With Labor Day just around the corner, it’s a great time for contractors to review the benefits they offer employees, especially as it gets harder and harder to find qualified help.  

One way to make sure you’re offering a competitive benefits package is to see what others are doing. “Benefits are extremely important in finding and keeping good employees,” said Robert Criner, president of Criner Remodeling. Here’s a look at the 10 most popular benefits and the percentage of contractors offering them based on the Remodeling 550, an annual survey of top replacement contractors across the nation. 

  1. Vacation: 84%
  2. Paid holidays: 80%
  3. Health insurance: 65%
  4. (tie) Sick days: 65%
  5. Company vehicle: 63%
  6. Company mobile phone: 59%
  7. Retirement account/401K: 56%
  8. Company uniform: 53%
  9. Dental insurance: 51%
  10. Life insurance: 34%

Not every contractor can afford to offer all benefits, but it’s becoming easier to offer health benefits thanks to the Affordable Care Act. When given the option, Criner said employees often discover they can get the best deal through ACA. Contractors can then offer to pay a portion of the premium as a health care benefit.
Retirement accounts can also seem out of reach, but he says they can be as simple as working with a financial advisor to set up a Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Arrangement (SEP IRA). “It was very easy for us, and I would recommend it,” said Criner, who’s also National Association of Home Builders Remodeling chair.

And don’t forget to let employees know the value of those benefits, says Karen Cates, professor at the Kellogg School of Management and a consultant to the roofing industry. “You have to be careful, because people can feel like you’re trying to justify a lower wage,” she warned.

But if done at appropriate times such as annual reviews, it can help employees understand that contractors are paying much more than just a salary. Criner breaks out salary and benefits during reviews so employees can see the full package. “Often employees don’t realize the value of those benefits,” he said. 

Still, these days, contractors need to offer other, less tangible, benefits to keep employees satisfied, say Criner and Cates.

“A lot of people look at benefits as health, bonuses, vehicles and that kind of thing,” he said. “But what I’ve found is that one of the more important things to offer is a company in which there’s an ability for employees to have a brighter future.”

Criner says that takes a different kind of investment from contractors. But the pay off is often far larger than the investment. For example, giving employees educational opportunities through local trade groups or events can be relatively inexpensive. But they’re a great way to help employees grow — and provides contractors with better skilled workers.

Another simple way to make employees feel like they’re part of the company is to include them in the financial discussions and business dealings, Cates says. That’s especially important to younger workers who want to know the how’s and why’s of a business.

“I find that transparency is missing at most companies,” she said. “People think these things should be confidential.”

But Criner has found such meetings to be beneficial to his firm. Every week he holds a company meeting to go over the firm’s performance, and once a month he reviews the business with employees including the number of leads, volume of contracts and profits.

“People want to know they’re working for a successful company, and if there’s an issue you want it on the table,” he said. “It gives them buy in to the company. And when you take their input, and they see it implemented, they become a more vibrant part of the company.”