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The role of the human resource professional has evolved significantly over the years. Arising in the late 19th/early 20th century, early HR departments were established to help manage worker grievances, ensure compliance with applicable labor laws, and assist in payroll.

While all of these functions remain central to HR today, they are just a few of the responsibilities required of the contemporary HR professional. Modern HR departments must be adept in helping the organization market positions and create job listings to appeal to highly qualified candidates, designing and implementing talent plans and workplace models to help the organization execute business strategy, and keeping a pulse on the job market to ensure that the company never faces any staffing shortages.

Finally–and most importantly–there has been a redoubled focus on redefining the human in human resources. Modern employees have extremely high standards for their employers and unprecedented choice in where they work. They are unwilling to be associated with companies whose practices are incongruent with their personal values or who do not have their best interests at heart. 

Because of this, basic compensation packages are unlikely to be the sole driver of employee motivation, as Princeton University found that higher salary is not correlated to employee happiness for those making at least $75,000 per year. Modern employees want to be recognized as unique individuals with unique needs, and more money does not necessarily accomplish this. Therefore, one of the most powerful ways for HR departments to speak to their workforce is through customized employee fringe benefits.

Fringe Benefits Can Help Your Team Feel Recognized
There is no end to the statistics demonstrating the importance of employee recognition. Quantum Workplace notes that lack of recognition is the #1 reason employees leave a company, with companies with effective recognition programs in place likely to experience 2.7X greater worker engagement than companies who do not. 

While many organizations have generic recognition programs, such as employee-of-the-month nominations or standard bonuses for hitting specific performance milestones, HR Morning indicates that these are not the best solutions for how to make your team feel valued. Employees want their employer to get creative in their recognition efforts, with benefits such as paid subscriptions to their favorite online streaming services, memberships to health clubs or gyms, and customized childcare packages going a long way to uniquely recognize each employee for his or her efforts. 

Fringe Benefits Can Help Professionals Find a Better Work/Life Balance
Although the shift to remote work has many advantages for employees, it has created some challenges that still need to be navigated. Namely, employees are having a difficult time finding a healthy work/life balance when operating from the home office, with statistics by the National Bureau of Economic Research indicating that the average workday has lengthened by 48.5 minutes since COVID-19 lockdowns spurred a widespread adoption of remote work. 

While employers can demand that remote professionals log off from work at the agreed-upon closing time, many dedicated employees will still feel compelled to answer that one last email or finish typing up that one last report when their office is just a few feet away. This can cause personal responsibilities, such as house cleaning, meal preparation, or going to the gym, to fall by the wayside. Therefore, creative fringe benefits like house cleaning service, meal delivery passes, and at-home workout subscriptions can help employees feel more comfortable when working from home.

According to Marla DiCarlo, CEO of Raincatcher, for those organizations that still maintain a large in-person presence, consider some benefits to help out these professionals. Offer flexible work schedules; auto insurance, car maintenance, or rideshare passes to lessen the burden of the commute; and decrease the bureaucratic requirements for requesting leave to encourage employees to take time off as necessary.

Fringe Benefits Can Improve Employee Well Being
Mental health is an important topic in the contemporary workplace. While the altruistic component of looking after your fellow human is important, the World Health Organization states that poor mental health in the workplace can result in increased absenteeism and decreased productivity, both of which can directly undermine economic performance. 

Therefore, some creative ways that HR departments can use fringe benefits to improve staff well being include:

  • Fitness subscriptions, as there is a powerful correlation between good physical and mental health
  • Paid access to counselors and mental health professionals to give employees a forum to discuss their stresses and anxieties
  • Provide a bank of paid mental health days, separate from personal or sick leave, to encourage employees to take a few days each year to unwind from the pressures of work

Why Fringe Benefits Matter to Employees
The role of the human resource professional has evolved significantly over the years, with the HR department having more responsibilities than ever in 2021. Despite these many functions, refocusing attention on the human aspect of human relations is arguably the top priority, with innovative fringe benefits one of the most powerful ways to reach your staff on a human level. Fringe benefits can help employees feel recognized, improve their work/life balance, and enhance their personal well being–all key drivers of success that modern HR departments should work diligently to ensure.

    Andrew Nelson is a freelance writer and contributor in the Human Resource Industry. He specializes in topics such as workplace management, employee lifestyle and fringe benefits, employee retention and employee development.

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