There’s more to life than money – so what else can you offer to attract and retain staff?

We’ve reached that time of year where many HR departments are diligently preparing remuneration reports for the next financial year. And, most likely, they’re thinking about fresh ways to reward employees.

Our Salary & Benefits Survey last year suggested that salary movements will continue to slow, with an average increase of 2.7% anticipated across all sectors. This result is the lowest recorded by our annual survey and aligns with recent data from the ABS which found private sector rates grew by 2% last year – the lowest in the almost 20-year history of the Wage Price Index.

From the other side of the fence, recent data from Hudson shows that 62% of employees are contemplating moving on in their careers, with more than a quarter (26%) actively seeking a new job.

But should employers be afraid of a mass exodus if employees are confronted with lower than expected pay increases? Or is it a chance to be creative and look at what else can be done to give your staff more reasons to stay?

Given the high costs of replacing employees, organisations have much to gain by diversifying the benefits they offer their people. Our Salary & Benefits survey found that vehicles; phones and computers; flexible working arrangements; health and wellbeing programs; and personal insurance were the most common benefits employers are offering.

But leaving aside traditional bonus schemes and pay-for-performance strategies, what are some of the other benefits or programs employers can undertake to help attract and keep staff?

Flexible working arrangements

Businesses are increasingly finding value in reviewing the traditional ways of working, with 72.2% of organisations in our Salary & Benefits Survey offering flexible work opportunities to employees above and beyond what is required by legislation.

These include flexible start and/or finish times; flexible rostering (for example, split shifts); and shorter ‘full-time’ weeks. Teleworking, be it at home or elsewhere, can also be a great way to introduce or increase flexibility in the workplace.

No matter the kind of flexible working arrangements implemented, it is important it suits both the employee and employer. Flexible work schemes that are tailored to individuals not only promote a business as an employer of choice but can improve staff morale and productivity and reduce absenteeism, turnover and workforce costs.

Purchase additional annual leave

There is perhaps no need to go to the extreme of Netflix – which boldly offers unlimited annual leave to its employees – but offering purchased leave to staff can improve their work/life balance while also having a positive impact on the organisation.

Policies may range from simply allowing staff to purchase an extra couple of days per year to allowing them to plan extended breaks from work – leaving them refreshed and fully charged for a return to work.

Corporate health insurance

Uncommon in Australia, corporate health plans can offer employees peace of mind while saving them money – especially as health premium increases shoot ahead of inflation. Such plans can incorporate medical, dental and numerous other health benefits and be offered not just to staff but also their partners or families.

Interestingly, research has indicated that Generation Y, or the Millennials, place a high value on healthcare assistance from their employers.  As this cohort grows into their careers, there is an even greater incentive for employers to offer health-insurance-based benefits.


Many employees would love to ‘give back’ to the community but often don’t know where to start or have difficulty finding the time. Organisations that allow staff time to volunteer can find that it is a great experience for all involved. Volunteering promotes personal growth and develops soft skills such as team work, meaning organisations can get back much more than the resources outlaid.

Paid time off is only one approach organisations can take when it comes to encouraging their people to undertake philanthropic activities. Other options include rewarding and recognising employees who volunteer with gifts or matching efforts undertaken by staff with donations or goods.

Health & wellbeing initiatives

With an increasing focus on obesity and decreased levels of physical activity, many organisations are looking at ways they can become a health-promoting workplace – and become a more attractive place to work.

From simple low-cost programs such as complimentary fruit to gyms and intensive education programs, health and wellbeing initiatives can have a real positive impact on employees and a great impact on productivity.

Unsure of what benefits employees may treasure the most?

If staff benefits are to play a key role in recruitment and retention then it might be best to go straight to the source and find out what employees covet the most. The information gathered will not only tell organisations what is valued but will identify any differences among different demographics.

What types of benefits exist at your workplace? What have been successful and what do you think staff value the most? Please share your experiences below.

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Clinton is Projects Manager – Member Services at Ai Group. Currently responsible for a number of key services including HR surveys and benchmarking and the management of Ai Group’s new HR resource, HRinform, he has a Masters in Employment Relations and previously held advisory roles with the Workplace Authority and Fair Work Ombudsman.


  1. john goddard

    Clinton this is a good list of ideas that many AIG members could use to improve their business. I suggest another theme – the opportunity for ongoing learning and personal development.
    In my experience creating a work environment where everyone is encouraged to learn more about the business, the clients needs, technology, products, management etc is a certain winner. Leaders need to build blended programs using internal and external resources to expose new ideas. If innovation is on the list of things to do, then start by some innovative learning for current employees.

    1. Clinton Fraser (Post author)

      Hi John, thanks for your comment – it is one Ai Group completely agrees with. The continued learning and development of an organisation’s people is vital for future success. Fostering a strong and continuous learning and development culture provides workplaces with a greater chance of getting the most out of their people. This leads to a competitive edge in the marketplace and develops a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment amongst employees as they strive to achieve organisational goals. This of course can only help when it comes to retaining and attracting valuable staff.

  2. Liz Vanderent

    The above all sounds great but when a worker approached us just last week requesting something that would have been of great benefit to himself and our company, we were unable to do so because of the current ruling within our award. The employee was naturally disgruntled and we were disappointed also, as we try to be as fair and agreeable to our workers as possible when requests are made. Benefits that employees would like are often stifled by regulations.

    1. Clinton Fraser (Post author)

      Hi Liz, thank you for your post. It is disappointing that the applicable modern award was prohibitive rather than helpful in this case, especially as both parties agreed to a change that would benefit all. Were you looking to implement an Individual Flexibility Arrangement (IFA)? Or was it something else?

      As part of the Fair Work Commission’s four yearly review of modern awards, Ai Group is currently pressing in numerous areas for awards to become more flexible. We are also seeking changes to legislation to increase flexibility for both employers and employees – for example, increasing the reach of IFAs.


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