Agencies Get Creative with Employee Benefits

Pillow in beautifully relaxed Deveney offices sums up work environment.
Pillow in beautifully relaxed Deveney offices sums up work environment.

Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all benefits packages that mostly focused on healthcare and 401K investing. Now, firms–big and small–are tailor-making benefits programs consisting of things employees really want. Some of the most creative benefits are being created at smaller agencies that must be innovative in order to compete with larger organizations.

An increasing number of firms are engaging employees in the creation of benefits, some of which don’t cost much to implement but have a great impact on job satisfaction.

New Orleans-based public relations firm Deveney actually engaged employees in explaining the benefits in their own words, not HR gobbledygook.

Deveney PR employees put the company's benefits in their own words.
Deveney PR employees put company benefits in their own words for this graphic.

“As much as we all want to think that having a fun, flexible workplace and the chance to work on interesting clients ranging from start ups to global industry leaders is the real draw, we know that it is still a job and benefits matter,” explains Cynthia McCafferty, president of Hawthorne Strategy Group in Chicago. “As a small business, we strive to find the right mix of benefits that make Hawthorne an attractive place for the 22 year olds starting their career to a 40-something who is coming from another agency or corporation…and doing this while running a business in a highly competitive environment.”

Hawthorne is doing just that. How can a dog lover not appreciate an employer who encourages you to bring your dog to work — #WoofWednesdays? Hawthorne also believes young professionals need to be investing in their futures, so the firm makes it smart to do so by contributing the equivalent of 3% of an employee’s salary to spur 401K savings. Each employee also is given a private consultation with a financial planner. Other Hawthorne benefits:

  • Health – Covers 90% of the costs of the health, vision, and dental insurance. Employees can select between three plans to pick the plan that works best for their personal health needs.
  • Professional development – Each employee can access up to $2,000 in outside professional development opportunities a year. This can be an online course, attending a conference or event, or even taking a class.
  • Paid leave – Employees are eligible for 18 days off (holidays and vacation) along with jury duty, bereavement, and even though the firm isn’t large enough to be required to comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the firm offers employees access to time off in accordance with FMLA.
  • Profit-sharing – Hawthorne has a profit-sharing plan, allowing all employees to share in the success of the business.

Recognizing the importance of the expected coverage in a benefits package, John Deveney, president, Deveney, says the things that seem to make the most impact are the little, social, cultural elements. “I would think our bonuses, funding of higher education and professional development would make a bigger impact,” Deveney says. “But cocktails on Friday’s and the physical space that we have created for employees seem to consistently and strongly win out.”

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