hen it comes to flexible compensation, benefits can be almost as many as you can imagine. In addition to the most common ones, such as health insurance, there are others that can prove to be quite useful and interesting. Referral bonuses, vouchers for training, day care, access to a gym or other services, and even unlimited vacation days are just some of the benefits that have been announced by companies lately. And they never cease to amaze us.

The goal? To score points in the “war of talents”. With the job market more competitive than ever, and while facing the most qualified generations ever, organisations need to differentiate themselves to attract and retain the best talent. It is in this sense that the concept of flexible benefits arises, an essential element not only to make job vacancies more attractive, but also a decision criterion for many candidates.

In Portugal, six out of ten people have access to flexible benefits, an extra salary component, revealed the study “The state of compensation 2021-22 – A study on the future of work and the work of the future”, carried out by Coverflex . Furthermore, if they had the possibility to choose between a gross salary of 25,000 euros per year or a gross salary of 21,000 euros per year plus 5,000 euros in flexible benefits (there are amounts that represent the same approximate cost for the company in terms of employee expenses), 55.7% of the participants would opt for the salary and benefits modality. Only 10% of participants admit that they do not see advantages associated with a flexible benefits policy.

Some are more original and unusual than others, and several are included in the Coverflex offer - flexible benefits, meal card, insurance and discounts. Below are some of the benefits that go into flexible compensation and that you should keep an eye on.

Referral bonus

Receiving a bonus for a good referral. That's right. Today, more and more companies encourage their employees to also be their own headhunters, suggesting well-known talents they trust to fill internal vacancies. If there is a match and the referral results in a successful hiring, the employee who helped in the recruitment process gets a bonus.

“In order to face this shortage of talent, employers are increasingly focusing on strategies to attract and retain talent and, according to data from this barometer, referral awards are one of the strategies of choice. They are not a new practice in the job market, but they have now gained special prominence in HR strategies”, explained Sandrine Veríssimo, regional director of Hays Portugal, commenting on the results of the “HR Barometer 2021/22”, carried out by the Kaizen Institute in partnership with Hays Portugal and released in June.

“This is a referral bonus that companies give to employees who refer the right candidates for a given role. This happens a lot in areas or profiles that are more difficult to recruit, either because of the complexity of the function, the lack of available qualified talent or the strong competitiveness of the market in question (e.g. IT, consulting, digital, Shared Service Center, Contact Centres , etc.)”, she adds.

Vouchers for education, technology, childcare, among others

This is another option on the topic of “flexible benefits”, and much more common among organisations. Offering vouchers with a certain ceiling to use in different services, from education to technology or childcare, allows employees to, for instance, buy school supplies, pay for their children's day care and/or cover gym fees.

These vouchers are often an essential financial support for employees and do not represent an extra cost for companies.

Pet day care

Vouchers for pet day care are less usual but exist in some companies, for example in the Portuguese company Barkyn. The canine health and nutrition startup has a personalised benefits portfolio, focused on the interests and needs of its employees and, above all, closely linked to its humanist philosophy. Thus, employees interested in taking advantage of day care centres can choose their favourite taking location or reputation into consideration and Barkyn will cover the expenses.

In addition, a week of parental leave was created for those who welcome a new dog into the family and a day of mourning for those who lose their pet (regardless of the species).

Training and career growth opportunities

The new generation of talent craves growth opportunities. In order to retain young workers, companies must offer solid and continuous training for the professional and personal development of each one. In addition, if companies have the opportunity to do so, they should also allow and support employees in continuing their studies whenever they wish.

At Coverflex we have an annual budget of 1,000 euros per year per employee. This is a budget destined to personal growth. It is up to the employee to manage this amount, which can be used to subscribe to newspapers, photography courses, leadership workshops or language classes, for example. It is, for us, the natural evolution of the budget we had initially created for learning and development initiatives. The goal of this budget is to offer new alternatives, allowing people to allocate the amount to activities with which they can learn new things or develop skills that are relevant, not for the company, but for their personal development.

Well-being programs

In recent years, there has been a greater interest in wellness activities promoted by companies, as these often represent the possibility of, more than balancing, integrating personal and professional life. These could be wellness benefits, discounts or vouchers to use in gyms, dance studios or yoga studios. The existence of sports classes in the company itself and a rest and leisure room, or even the offer of snacks and the implementation of policies such as 'no-meeting days' can enter this dimension of benefits.

There are even companies that go further in this matter and have already chosen – instead of renovating offices – to build what they call a centre for well-being, mental health and social interaction. This is the case with Salesforce, which created the Trailblazer Ranch in California.

Unlimited holidays

To have an unlimited number of (paid) vacation days per year: too good to be true? Perhaps. But the truth is that this policy, which began to be implemented mainly in certain American tech companies, is increasingly part of benefit packages from European companies, especially those that find it difficult to hire and retain talent. Even so, this is still an uncommon benefit among Portuguese companies.

Another option is to offer the possibility to buy extra vacation days. That's right: to buy them. The model is relatively simple. An employee has a pre-established number of vacation days, but they can choose to take a few more days in addition to those stipulated by law or by the company. There is normally a maximum number of extra days that can be taken and no remuneration is earned for them.

Netflix and Spotify subscription

The preferences of Portuguese employees in what comes to benefits also include subscription services. According to the study “The State of Compensation 2021-22”, 35% of Portuguese people would like the subscription to Netflix and Spotify to be a benefit offered by their company.

However, this is one of the cases that shows that the benefits granted by companies do not always correspond to what professionals really want, since, among companies in the Portuguese territory, the offer of subscription services, namely of streaming, is still not very widespread.