As you search for the perfect clean energy job to match your interests and expertise, one thing you’ll want to pay attention to are the benefits a company offers. So often, prospective employees let salary and aspects like the commute and company culture when making a decision. They may check boxes like healthcare, a retirement plan and ample vacation days, but fail to look into the details of each before investing time in the interview process. But savvy job seekers understand that stock options and a matching 401(k) can equate to thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars, in addition to an annual salary.
In fact, non-salary benefits often account for roughly a third of an employee’s compensation package. So, before you spend too much time preparing for another round of interviews, be sure you have some insight into the benefits a company offers.
Here are a few important benefits to inquire about:
Comprehensive Health Care
Company-offered health insurance is more important than ever. In 2020, large employers in the U.S. are predicting their health care costs to increase about 6 percent, making their total cost of health care (after premiums and out-of-pocket costs) to equal roughly $15,375 per employee. Many of these companies are planning to implement cost-management tactics to reduce their health care costs. As a job seeker, make sure you understand how much you’ll be required to pay – it’s generally about 30 percent – and know the type of coverage offered. You want to make sure your potential employer isn’t offering just catastrophic insurance with an outrageous deductible, but a plan that offers comprehensive coverage with doctors and medical facilities in your network that are near you. Many companies are also offering wellness perks like paid gym memberships and free yoga classes to attract top talent.
Pension and 401(k) Plans
Retirement planning isn’t cheap. The majority of the employees who aren’t independently wealthy will need to start saving money in their younger years to plan for their later years. Employer-sponsored pension or 401(k) plans are crucial to help workers save for their futures. Pension plans provide a guaranteed amount each month, based on salary and years of service. On the other hand, 401(k) plans vary considerably based on employer and employee investments. Some companies are opting for a wide selection of investments coupled with low fees – from stocks, bonds and international index funds. Companies that match 401(k) worker contributions are especially appealing. If you’re changing jobs later in your career, matching dollars are even more important, as you won’t have to rely completely on subsidies in order to save for retirement.
Vacation and Paid Time Off
Most companies offer two weeks of vacation the first day on the job. Employees may also accrue vacation days throughout the year, based on the number of days they work. Although it sounds straightforward, paid time off becomes a complicated expense for employers, since Americans are infamously bad at using up their vacation time. When that’s the case, employers must pay out these unused vacation days when an employee leaves. This is one reason that unlimited vacation time is becoming more common – it can save a company as much as $1,898 per employee in vacation liability. Trusting employees to manage their workload regardless of how many days they take away from the office also helps boost company culture. Ask your prospective company for details about how their vacation time works, and mention any planned trips before signing the offer letter, to avoid any issues after you’re hired. If you earned more vacation time than you used at your last job, factor this into your negotiations.
Flexible Work Hours
Behind health insurance, “more flexible work hours” is the second most valued job seeker benefit, according to the Havard Business Review. In 2019, more employees value a work-life balance and desire workplace flexibility when it comes to working from home, half days in the office due to personal appointments, and creative ways to avoid a lengthy and stressful commute. Job seekers with children should pay special attention to how a company grants time off due to parental responsibilities like sick kids, events, sports practice, etc. Sometimes even a flexible schedule, such as coming in at 7 am and leaving at 4 pm is enough to miss peak rush hour or pick a child up from an after-school event. Some clean energy jobs, like writers, bookkeepers, graphic designers, customer service representatives and account managers can be performed entirely remote. If you have the self-discipline and time management skills to work outside the office, talk to your potential employer about flexible schedule options.
Bonuses and Education Subsidies
In this day and age, employees are working around the clock – and they want to be recognized and rewarded for this dedication. Therefore, many job seekers favor companies that offer bonuses and other financial incentives based on performance. This may be a company performance, an individual performance, or a combination. Incentive pay is the most common (and generally most desired) method of recognition, but some companies also offer high performers perks like more flexible schedules, paid lunches, department parties and leadership opportunities.
Many clean energy employees want to continue developing their skills after they land a job. Continuing education isn’t cheap, however. Companies that offer education subsidies show workers that they care about advancing their careers. The level of investment may range from online workshops and paid conferences to programs at local universities and even tuition reimbursement for graduate school.
As you’re talking to your potential employer, be sure to discuss your expectations and negotiate a benefits package that meets your needs.
If you’re looking for the perfect job in clean energy, start by creating your free professional profile today on Clean Energy Jobs List!