It’s a job seekers’ market, and employers are stepping up their benefits in a bid to attract and retain workers. People are walking away from their jobs in droves, with a record number of workers quitting their jobs last year, according to the Labor Department. And with nearly 11 million job openings at the end of December, companies are having a hard time hiring – and keeping – employees. “This is the most challenging environment I’ve ever encountered, both in terms of recruiting and retaining,” said Doug Brien, co-founder and CEO of real estate platform Mynd. The tight labor market has forced some employers to sweeten their offerings in terms of benefits, pay and flexibility. Here’s what some companies are doing to win the battle for workers right now: Shortening the work week The shift to remote work during the pandemic has allowed more employees to work for companies located outside their home city. For employers, that has made the competition for talent even more steep. “We’ve had very large, very wealthy software companies come and offer our staff as much as three-times salary increases in lots of different locations,” said David Richards, CEO and co-founder of software firm WANdisco. To help recruit and retain employees, the company, which has dual headquarters in California and the United Kingdom, switched to a four-day workweek, and did not reduce employees’ salaries. “We can’t compete with companies that have trillion-dollar market caps,” said Richards. “Salary is just a small aspect, and we pay very well… we retain staff because we do things like this.” The 32-hour workweek officially started earlier this month. Employees choose their extra day off, with the majority of staff opting for Fridays to take advantage of a three-day weekend. So far, the incentive seems to be working. Richards said an employee recently declined a job offer from a competitor after the shorter workweek was introduced. $60,000 to become a real estate investor Real estate investing platform Mynd is giving its employees a taste of what it offers its customers. In an effort to retain workers, the company introduced a program that will offer its workers $60,000 to help with the purchase their own investment property when they hit their five-year mark with the company. That means anyone who worked at the company in 2021 will be eligible for the program in 2026. “We want to make it that people are mentally, psychologically committed to at least four years, they want to learn and get this benefit,” said Brien. “We have a challenge and we are trying to come up with a way that creates a win-win.” The perk is only available during the worker’s fifth year of employment. Employees will have to submit a proposal for the property, and the funds have to be used for a rental property through the company’s portal, explained Brien. Paid time off before you start the job At public relations agency MikeWorldWide (MWW), new employees get paid before they even start. This year, the company started offering “pre-PTO” that offers new hires a week of paid time off before their first day of work. “Many of the candidates we were talking to had multiple offers so we had to differentiate ourselves and demonstrate our employee value proposition to prospective talent,” said Gina Cherwin, executive vice president and chief people officer. The company created a task force that spoke with recruiters, current employees and candidates who had turned down offers at the firm, to come up with innovative ways to solve the hiring challenges. “Without a doubt, PTO-related new benefits were the most popular,” she said. And for workers who decide to leave the company, if they give four weeks’ notice, they’ll get an additional week’s pay after their last day. “Two weeks is not enough time hardly ever to really transition, particularly in a client service business,” said Cherwin. The more time there is to create a new staffing plan, the easier it can be for the other employees, she said. “Employees who stay, they feel the pain of people leaving and that taking on the work until we can make a new hire … anything that helps us bring in faster and better talent … is hugely beneficial to our staff.” Signing bonuses and quick offers In its search to find workers, North-Carolina based health care provider Atrium Health is offering sign-on bonuses from $3,000 to $10,000 for some of its clinical and patient-facing roles, like certified medical assistants or nurses. “It’s a tight labor market now, especially in health care, so there is a lot of competition out there,” said Jim Dunn, executive vice president and enterprise chief people and culture officer at Atrium Health. And for some positions in more rural areas, the bonuses can go as high as $17,500. “That is something we did not do before March 2020,” said Dunn. The company also gave all its workers a 4% raise last year. To help attract workers, the company also adopted a “fast hire approach” that aims to get offers to candidates quickly, and in some cases, on the same day they interview. “For many of our roles that don’t require licensure or certification … you show up, get a same-day offer and begin work the following Monday, if possible,” said Dunn.