Home Feature Flexible Perks, Flexible Schedules: Here’s how startups are retaining top talent today

Flexible Perks, Flexible Schedules: Here’s how startups are retaining top talent today

by Maija Ehlinger

Headlines about The Great Resignation – the 2021 trend of employees leaving jobs voluntarily  – has given way to realities of layoffs and sector-specific slowdowns have certainly rattled the tech industry. But those headlines about layoffs don’t tell the full story of what is going on in the economy, as the overall job market remains relatively strong. The national demand for workers is high – and is growing – according to the US Labor Department. That means companies of all sizes are still competing to hire and maintain top employees on payrolls.

Startups have a long history of getting creative to attract top talent. But a closet full of swag or endless snacks in the office kitchen won’t entice employees anymore.

Just look at Ecobot, an Asheville-based SaaS company in the construction space. CEO Lee Lance wanted to motivate employees to come into the office more regularly without making it a requirement. So they added a unique benefit: Come into the office a few days per week over the course of a year and get $1,000 to go work somewhere else for a week.

“[Employees] can take a separate trip, tack it onto a vacation, whatever,” Lance told Hypepotamus. “Part of the perk is that we ask them to spend at least half of that week working on a side project, learning something new — something exciting, productive that they can bring back to share with the team.” 

It is a way for Ecobot to attract and retain the best talent, and Lance added that “If you hire the right employees — and that’s really key — adding benefits that enable autonomy and convey trust can enhance the company/employee relationship.”


FinTech Solutions Enter The Mix 

As startup executives like Lance get creative when it comes to hiring, a new crop of startups have launched to help tackle the retention problems that plague companies of all sizes. 

FinTech solutions are an important part of that employee retention landscape. A few Southeast founders in the space are worth keeping an eye on, like Charlotte-based CEO Sheri Atwood over at SupportPay, a benefits platform designed to reduce the financial stress associated with divorce. 

Another startup, aptly named Keep Financial, is the latest venture for Kathryn Petralia and Rob Frohwein, the founders of Atlanta-based unicorn lending giant Kabbage.

Keep was born out of Petralia’s own experience trying to attract the best talent at her previous companies. While speaking with other executives, she saw how big of a problem it really is for businesses.

What people really want, and need, is cash

Keep integrates with a company’s payroll to early give their employees vesting bonuses – an immediate cash payment plus additional payments over a determined time period – to help with life goals or financial planning needs. That is particularly important for industries like healthcare, transportation, logistics, retail, and hospitality, where talent retention has been particularly difficult the last few years.  

According to Keep, such cash bonuses help align compensation with business objectives and ROI. 

“One of the reasons that people leave their jobs is not because they got a slightly better job…they leave because there’s an event that happens in their lives that causes them to miss a shift and potentially lose their job. And the reason that that happens is they don’t have a safety net,” Petralia told Hypepotamus. “If a company can help those people become more financially secure and stable, then it’s better for the employer and it’s better for the employee.” 

Another fintech solution, TTV Capital-backed and Alpharetta-based Instant Financial, is making earned wage access (EWA) an important employee benefit. By breaking the traditional two-week payday cycle, EWA allows employees to access a portion of their already earned wages throughout the week or right after shifts are completed without paying any additional fees. It is all about starting a “payday revolution,” says CEO Tal Clark.

Clark describes EWA as a “financial safety net” for employees. On the employer side, he said it can act as a “stabilizing force” because it “allows organizations a competitive differentiator in hiring” while reducing turnover. 


Switching Schedules 

On the scheduling side of the work equation, Atlanta-based ImIn is building what founder Lauren Wilson calls a “hour’s marketplace.”  That marketplace helps employees get more flexible work options while also ensuring employers fill each schedule without fear of absenteeism.

Providing such flexibility is an important benefit for full-time and part-time employees alike, Wilson told Hypepotamus. 

“Scheduling is typically very rigid. There’s no flexibility at all, and that causes turnover. From a company standpoint, every person that they lose, they have to pay to train another one. And the problem just continues,” she said. 

While ImIn started working with call center and outsources companies, she said her technology is resonating within  healthcare and hospitality spaces as they search for ways to retain talent. 


Experiences Are A Key Benefit, Too 

Another type of benefit being introduced at more companies: The fun and unique offsite meeting. 

Zinnia, an Atlanta Venture-backed startup, is helping make those offsites happen for remote-first workforces. While more companies embrace a fully remote working model, finding ways to bring teams together can help build morale and keep people invested and excited about work.

“In this new world of remote work, offsites and team outings should be seen as a must-have. Employees are still seeking human connection at work, and bringing your team together helps with that,” Lauren Marturano told Hypepotamus. “Offsites are an opportunity to build culture and a sense of camaraderie. Through sharing experiences, offsites build relationships and foster trust among team members, resulting in employees feeling more connected. This is vital, as a recent HBR research study shows that “feeling connected to our colleagues elevates productivity, reduces turnover, and fosters better teamwork.”


Featured Photo by Unsplash

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