Today, organizations are competing for talent in a U.S. labor market that's experienced unprecedented growth since 2010 and is at near full employment, according to the ADP Research Institute® report, Fixing the Talent Management Disconnect: Employer Perception vs. Employee Reality in the U.S. Midsized Market. In such an environment, employee benefits can play a pivotal role in attracting talent.

The Importance of Attracting and Retaining Employees in a Tight Market

We live in a world where half of all employees are open to changing jobs, even if they aren't actively seeking new opportunities, reports ADP. Your organization must be able to compete in order to recruit and retain the new talent you need to be successful.

According to the ADP report cited above, a majority of senior leaders now consider strategic workforce planning to be essential in light of pressures related to staff turnover and job-hopping because they expect the market for skilled talent to become tighter and top talent will become increasingly expensive.

Your corporate culture, including the unique perks you offer, may make your organization stand out as an attractive place to work. Here's a list of unique employee benefits that organizations have designed to differentiate themselves. Each example also highlights the commitment of these organizations to find employee benefit offerings that candidates are likely to highly value.

Unlimited Paid Time Off

In a market where, according to the DOL, only 12 percent of U.S. private-sector employees have paid family leave, Netflix bucks the trend by offering up to a year of paid time off to new mothers and fathers, as Employee Benefit News (EBN) notes. Netflix also joins organizations that include LinkedIn and Virgin Group in offering unlimited time off for vacation and sick days. The approach can be attractive to new job candidates.

Vacation Savings Accounts

EBN notes how Outski, a social platform organization, creates accounts for employees to send post-tax dollars directly from their payroll into a vacation savings account. The program is meant to encourage employees to use their vacation time, in the hopes that it will promote a healthy work-life balance and boost productivity. After all, more than half of U.S. employees left 658 million vacation days unused, EBN notes.

Unconventional and Outstanding Benefits

Boxed is a wholesale retail organization that sells bulk items via mobile applications and its website. Consistent with their start-up image as a disruptive technology, Boxed has unconventional benefit offerings that include paying college tuition for the children of employees and the wedding expenses of unmarried employees, as reported by EBN. The goal, according to Boxed CEO Chieh Huang, is to solidify the employer-employee bond.

Student Loan Repayment

According to Forbes, student loan repayment is one of the trendiest new benefits, being used by organizations such as Fidelity Investments, PwC, Aetna, and Penguin Random House. In 2015, PwC announced a new employee benefit that pays $1,200 annually toward reducing student loan debt. The benefit applies to approximately 22,000 of PwC's American employees. Among other advantages, the new offering promises to be particularly attractive to new college graduates who face an average loan balance of $35,000. While other employers are highlighting 401(k) programs to college recruits who often have to wait before they become eligible to participate — and even then may not be able to afford full participation — PwC has successfully switched the focus for an organization that annually recruits more than 11,000 new hires off campus.

401(k) With Vesting From Day One

Microsoft Corp. has gone the other direction by making 401(k) matching more attractive and allowing immediate enrollment with 100 percent vesting from an employee's start date. The former can establish a highly competitive benefit while the latter sends a message to new hires that they're supported from day one.

Free Internet Services

Comcast includes entertainment and other quality of life perks to employees that include free TV and Internet services, alongside other discounted options that can save employees up to $3,000 annually. Even more, the organization ensures a pipeline of new ideas by creating a benefits committee that evaluates current offerings and makes decisions as to new perks.

Start by Understanding Your Audience

No matter what innovative benefit offerings you settle on, it often starts from a deeper understanding of the job candidates that you want to attract and retain. The organizations on this list show an understanding of their workforce, and they use this knowledge to create fun, differentiated and competitive work benefits to compete for top talent in a crowded market.

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