25 Creative Compensation Ideas to Keep Your Employees Happy

May 8, 2024 | Employee Benefits

Josh Rust

Marketing Manager

In today’s cutthroat job market, retaining top talent has become a high-stakes game. 

With inflation eating into people’s savings and almost 8 out of 10 people living paycheck to paycheck, something has to change. 

In addition, HR professionals are well aware of the ticking time bomb of employees thinking, “I’ve got more experience now—am I being paid enough for this?”

Over half of workers feel shortchanged compared to market standards, which spells trouble for your retention rates.

Employees don’t just want more money. They need help with real-life problems. Inflation is making them unhappy, and if nothing changes, they might leave.

And here’s the truth: we can’t rely on old ways of paying people. It’s time to embrace creativity and reimagine how we support our employees. 

From meal stipends to pet-friendly workplaces, it’s time to prioritize their well-being over profit margins. 

Because, in the end, a fulfilled employee is an invaluable asset. 

Keep reading for some creative compensation ideas!

Creative Compensation Ideas That Work

1. Meal or Snack Stipends

    Keep your team fueled for success! Providing meal or snack stipends not only ensures your employees are well-fed and energized throughout the day but also fosters a sense of appreciation and care from the company. 

    Plus, who doesn’t love a free snack? It’s a tasty way to boost morale and productivity.

    2. Transportation Stipends / Rideshare Programs, Car Maintenance Reimbursements

      By offering transportation stipends or rideshare programs, you’re exploring alternative compensation ideas that ease the financial burden of getting to work while promoting eco-friendly commuting options.

      Car maintenance reimbursements also ensure your employees’ vehicles stay in tip-top shape, keeping them safe and reliable on the road.

      3. Tuition or Student Loan Reimbursements

        Did you know that 86% of workers would stay for at least five years if they received help paying off their student loans?

        Providing tuition or helping with student loan payments can attract smart and well-educated candidates to the team. 

        It can also encourage current employees to continue their education, which leads to a more skilled and motivated workforce. It’s a win-win for both employee development and company loyalty.

        4. Customized Perks and Discount Packages

          Providing customized perks and discount packages through platforms like Abenity can boost employee satisfaction and loyalty by offering personalized benefits tailored to their interests and needs. It’s a delightful way to show appreciation and enhance their quality of life.

          5. Equity Share / Equity Plan Bonus

            Make your employees feel like true stakeholders! Offering equity shares or an equity plan bonus gives them a sense of ownership in the company’s success. 

            GoDaddy is one of many companies that offer an equity-sharing program for its employees. This program allows eligible employees to receive stock options or restricted stock units (RSUs) as part of their compensation package.

            It’s a powerful motivator that aligns their interests with the company’s long-term goals, driving innovation and dedication.

            6. Daycare Stipend and Parental Leave / Childcare Reimbursement Bonus

              Providing funds for daycare and allowing parental leave can be a great way to help working parents manage their work and personal lives without any stress. Happy parents make for happy and focused employees.

              7. Wellness Stipend

                Prioritize your employees’ well-being! A wellness stipend encourages them to invest in their physical and mental health, whether for gym memberships, meditation apps, or wellness retreats. 

                Healthy and happy employees are more engaged, productive, and resilient in the face of challenges.

                8. Mental Health Days

                  Taking care of our mental health is crucial, and it’s equally essential to address the stigma surrounding mental health issues in the workplace. 

                  Mental health days can be a great way to support employee well-being and promote mental health awareness. These days can help individuals recharge, manage stress, and deal with any mental health concerns. 

                  9. PTO/Unlimited PTO

                    Offering generous PTO or unlimited PTO shows that you trust your employees to manage their time responsibly while also acknowledging the importance of work-life balance. 

                    It empowers them to recharge, explore new experiences, and return to work with renewed energy and creativity.

                    10. Flexible Working Hours

                      Offering flexible working hours allows your employees to tailor their schedules to their personal needs and preferences, whether it’s balancing family commitments, pursuing hobbies, or avoiding rush hour traffic. 

                      It promotes autonomy, trust, and work-life balance, leading to happier and more motivated employees. 

                      In a 2023 study, having flexible work hours is more important to people than working from home. 58.2% of the participants said they really value the option of being able to work flexible hours.

                      11. Remote Work Options

                        It’s time to embrace the future of work. Providing remote work options allows your employees to work from anywhere, whether it’s the comfort of their home, a cozy cafe, or a scenic destination. 

                        It enhances flexibility, productivity, and work-life balance, empowering your team to thrive in a digital world.

                        12. Career Development Opportunities

                          Offering career development opportunities such as training, mentorship, and advancement programs can increase employee engagement and retention. 

                          For example, AT&T has been investing in its employees through AT&T University. It’s a leadership and management program that offers self-paced technical credentials called Nanodegrees in web and mobile dev, data analytics, and tech entrepreneurship.

                          13. Pet-Friendly Workplaces / Pet Insurance

                            Let furry friends join the team. Creating a pet-friendly workplace and offering pet insurance not only boosts employee morale and camaraderie but also reduces stress and improves overall well-being. After all, who can resist a cuddle with a furry coworker during a tough day?

                            14. New Home Down Payment Bonus/Down Payment Loans

                              Offering a new home down payment bonus or down payment loans provides valuable support and stability. 

                              It means they can start putting down roots and building towards a brighter future. Plus, it shows that you’re really invested in their long-term financial success.

                              15. Elder Care Support Bonus

                                Support your employees in caring for their loved ones. An elder care support bonus acknowledges the challenges of balancing work and caregiving responsibilities and provides financial assistance for elder care services. 

                                By easing this burden, you’re fostering loyalty and gratitude among your team.

                                16. Spotify / Apple Music / Music Stipend

                                  Providing a music stipend or subscriptions to music streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music allows your employees to enhance their work environment and boost productivity with their favorite tunes. It’s a simple yet effective way to brighten their day and inspire creativity.

                                  17. Corporate Cellphone Plans

                                    Providing company mobile phone plans can enhance communication and productivity among workers, particularly those who depend on their phones for tasks related to work.

                                    For example, T-Mobile includes this as part of their employee benefits package. These discounts can be applied to all lines and usually include a percentage of recurring costs like phone, messaging, and data.

                                    18. Financial Wellness Program

                                      Empower your employees to achieve financial peace of mind! 

                                      A financial wellness program provides valuable resources and education on budgeting, saving, investing, and debt management, helping your team make informed financial decisions and build a secure future. 

                                      When employees feel financially confident, they can focus better on their work and overall well-being.

                                      19. Travel Stipend

                                        Giving employees travel stipends is a great way to encourage them to attend conferences, workshops, or other professional development opportunities. 

                                        This can help them learn new things and develop new skills, which is always a win-win.

                                        Airbnb employees get a $2,000 travel credit annually, which they can use to book stays or experiences on the Airbnb website. The credit is given out every three months.

                                        20. Entertainment Bonus

                                          Treat your team to unforgettable experiences! 

                                          An entertainment bonus gives employees the opportunity to enjoy concerts, shows, sporting events, and other entertainment options, creating lasting memories and strengthening bonds within the team. 

                                          It’s a fun and rewarding way to show appreciation and celebrate achievements.

                                          21. Charitable Contribution Bonus

                                            Charitable contribution bonuses can show corporate social responsibility and inspire employees to give back, fostering fulfillment and purpose.

                                            Companies with charitable giving programs benefit from increased employee performance. 

                                            This is especially true among millennial employees, as 88% of them find their jobs more fulfilling when given the opportunity to make a positive impact.

                                            22. Paid Voting Time

                                              Paid voting time for employees demonstrates your commitment to democracy and encourages active citizenship. It’s a great way to ensure they don’t have to miss out on wages or take unpaid leave.

                                              23. Referral Program

                                                Encouraging employees to refer qualified candidates through a referral program can make the recruitment process easier and more effective.

                                                For instance, Fiverr has a cool employee referral program in which a freelancer shares their job on social media, they get points. 

                                                They even use a leaderboard to keep things transparent and promote a bit of healthy competition!

                                                24. Company Retreats

                                                  Company retreats provide valuable opportunities for team building, collaboration, and reflection outside of the typical work environment. 

                                                  Whether it’s a weekend getaway or an off-site retreat, investing in these experiences cultivates a sense of belonging, trust, and unity among your team members.

                                                  25. House Cleaning Services

                                                    Offering house cleaning services can ease the burden and save time for employees to concentrate on their work and leisure activities. 

                                                    This can lead to a better balance between work and personal life, which in turn can lead to greater satisfaction.

                                                    Companies Doing This Well

                                                    In the world of work perks, some companies are getting pretty creative with how they compensate their employees. Let’s take a peek at a few examples and why they work so well.


                                                    Adobe goes beyond the usual perks with its innovative compensation offerings. In addition to family support and education benefits, they provide a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA), enabling employees to allocate up to $5,000 pre-tax annually for qualified daycare or elder care expenses. 

                                                    Through the Adobe Employee Software Purchase Program (EPP), staff can also access discounted Creative Cloud memberships for themselves and their loved ones, including friends, family, and nonprofit organizations. 

                                                    Additionally, Adobe offers Airvet, granting employees 24/7 virtual vet care with unlimited virtual visits at no cost. 

                                                    And if you’re relocating, Adobe partners with Altair Global’s Affinity Program, delivering seamless and competitively priced relocation benefits for moves within the United States or globally.

                                                    Anonymous Employee Review:

                                                    “The compensation package is well rounded, and it’s clear that Adobe cares about the employee experience.”

                                                    Palo Alto Networks 

                                                    Palo Alto Networks is a cybersecurity company that has some awesome perks for its employees. They offer employees a unique FLEXBenefits program allowing them to spend $1,000 annually on items or experiences that bring joy, along with a large on-site gym and daily exercise classes at HQ. 

                                                    Additionally, the company provides various financial benefits such as an Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) and traditional/Roth 401(k) options, as well as corporate discounts on merchandise, travel, and entertainment. 

                                                    At the HQ, there are some great on-site perks like cafeterias, fuel service, dry cleaning service, EV charging stations, company store, and free drinks and snacks in break rooms.

                                                    Anonymous Employee Review:

                                                    “They are market competitive, stock is soaring, fair for gender equality, and FLEXBenefits has some crazy things I can get reimbursed for that no other company would ever think to pay for!”


                                                    Medallia is a customer experience management company. 

                                                    Employees at Medallia enjoy a flexible workspace, where they collaborate with their managers to determine their work setup, whether onsite, hybrid, or remote, based on office availability and business needs. 

                                                    When it comes to time off, Medallia is very generous. They offer cool things like meaningful parental leave, a global paid sabbatical leave, volunteer time off, and paid leave for employees experiencing pregnancy loss or bereavement. 

                                                    The company also thinks that mental health is super important. That’s why they give their employees mental health days every quarter to recharge. 

                                                    They also offer access to coaches, therapy, and community support sessions for employees and their families. 

                                                    This holistic approach to compensation reflects the company’s dedication to finding creative ways to pay employees that address their diverse needs and promote work-life balance.

                                                    Anonymous Employee Review:

                                                    “Pay is very good and benefits extensive, but with reasonable premiums and many options. Leadership monitors excessive hours to avoid burnout (work-life balance in action!) and we get quarterly mental health days and an open PTO policy.”

                                                    Tailoring Compensation to Your Workforce

                                                    If you want to try out some new and creative ways to pay your employees, you need to consider their specific needs and values. Here are some tips to get started:

                                                    Conduct Employee Surveys or Focus Group

                                                    Conducting employee surveys or focus groups is one way to better understand your employees’ needs and preferences. 

                                                    Ask about their financial stressors, lifestyle needs, and what additional benefits or perks would bring them the most value.

                                                    Analyze Employee Demographics and Life Stages

                                                    Have you ever considered your employees’ ages and where they’re at in life? 

                                                    For example, if you have many younger millennials working for you, they might really appreciate help paying off their student loans. 

                                                    On the other hand, if you’ve got lots of parents on your team, they might be more interested in getting some help with childcare costs. 

                                                    And just about everybody loves being able to work from home every once in a while!

                                                    Research Industry Trends

                                                    Stay competitive in the talent marketplace. You may need to follow suit if other companies offer certain popular perks. Creative compensation can be a strategic advantage in recruitment and retention.

                                                    Involve Your Managers 

                                                    Involve your managers in assessing your team’s needs, as they have a close relationship with their direct reports. 

                                                    Work with other departments to get the bigger picture and spot any problems or chances to improve. 

                                                    When everyone teams up, you can use all the know-how from different departments to create a more cohesive and effective team.

                                                    Communicate Compensation Offerings Frequently and Transparently

                                                    When introducing new plans, make sure to clearly communicate the reason, boundaries, and benefits to your team. 

                                                    Keep the salary and benefits plans transparent for current and potential job seekers.

                                                    Align Creative Compensation With Your Values and Brand

                                                    When you’re putting together a compensation package for your employees, it’s easy to get carried away with all the cool alternative compensation ideas available. 

                                                    But not all perks are created equal, and some might not make sense for your company. Rather than trying to keep up with the latest trends, it’s smarter to focus on initiatives that actually match your company’s values and business goals.

                                                    Measuring the Impact of Creative Compensation Strategies

                                                    Designing an exciting compensation plan is investing in your company, and you want to track how it’s working. Good news—there are ways to track it! 

                                                    Here are some best practices for measuring effectiveness:

                                                    Set Clear Metrics and KPIs Upfront

                                                    Define specific metrics you want to track, like employee retention rate, recruitment costs, employee satisfaction scores, productivity, etc. Setting measurable goals will help you evaluate success.

                                                    Leverage Employee Feedback

                                                    Use regular pulse surveys, focus groups, anonymous feedback channels, and exit interviews to gather insights directly from your employees. This qualitative data is invaluable for optimizing your compensation programs.

                                                    Analyze Performance Data

                                                    Look at quantifiable performance metrics like sales numbers, project delivery rates, customer satisfaction scores, quality ratings, etc. Linking compensation to performance can motivate employees. 

                                                    Track Program ROI

                                                    Understand the overall return on investment by comparing program costs to metrics like improved retention and productivity. This can help decide which perks to invest more in.

                                                    Watch for Unintended Consequences

                                                    Monitor for potential pitfalls like low workplace morale if perks aren’t distributed fairly, or misuse of benefits. Nip issues in the bud before they become problematic.

                                                    Re-Evaluate and Iterate

                                                    As things change, so do the needs of your employees. It’s important to keep refining your compensation strategy to make the most impact. 

                                                    By paying attention to the data and making quick adjustments, you can create a compensation program that your employees will really appreciate.

                                                    Compensation Doesn’t “Always” Have to Be About Pay

                                                    The world of work is changing fast, and compensation strategies need to evolve beyond traditional models. 

                                                    Creative compensation ideas represent a shift towards more human-centric workplaces, showing employees they matter through perks tailored to their needs. 

                                                    Rather than clinging to dated norms, smart employers are getting creative with their offerings. 

                                                    Whether through flexible benefits programs, innovative time-off policies, or personalized perks and discounts, companies prioritizing creative ways to pay employees will ultimately reap the rewards of a happier, more engaged workforce.

                                                    The ideas shared in this article are just the beginning. 

                                                    There are endless possibilities once you start thinking outside the paycheck. 

                                                    Start by exploring your options on our “Employee Benefits and Perks Report” and build a compensation plan as inspiring as your people. Download our comprehensive report here!

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