How competitive benefits attract and retain employees – Business Insider

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When Molly George and Kristina Kennedy started building a full-time team for their communications agency, Kickstand, they sought to create benefits that promoted employee health, wellness, and financial needs. 
Kickstand employs 50 people across the US and offers health insurance, financial assistance like family-planning grants, and development perks such as continuing education and wellness stipends. 
While Kickstand was launched in 2013, the firm’s benefits have been necessary for retaining employees in today’s challenging labor market, George said — especially as quiet quitting, quiet firing, and overall workplace dissatisfaction become more common.
When crafting policies, George and Kennedy ask themselves what the company’s benefits package should do for their employees. They’re continually tweaking and modifying their offerings to meet the current needs of workers, George said. “That answer has always been to help support and protect the physical, mental, and financial wellness of our team,” she added.
George spoke with Insider about continually improving her company’s benefits based on employees’ needs. This is an as-told-to essay from an interview with George, which has been slightly edited for length and clarity.
When we hired our first full-time employee, the benefits policies were simple. We didn’t yet qualify for company healthcare, so we offered a stipend to purchase healthcare through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. But as our team grew, our policies also evolved. 
In fact, our offerings are a direct response to what the team expressed as priorities or biggest needs. At first, we had frequent conversations and created a variety of early benefits based on their feedback.
For example, when we moved into our first office in 2015, employees vocalized wanting flexibility, so we worked as a company to best determine an office policy with hybrid options. We signed up for company healthcare as soon as we qualified to address employees’ concerns about affordability.
In order to account for our larger team today, we send an annual survey asking about employees’ experience with our offerings, aspects they use the most, the least, and anything they want to see implemented in the future.
Offering comprehensive benefits and perks has been helpful in recruitment and retention, especially with our more unique benefits like family-planning grants, wellness stipends, and continuing education.
The monthly wellness stipend, which allows employees to spend $50, was introduced in 2016. We decided to offer this as an alternative to the typical gym expenses many companies cover.
We noticed that our employees prioritized different aspects of personal wellness and we wanted to honor all of those practices. So we left the stipend open-ended and allow employees to use it in whatever way they please — some use it for gym memberships, monthly massages, or mindfulness-app subscriptions. 
In 2019, we launched our continuing-education offering, which employees can apply to cover some costs of their master’s programs, MBA programs, or attending conferences that will help them network or increase their skill set. 
We noticed most employees weren’t utilizing the education budget for the first few years, so we launched a more formal program, which has encouraged more of them to apply and participate. 
As a leader, it’s my responsibility to understand what my employees are going through at work and in life. Frequent conversations with staff about the struggles of finding childcare or the time and money stressors of having children led to our working parents’ stipend and family-planning grants.
I went through fertility treatments to have both of my kids, which was all the more reason to help my employees going through something similar. Now we offer financial assistance to team members who want a start a family, whether through adoption, surrogacy, freezing their eggs, or any other way.
When COVID-19 hit, we started offering mental-health hours, which allowed all employees to sign off for three working hours every week during the lockdowns. When we noticed how helpful this was for preventing burnout and maintaining mental health, we extended it to our next benefit, “Alt Fridays.” Now employees have the opportunity to take off every other Friday.
These benefits have been received very positively across the company, and that’s because we’ve ingrained these priorities into our company culture from the start. With each new perk or addition, it’s just a natural extension of providing holistic support.
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