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Employee benefits can benefit you, too

Want to keep good employees? Offer good benefits. There’s great truth in that. But the costs continue to rise, pushed mostly by many mandated benefits such as Social Security contributions, Medicare taxes, disability and unemployment insurance (I don’t even want to touch looming healthcare issues).

Benefits can easily tack on 25 to 30 percent more to the total cost for a dealership to keep an employee. Benefits, then, are no small expense. But beyond the required benefits, dealers can get creative and do a lot of things — at low cost or even no cost — that will create employee satisfaction and build loyalty. It might take a little time, some phone calls and some research, but the results could be a win-win situation. Here are some random ideas to get you thinking:

These days there are many corporate customer programs offered by a wide variety of businesses. For example, restaurants, amusement parks, water parks, movie theater chains, hotels, golf courses, and many more offer significant discounts to a firm that offers to “enroll” all its employees. Big-box stores like Sam’s Club and BJ’s have programs that give membership discounts to the employees of their corporate members. Benefits like these are frequently cited in surveys of people who say they’re happy with the company fro which they work.

Speaking of discounts, don’t overlook big discounts for the employees and, perhaps, even extended family members on all products available in your dealership. Similarly, always give employees the first shot at anything being deeply discounted for clearance.

Here’s a big one: Surveys indicate a majority of employees value time off for specific things as much as salary. Supporting time out of the store to attend a child’s school activity or sports game is ranked as a huge benefit. Time to attend to or transport an elderly parent ranks almost as high. Similarly, offering employees who want to be involved in a community volunteer event a limit of regular pay hours in community service time ranks high — it wins the hearts of staff and community. And giving a day off on their birthday is big, too.

Benefits from the “easy to do” column should include frequent recognition of accomplishments. It is the No. 1 non-monetary compensation named by employees in surveys. Regular communication was No. 2. Note that both don’t cost a dime.

In addition, provide business cards for every staffer because employees feel more important when they have a card. Give an occasional handwritten thank-you note citing the importance of what they do in the dealership. While recognizing success is a must, recognizing an employee’s effort is important, too. Even if the idea hasn’t worked out, it’s a sign of a good employee’s commitment to the dealership and needs to be noted.

Here’s more: Every birth and wedding of a team member deserves the recognition of a shower. Provide food and time toward the end of the day. Or how about inviting any employee who has a birthday that month to meet you for a birthday breakfast? Similarly, I know one CEO who has breakfast with every new employee, regardless of position, on the first morning that employee reports for work.

During a particular “crunch time” (like spring launching, overbooked service schedule, etc.), bring in a free coffee service and soft drinks, even lunch or supper. Have a “Crunch Award” that can be given to a department or employee(s) that has gone beyond to meet a schedule, etc. If someone has worked into the night to take care of a problem, how about giving them a bouquet of flowers to take home to their spouse as a thank you for allowing the dealership to infringe on their family time. Watch the thank-you notes come back for that.

Something equally creative could be bringing in experts on a variety of subjects of interest to your employees. Dub it the “lunch bunch” that occasionally gets together during lunch to hear a speaker on topics that could range from personal financial planning to weight-loss programs or home improvement ideas or personal safety skills. If it’s a subject employees, in general, think will improve their lives, they’ll be there. Finding local experts to speak shouldn’t be hard.

Finally, a somewhat unique but increasingly popular benefit is a prepaid legal plan. They’re usually paid for, in whole or in part, by the enrolled employees through payroll deduction. Common fees range from $6 to $12 per month. Benefits include the employee’s immediate access to legal help for personal or business problems, contracts reviews, will preparation, trial defense and other services.

While telling employees you appreciate them should be obvious, we likely don’t do it enough. Be as specific as possible about what you appreciate. Bottom line: More benefits mean happier employees. Happier employees mean more company loyalty. More company loyalty can mean increased profits.

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