When Courtney Sieloff started Asana Creative Strategy, she got a super-tip from a business coach. “She basically told me not to assume that money was the main motivator for job seekers.”

Courtney’s coach was spot on—small companies don’t have to say goodbye to top-notch talent just because they can’t afford pricey perks. Here’s how two small businesses we spoke to were able to attract all-star candidates without breaking the bank.

1. Hand out PTO on day one.

PR by the Book, a seven-person publicity firm in Austin, Texas, pride themselves on their inventive PTO package. “It certainly helps with recruiting and retaining good employees,” says co-founder Doug Flatt.

Doug and his wife Marika offer a generous PTO plan that’s primarily based on tenure. All new employees also receive four PTO days right when they join. Getting PTO off the bat can be really useful for people dealing with all the big changes associated with starting a new job.

Says Doug, “We consistently hear from employees during our reviews that a flexible schedule is the number one benefit they enjoy.”

How to copy it: Automatically give new hires a couple days of PTO when they join, along with a small stipend to help them enjoy those days off.

2. Pick perks that embody what you actually do.

Trupanion, a Seattle-based pet insurance business, takes its love for employees–and their pets–very seriously. They offer the following creative perks to employees:

  • The ability to bring pets to work.
  • Pet beds and blankets at cubicles.
  • A puppy play area.
  • An in-house dog walker.
  • Free Trupanion coverage for pets.
  • Pet bereavement leave.

Rachel Rhea, a recruiting manager, says their perks help them attract folks who fit in really well. The perks are a great recruiting tool with the added bonus of also helping with employee retention. “People who want to come and work for Trupanion specifically are cause motivated, culture focused, and overall pet-loving people,” she says.

How to copy it: Find ways to connect your perks with the product or service you offer. If you run a creative agency, that could mean giving employees a small stipend to cover activities that keep their creative juices flowing, like museum passes, movie tickets, or art classes.

3. Let your team take three-day weekends.

Doug and Marika also offer their team extreme flexibility. “That means they can take a three-day weekend anytime as long as they are performing at a high level,” explains Doug.

PR by the Book’s standard hours are Monday to Thursday from 9am to 1pm. But if people want to wrap up the week earlier, it’s encouraged. “If they stay on top of their work, and want to go to an appointment in the afternoon on a Thursday or head out for the weekend at noon on a Friday, they don’t have to ask,” says Marika.

How to copy it: Consider tacking on an automatic three-day weekend to every other month. Or, give employees a few floating holidays to add to their weekends as they see fit.

4. Get creative with your leave options.

If a pet passes away, Trupanion employees get an automatic day of paid time off. Why? Because that extra time gives employees a chance to grieve before they return to work. It’s a small perk that can do wonders for all the pet owners at the office.

How to copy it: Offer unique leave options that bring the things you care about to life. It could be related to life changes where employees will need more support. It could also just be about giving folks a break. For example, if you have an outdoorsy group of employees, you could call a “snow day” when it snows, and cover the cost of hitting the slopes.

5. Give your team a break.

Trupanion has two large pet playrooms where pet parents can take their dogs for exercise. Five in-house pet walkers are onsite each day to take pets for a walk. It gives employees a chance to have pet-free time if they need to concentrate on something—or just take a break.

How to copy it: Create a space for your team to relax and get some perspective throughout the day. It could be a quiet corner of your office, or even a dedicated conference room.

Regardless of what you do, it’s important to create perks that both meet your employees’ needs—and are tempting to potential candidates. The goal? To build a dream job for each candidate, so that you, in turn, can nab the employee of your dreams.

Kinjal Dagli Shah Kinjal Dagli Shah is a writer and journalist living in Toronto. She has worked in newsrooms in India, the US, and Canada over a span of 15 years and counting.
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