Employers Lure Applicants With Perks

Value-adds range from scholarships to a set of knives.

June 10, 2021

Employer Giving Employee a Paycheck

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Companies are offering a range of perks from college scholarships for family members to free food for interviewees in an effort to recruit and sign on new employees.

According to the New York Times, employers are going beyond traditional monetary rewards to attract employees in today’s tight job market. Reopening the economy has left U.S. companies, especially those in the service sector, hunting for workers. The rise of noncash offerings is a new twist to recruitment. Many large companies find themselves pitted against rivals in the search for employees with similar types of skills and experience.

The competition for new hires is especially heated in the leisure and hospitality industry, which has surged back to life after shutting down almost completely last spring. Applebee’s, for example, is seeking to hire 10,000 people this summer and announced last month that it would hand out vouchers for a free appetizer to anyone who scheduled an interview. Omni Hotels & Resorts is offering a range of incentives, including free hotel rooms for summer employees at some properties, bonuses, kitchen knives and higher pay grades.

Waste Management, the Houston-based collector of recyclable materials from businesses and households, will pay for employees to earn bachelor’s and associate degrees, as well as certificates in areas like data analytics and business management. And now the company will start offering scholarships to employees’ spouses and children starting in January.

The educational incentives are designed both to reduce turnover and to attract new employees. With dependents covered for schooling, an employee’s career can stretch from years to decades instead. Each time an hourly employee leaves Waste Management, it costs a minimum of $12,000 to search for and hire a replacement.

In the wake of the pandemic, employers are thinking more holistically about their employees and their goals, including personal and family life, said AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab. Extending the benefits to spouses and children can address some of those considerations.

The incentives may seem generous, but they can be cheaper than across-the-board pay raises, Daniel Zhao, a senior economist with the career site Glassdoor, told the Times. Still, he said, “committing to a new benefit program is a pretty significant move and signals a longer-term commitment than coupons or one-time bonuses.”

In April, NACS Daily noted that many convenience stores and QSRs were holding widely publicized recruitment events in hopes of hiring thousands of workers.

Sheetz stores have invested $28.5 million in employee wages to enable the chain to attract and retain top talent and announced in March that it would be hiring more than 2,800 employees company wide. Sheetz’ friendly rival Wawa also has been offering incentives for new hires, including a $500 bonus as it seeks to hire 5,000 employees for full- and part-time positions. Also looking to hire are convenience store chains Pilot, Circle K, Thorntons, Rutter’s and 7-Eleven.

And as stores have struggled to find staff, many have turned to teenagers, as well as incorporating robots and AI to address challenges. Similarly, companies seeking to hire truck drivers have also been looking at changing how drivers are paid to attract fresh talent.