or “from home” work schedule you will need a measure of accountability so you can be ensured that the work is getting done in a timely fashion. This can easily be done with work trackers like Hubstaff or Worksnaps to keep a remote eye on what is getting done, and when.

4. Company Housing

Housing is often a huge consideration and expense for employees, if you as an employer can help solve that problem it can be seen as a huge positive. A good way to do this is to have your business or yourself invest in residential real estate and then include valuable housing rates into the compensation package for your staff. (Be cautious not to go all “Mr. Potter” from It’s a Wonderful Life-ha!) This ensures that your real estate investment will have an occupant and can GREATLY increase employee loyalty. It may create a real emotional dilemma if you are forced to part with an employee when their housing is tied to their employment, though, so choose carefully when offering housing as a benefit.

5. Continuing Education

One of the most valuable benefits you can offer to your team, is the ability to benefit themselves by training and mentorship. In many cases it can be as simple as sitting down as a group once a week and providing some training out of your own experience. If you want to take it up a notch, you could bring in trainers or speakers on a regular basis; hire specific coaches to help key employees, or even offer free online udemy classes on the clock.

The key to employee attraction and attention is providing benefits and compensation that they find valuable. As a small business you can often create benefits that are BETTER than your larger competitors if you use a bit of imagination.