Beyond Flexibility and Telecommuting: Nontraditional Benefits

Perks to woo talent include early access to payroll funds and student loan assistance

Colorado’s 2.7 percent unemployment rate (July 2018) is well below the national average of 3.8 percent, and economic growth is forecast to remain strong into 2019. This is great news. Not only for workers experiencing less competition for jobs and potentially higher wages, but there are benefits for Colorado companies as well. Higher productivity and increased consumer spending are some of the upsides to a highly employed population.

On the flip side, low unemployment can also create a number of challenges for employers, including:  


When employers raise wages to attract talent in a tight labor market, it can put a strain on companies’ bottom lines from the simple perspective of increased expenses.


In a hot job market, when the demand for talent is high, employees may be less willing to stay in a job if they feel unfulfilled. Rather than working with supervisors to find a solution to whatever the issue is, they can simply polish their resumes and move on to greener pastures, since job options are plentiful.


A smaller applicant pool means job seekers can afford to be more selective, so filling vacant positions can take longer than normal.

As a business owner, how can you address these challenges and still recruit and retain talent in a tight labor market? Simply outlaying more cash in the form of traditional wages and benefits is not always a realistic or sustainable option; therefore, employers must get creative.

Today’s worker is looking for more than just a paycheck and traditional benefits, especially millennials. Not to mention, several non-tangible perks are already a requirement. Benefits such as flexible hours, telecommuting, wellness funds and professional development opportunities have become the norm; many companies are starting to look beyond these offerings in order to compete.

At Bellco Credit Union, customer service is the secret sauce. In order to do that, employees need to feel happy and valued in their jobs. Some of the non-traditional benefits Bellco has found that resonate with employees include:


Bellco focuses on offering competitive, affordable health-care options. The landscape remains plagued with many challenges for employers and consumers as costs continue to rise at a rapid pace. Bellco deploys many cost-saving initiatives to keep premiums affordable. One initiative is the Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), which helps employees cover deductible expenses.


As the cost of living increases, more and more employees live paycheck to paycheck. When unexpected expenses occur, they don’t have the funds to pay for them, so they use high-interest credit cards or overdraw their bank accounts, incurring hefty fees.

Bellco recently rolled out a new program called MyPay that allows employees access to their own earned wages prior to payday. This helps employees avoid unnecessary interest and fees when emergencies occur and instead allows them to pay for those unexpected expenses in cash.


People have ever-increasing expectations of their employers when it comes to a higher purpose and giving back to the community. According to research by Cone Communications, 78 percent of millennials indicated a company’s corporate social responsibility policies and efforts influence their decision regarding where to work. While that number is higher for millennial employees, it’s not insignificant for respondents as a whole – 68 percent of Americans shared the same sentiment.


American students are coming out of college with more debt than ever. In fact, according to the College Board, the average price for tuition and fees at four-year private universities and colleges has jumped to $34,740 a year, outpacing the rate of inflation by more than three percentage points. Meanwhile, many positions require a college degree to even qualify. Finding an employer willing to help workers pay off student loan debts is an incredibly attractive benefit for job seekers. After completing three volunteer hours, Bellco contributes $500 (per quarter) to an employee’s student loan debt (up to a maximum of $10,000). This not only allows Bellco to be more involved in the communities we serve, but it supports workers financially, and – as mentioned above – they appreciate the ability to individually serve their communities as well.


Of course, everyone loves time off – and the prospect of earning an extended period to rest, recharge, travel or pursue personal passions is an incentive for employees to stay with a company. For example, they may decide to stay with a company longer knowing that a sabbatical is on the horizon, versus jumping to a new job and starting over with the standard vacation allowance. Sabbaticals are becoming more popular, but they are still a relatively unusual perk to offer. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, only 17 percent of employers were offered sabbaticals in 2017.

All companies want to attract and retain the best talent possible. After all, a company’s employees are by far its greatest asset. The good news is there are a lot of innovative incentives outside of our traditional notion of benefits that appeal to today’s workforce. It just takes the willingness on the part of employers to listen to their employees, think differently and try some exciting, new approaches.

LeeAnn Downey is the senior vice president/chief administrative officer at Bellco Credit Union. She joined Bellco in 2003 and is no stranger to business having spent many years as a human resource professional and executive. Her experience as a senior leader spans 10+ years in multiple industries with responsibilities for human resources and organizational development in addition to facilities and other administrative areas. She also spent several years as an independent Organizational Development consultant giving her the opportunity to take key learnings from various industries. LeeAnn has a B.S. in business administration and a masters’ degree in human resource management. She also holds the senior professional in human resources (SPHR) certification.

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