The modern workplace is a very different environment than it was even ten years ago, let alone in the 70s or 80s. Back then, job perks like retirement benefits, healthcare, and the near-guarantee of a long-term career were all it took to attract top candidates. These days, you need to offer more tangible job perks to attract some of the most highly-qualified applicants.
What Aren’t Considered Benefits
There are a few entries on every list like this that come up time and again, but for this post, we won’t consider them benefits for engineering careers.
Most employers who are looking to hire engineers include baseline benefits such as:
- A competitive salary
- Healthcare benefits
- A retirement fund
Since most competing companies are offering these same benefits for engineering positions, it’s tough to call them benefits. You aren’t standing out if you are offering the same healthcare and retirement plans, except in the sense that your candidates might ask themselves what else you aren’t offering if those are your primary selling points.
So, what do you need to offer to make your position stand out? Here are some of the best job perks and benefits that engineers will find interesting.
A Good Company Reputation
Some engineers get into the field out of a cynical drive to make money. Most, though, have grander aspirations. They want to solve big problems, make the world a better place, or leave their mark on something fantastic. They want to work for a company that has a grand reputation.
Moreover, your reputation needs to precede you. A Glassdoor survey interviewed several engineers, and one had this to say:
“If your company isn’t attractive on its own because of its technology and engineering culture, I probably won’t be interested in working there. Hearing about your company from a recruiter – rather than because of something amazing you’ve built – simply cements that disinterest.”
This can be a challenge for small companies, but it’s entirely possible to build such a reputation. It just means you need to spend some time building a strong employer brand.
Work on Big Problems
Engineers typically become engineers because they like working on large, challenging problems. Millennials and Gen Z candidates, in particular, don’t want to be a cog in another corporate machine; they want to feel like they’re tangibly contributing to solving large problems. Those problems may be problems in their local community, in their chosen industry, or globally. You don’t have to dedicate your firm to fighting world hunger, but a humanitarian or technological issue in your city or state can be plenty big enough.
The problems your company is working to solve don’t necessarily need to be humanitarian by nature.
Humanitarian problems can even be a detriment to companies who aren’t prepared for these challenges. Very few of your candidates will believe a family business from Nebraska can solve world hunger or eradicate a disease. Many more will be interested in simply solving complex technological problems. The Receptionist agrees and says:
“Remember that the work doesn’t need to be humanitarian to be appealing. It just needs to be challenging, and solve a real problem for customers.”
Talented engineers enjoy going to work in the morning to solve complex problems with elegant solutions.
A Focus on Actual Work
Engineers are a part of a subset of workers who need concentration to be effective. Some roles in a company require short bursts of actual work completing individual tasks, such as customer support. Engineers, architects, and those C-levels who guide the company from the top down tend to want more time “alone with their thoughts” so to speak.
This is a combination of several factors, including workplace culture, the office environment, and the responsibilities of a role.
Large problems require large solutions, and engineers like to focus when they work. Interruptions can be devastating to productivity. Dr. Gloria Mark, associate professor at the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California Irvine, says this:
“The good news is that most interrupted work is resumed on the same day – 81.9 percent – and it was resumed, on average, in 23 minutes and 15 seconds, which I guess is not that long. But the bad news is, when you’re interrupted, you don’t immediately go back to the task you were doing before you were interrupted. There are about two intervening tasks before you go back to your original task, so it takes more effort to reorient back to the original task.”
A 23-minute delay might not seem like much in an 8-hour day, but when there are half a dozen meetings, a dozen phone calls, urgent emails, daily task alerts, and all manner of other interruptions throughout the week, it can add up to large amounts of time for your engineers to continually return to the important work they want to be doing.
When your engineer comes to work today, what will they be expected to do? Are they spending time in their office, thinking about deep problems and working on ways to solve them? Or are they attending meetings with their coworkers and managers, constantly answering the phone to assists their coworkers and writing status reports that nobody is going to read?
What can you offer, tangibly, that allows and promotes a focus on actual work? Consider benefits such as a closed office rather than a cubicle or open office design, a limit on weekly meetings and routine interruptions, and a dedicated focus on specific tasks. Your engineers should not be pulling double duty as system monitors, maintenance techs, or service people. Let them focus on their tasks.
Flexible Hours and Work From Home Policies
The year 2020 has taught thousands of companies the value of allowing their employees to work from home. The global pandemic has also demonstrated to millions of people that they’re capable of working from home – and taught some hard lessons to many businesses that aren’t. It takes a specific kind of person to work from home successfully, and yes, not all roles can be performed remotely.
Most engineers, though, can often benefit from the flexibility of working from home. Data aggregated by Apollo Technical has this to say:
“Several studies over the past few months show productivity while working remotely from home is better than working in an office setting. On average, those who work from home spend 10 minutes less a day being unproductive, work one more day a week, and are 47% more productive.”
This ties back, in part, to the interruptions mentioned above. When every phone call, every manager sticking their head in the door, and every meeting costs a third of an hour of productivity (if not more), it’s easy to see how an environment without those things can be a much more productive one.
Managing a remote workforce certainly has its challenges. Some employees either suffer from isolation, have a limited ability to set up a home office, or lack the technology to perform their tasks remotely.
That’s why you need to do more than just allow for work from home; you need to support it. Provide technology, subsidize purchases for a home office (like a proper desk and chair), and avoid overbearing time tracking or monitoring software that discourages flexible work.
Education and Student Loan Assistance
The cost of an engineering degree from an average institution ranges from $11,000 to $55,000 per year for a degree that can take four years (for a Bachelor’s degree), six years (for Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees), or longer. That means many of your engineers are coming to you six figures in debt. A competitive salary helps, but often, an excellent benefit is loan assistance.
Tuitions are increasing every year, and that financial burden is shaping the entire futures of an entire generation of students. An increasing number of companies are offering some form of loan assistance. From Inc,
“About 8 percent of employers offer student loan repayment assistance in 2019, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. That’s up from 4 percent in 2018 and 3 percent in 2015.”
Given the overall cost of an employee, adding on some level of loan assistance or repayment isn’t all that much. And, if it feels unfair to those who have paid off their loans or didn’t have any in the first place, you can offer tuition reimbursement for employees who want to continue education or training on their own time.
Many amongst the younger generations are hesitant to start families, primarily due to the uncertainty of their careers and the repeated global recessions causing financial instability. While a stable career helps, these people also want progressive policies in terms of family leave.
In America, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 specifies companies must offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually for mothers of newborns, but it only applies to companies with over 50 employees and is only for mothers. Paternity leave is often neglected. Even still, those numbers pale in comparison to other countries around the world, which offer longer leaves, equal leave time for mothers and fathers, and paid leave instead of unpaid leave.
Offering paid leave (for a longer duration, and for both parents) is an incredible benefit. In fact, it’s one of the most coveted benefits of all. Parents want to spend time with their children as they grow and develop. Allowing your engineers paid leave, plus flexible hours and work from home opportunities, encourages both company loyalty and a healthy family.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits you can offer your engineers is flexibility. Some of your candidates might not want to work from home. Some of them don’t need a transportation stipend, or family leave, or a paid gym membership. The list of benefits you have to offer might not, in reality, be all that beneficial to them.
In these instances, a highly qualified candidate might not see your benefits as benefits, so you need the flexibility to offer them what they want. Maybe they want the ability to take the occasional sabbatical. Maybe they want life insurance. Maybe they want stipends to cover transportation and daily chores. Maybe they want mental health support, or perhaps they want stock options in the company. Some employees prefer to work while they travel once a year. The list of potential benefits is huge and varied. No one company can offer all of them to everyone, but you can offer what an individual wants to that individual.
Offering the ability to negotiate a customized benefits package for each new employee can be very attractive. New engineers with specific desires might not be able to find what they want out of most companies, but your flexibility can attract them to you.
The only caveat here is to ensure that existing employees can negotiate their benefits as their own needs and desires change. A new hire with a new benefit can make other employees jealous, and it can cause issues within the workplace, as well as job dissatisfaction. Never adopt the position of “you didn’t negotiate for it, so you can’t have it.” Always be open to adjusting benefits packages to the changing needs of your employees. Otherwise, they’re going to be more likely to jump ship for a company that better fits their needs.
Hire with Intent to Train
A common problem in the modern job market is the job listing with too many requirements and too little compensation. Employers want to hire extremely talented and educated candidates for a pittance, and an increasing number of candidates are no longer going to accept that kind of treatment.
These days, it’s important to remember that a candidate doesn’t need to be perfect. Someone who meets 80% of your requirements can easily be trained to meet the rest. Pare down what is truly required, and count on your employees to grow into their positions.
Overall, the list of benefits you can offer to your engineers is large and varied. Everyone has different needs and desires, so offering a generous benefits package – or a customizable package – is the best option. Beyond that, though, always remember that your engineers want to feel part of something bigger. They want to work on complex problems and solve issues with their communities, industries, or the world at large. Facilitate that desire to fuel their passion and get the most out of the best engineers.