Published September 19, 2017
Volume 1, Number 9

Commuter Benefits Help Tenants Attract

Talent and Avoid Fines

By Hacienda Pulse Staff Writer

How can employers attract and retain talent in a tight, highly competitive labor market such as the Bay Area? Promoting commuter benefits is one approach. A new salary guide released in September by staffing company Robert Half included commuting as one of the key elements that employers should highlight when talking to prospective employees.
“Having these commuting benefits gives companies a competitive edge,” says Phil Winters, Transportation Demand Management Program Director at the Center for Urban Transportation Research, which oversees the Best Workplaces for Commuters program. “We believe a lot of these programs contribute to bottom line impacts. It should help things like employee recruitment.”

Having a discussion about commuting with employees or job candidates might seem daunting but it does not have to be, at least not for Hacienda business tenants. Hacienda has successfully crafted one of the most comprehensive commuter service programs in the nation. Hacienda’s commuter resources offer business tenants three significant benefits.

First, Hacienda has made it simple for business tenants to offer their employees many free and accessible commute resources by simply giving employees access to the resources Hacienda has already assembled. Second, doing so allows Hacienda businesses to easily comply with the legal mandate of the Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program. Third, Hacienda’s national status as a Best Workplace for Commuters allows Hacienda companies an opportunity to promote themselves nationally as commuter-friendly workplaces as well.

Law Requires Commuter Benefits
Last year the California state legislature turned a pilot regional commuter program into permanent law. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission jointly oversee the Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program, a program that requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees in the Bay Area to offer commuter benefits to their employees.

This legally mandated program affects more than 120 of Hacienda’s business tenants. These companies must register with the Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program and provide certain commuter benefits to their employees. Employers who fail to do so face fines for violating the program. Fortunately, Hacienda tenants subject to the law can comply with the guidelines by making the park’s extensive commuter benefits packages available to their local employees.

Hacienda’s vast program includes a variety of options which include a free Wheels ECO pass, which allows use of local transit; “try a trip” passes for a number of nearby rail and other systems; free carpool or vanpool match lists; a free Guaranteed Ride Home for those using a commute alternative; walking and bicycling support services; and many more options.
Best Workplaces for Commuters

Commute issues can have a major impact on hiring success and retention, according to research done by recruiters. A variety of employers have found a connection between the time required for commuting to a workplace and new-hire retention and new hire success rates. In a place like the Bay Area, moreover, the ease of commuting may make a difference between attracting and keeping talented employees or losing them.
When it comes to providing commute options and ease, Hacienda stands out. For several years, Hacienda's award-winning commuter program has earned Hacienda a Best Workplaces for Commuters designation. Best Workplaces for Commuters provides qualified employers with programs and services along with national recognition and an elite designation for offering outstanding commuter benefits, such as free or low cost bus passes. Employers that meet the National Standard of Excellence in commuter benefits, a standard established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and maintained by the Center for Urban Transportation Research, can become a member of Best Workplaces for Commuters.
According to Winters, the business benefits from commuter programs include retention, recruitment, and reducing parking costs. As worthy as it is to attempt to reduce traffic congestion, reduce energy use, and improve air quality, he says that commuter benefits can add to an employer’s bottom line in significant ways. Despite those real benefits, many people are surprised by the reality of commuting. “A lot of people say nobody car pools,” notes Winters. “In most communities, it’s the second largest share of how people get to and from work.”
The confusion or surprise some people have about commuting may be partly a result of what people have read about commuting. Most surveys, notes Winters, ask “ ‘How do you usually get to work?’ That’s like asking ‘What do you usually eat for dinner?’ It varies.”

When it comes to employer-sponsored commute programs, “There’s a lot more diversity and options these days,” says Winters. More companies are offering Uber and Lyft services for emergency rides home or guaranteed rides home. How might that work?

“Say a hurricane is coming in, and my carpool left early,” explains Winters. “In that case, I’d be eligible for a free ride home.” Another example might be parents who need to leave work unexpectedly because they’ve gotten a call from school saying their child is sick.”

Some employers are becoming more marketing-savvy and experimenting with “gamifying” commuting options by giving employees digital “badges” to encourage the employees to use some types of commuting options over others or help them meet other commuting-related goals, according to Winters.
Because of Hacienda’s status as a Best Workplaces for Commuters site, any of the park's 685 businesses can apply for a Best Workplaces for Commuters Employer designation as well. To get that recognition, a Hacienda business tenant simply fills out an application form and pays a modest annual fee. Becoming a member allows the business to promote its company’s commuter-friendly status on its own website, in marketing materials, and in job listings; in return, the company is listed on the national Best Workplaces for Commuters website.
In short, Hacienda’s award-winning commuter program and its status as a Best Workplace for Commuters can help business tenants attract and retain talented employees—and help larger tenants avoid fines—painlessly.
For more information about the Robert Half study, visit http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/09/05/new-report-provides-latest-salary-benefits-trends. For more information about Hacienda’s commute resources, visit http://www.hacienda.org/amenities-employees-residents/commute-solutions. For more information about the Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program, visit http://511.org/employers/commuter/news. For more information about Best Workplaces for Commuters, visit https://www.bestworkplaces.org.