What Are Employee Benefits? And Which Will You Be Offered?

A row of three green apples with a package between two of them

Although starting salaries, especially for those with in-demand skills, are generally increasing, employers realize they also need to be more creative with employee benefits to stay competitive. It's no longer enough to offer health insurance, a 401(k) plan and little else. Nearly half of the chief financial officers polled in a survey by Robert Half said their companies are enhancing benefits offerings as a way to attract top talent.

So what are employee benefits that you are most likely to encounter when considering an employment offer? Robert Half surveyed 300 human resources managers to find out. Here are their answers in order of popularity:

  1. Subsidized training or education — This perk benefits both the candidate and the company. From your perspective, you can enhance your professional skill set (on the company's dime) and increase the likelihood you eventually move up the corporate ladder. At the same time, a robust training program allows the company to consider applicants who may not have all the skills a particular job requires but have the capacity to add the missing knowledge on the job.
  2. Flexible work hours or telecommutingAlternative work arrangements are becoming more common as professionals place greater focus on achieving a healthy work-life balance. What are employee benefits that help increase your flexibility? Telecommuting is the most common. Other options include compressed workweeks and job-sharing arrangements.
  3. Mentoring programs — The opportunity to learn from a senior staff member often translates to better job satisfaction for employees. Such programs can be a great way for junior or midcareer professionals to learn about a new employer's corporate culture as well as higher-level roles they may wish to pursue in the future.
  4. Free or subsidized snacks or lunches — It's hard to find anyone who wouldn't appreciate having his or her favorite soda, candy bar or healthy snack option available in the company kitchen. But this perk is about more than just saving workers a trip to the local convenience store. Offering free snacks helps keep employees productive during crunch periods when they need energy to get through a heavy workload.
  5. Gym memberships — A perk that is perhaps more common at larger companies than their smaller counterparts, this benefit is a win-win for employees and employers. By exercising, workers get a boost of energy and self-confidence, which can result in increased productivity and fewer sick days.
  6. On-site perks — This benefit category can vary greatly depending on the organization and the needs and preferences of its workforce. Child care, fitness facilities, a cafeteria or dry cleaning pickup are all among the most common offerings.
  7. Matching gifts programs — More and more job seekers want to work for companies that are committed to giving back to the community. And what are employee benefits that allow employees to do just that? Matching gifts programs, through which firms donate a certain amount of money for every dollar a worker raises for a nonprofit or every hour he or she volunteers. Some companies also offer employees paid time off to volunteer with their favorite charities.
  8. Relocation or housing assistance — This is a welcome perk for recent hires who have to relocate or want to buy a first home.
  9. Subsidized transportation — Employers based in large cities are most likely to offer this benefit. It could take the form of discounted subway or bus passes, or carpool options.
  10. Sabbatical leave — After a certain number of years of service, some employees are permitted to take a short paid leave of absence to pursue professional development or personal projects. Once limited to academia, sabbaticals are slowly filtering into the corporate world.
  11. Adoption assistance — With adoption assistance programs, employers provide workers with cash grants to help cover the expense of adopting a child through an approved agency or attorney.

What are employee benefits you're guaranteed to see included in your next job offer? Well, that's hard to say. The specifics around many of these perks can vary dramatically depending on size of the organization and its work culture. For example, some employers stick to stocking their kitchens with free drinks and bulk snacks, while others offer fully catered buffet-style breakfasts and lunches.