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Nancy Sommer, president and CEO of Impact Human Capital LLC

Your small business is not too small to offer a total rewards program. In fact, if you add up all of the different things you do for your employees, it’s likely that you already have one.

“You just may not have it packaged in the way some other companies do,” says Nancy Sommer of Impact Human Capital LLC, “but I’m sure you have many elements of a total rewards program already in place.”

At NJBIA’s HR for the 21st Century seminar, Sommer showed a group of HR professionals how grouping together many of the things that businesses do for their employees can give a company an edge in recruiting new workers and retaining their best employees.

Any rewards program begins with compensation, and most businesses also provide health benefits and paid time off. Many even offer retirement plans. But don’t stop there. Here are three other areas where many businesses can find benefits to help round out their offerings.

Work-Life Balance

Do you let employees come in early or work through lunch so they can attend their child’s school program? Do you allow employees to work from home part of the time? What about flex time or unpaid time off? Some of the specific practices you already engage in can be inserted into a rewards program, Sommer explained.

The key, she said, is to focus on what’s important to the workers you want to attract or to keep. If a big benefit for the type of employee you’re looking for is the ability to work from home, for instance, then make sure you include that in your offering, Sommer says.


More than one-third of mid-sized business owners reported unexpected expenses in 2015 due to fines, lawsuits, and penalties… 


Voluntary Benefits

As an employer, you have something other businesses want: Customers. Many companies will offer businesses discounts for their employees for legal services, identity-theft protection, and concierge programs in return for your permission to market to them. These can be good additions to a total rewards program.

There’s no direct cost to the employer, Sommer said, but they may have some indirect costs. Again, the key is to understand your company’s retention and recruitment goals so you can choose the right benefit programs to offer.

“I’ve never had a client that offers everything on the list,” Sommer said. “But they come up with the priorities for their work population, for their employee population. What is it that their employees are seeking?”

Training and Skills

It’s easy to overlook things like seminars and conferences as rewards, but Sommer said these are becoming a bigger consideration among job candidates, especially younger ones.  Surveys back this up. A Harvard Business School Study from last year said millennials place a greater emphasis on opportunities to learn and grow, and opportunities for advancement than they do on having a great manager or being part of a great management culture.

Every business has to train new employees, so they should put on-the-job training into the rewards program, Sommer said. Likewise, emphasize what your company is willing to pay for: If the employee will be able to attend two seminars or conferences a year at company expense, make sure they know it.

Finally, Sommer urged businesses not to get hung up on rewards program models you can find on the internet.

“From my perspective, it’s less important how colorful and creative they are (the marketing people like that), it’s more about the contents in your total rewards program as well as the alignment to your corporate goals and business objectives,” Sommer said.