Keeping the troops happy, motivated and productive is one of the greatest challenges facing small- to medium-size businesses (SMBs) and startup companies. If money were no problem, the solution would be simple: provide employees with meaningful work, a pleasant environment, pay them pots of money and load them up with perks. But money is a problem for most SMBs and startups, and conventional perks can cost a pretty penny.
BetterWorks, a 60-person startup company based in Santa Monica, Calif., believes it's found a way for companies to improve employee well-being, engagement, productivity and retention without breaking the bank: the BetterWorks Perks Platform.
The platform enables SMBs to provide "large company-style" perks to their employees by offering them a cafeteria-style menu of discounted rates on food and beverages, entertainment, education, auto services, health and wellness , travel, pet care, recreation, cleaning services and more. Discounts average 15 to 30 percent, the company says.
BetterWorks negotiates the partnerships with a curated mix of national companies and local businesses and establishments. The deals are available to all employees in its network, no matter which business they work for. Employees access their perks through a single Web interface and pay using either a personal credit card or an employer-provided monthly perk budget.
"The focus is on encouraging the local economy," Nicole Jordan, BetterWorks' director of communications, told BusinessNewsDaily.
Jordan said that 40 to 50 percent of BetterWorks customers provide a monthly perk allowance for employees, averaging $27 a month and going as high as $200.
This month, the company announced another enhancement to the program, "Bonus Bucks," which provides companies with a way to provide instant, personalized bonuses to employees.
"Bonuses no longer need to be viewed as a once-a-year payment that just disappears into a bank account," said Paige Craig, BetterWorks chief executive officer and co-founder. "Employers are looking for more innovative methods to recognize and motivate employees in smaller ways throughout the year, and Bonus Bucks are the first of many ways we plan to help them do that through our new Rewards Center."
The Rewards Center, said Craig, gives companies a one-stop shop to manage employee recognition, reward and retention efforts.
National discount partners include Equinox, Subway, Bikram Yoga, Panera Bread and Bally Total Fitness. Since launching the platform last spring, the company has signed up several hundred customers, including ICM, Hulu, Getty Images and Neutrogena. Pricing is based on company size, beginning at $30 a month for companies with nine or fewer employees.
A number of companies offer the BetterWorks Perk Platform as in addition to traditional benefits programs.
"We want to focus on making the work environment more rewarding," Jordan said. "Personal perks are so underserviced."
That may change when companies both small and large discover that there's a tangible payback from such programs that goes beyond the feel-good factor. One case study reported by Australian business magazine BRW showed an $11 return on investment for every $1 spent on staff benefits in terms of reduced staff turnover, higher customer satisfaction levels, cost reductions linked to staff-led initiatives and revenue increases.
The program is currently available in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Orange County and Austin, Texas, and is being rolled out in New York City's Flatiron District. Other cities under evaluation for expansion include Chicago, Boston, Dallas and the greater San Francisco Bay/Silicon Valley area down to San Jose.
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Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.