Sat, Jul

Perks of the job

When it comes to staff, the adage ‘you get what you pay for’ is apt. But it’s not all about money. On the back of news that Apple and Facebook are offering to freeze eggs for female employees in an effort to attract more women, we share some of the less obvious employee reward schemes.

Make your people happy, and they’ll help you make money. So how do you do that? Decent remuneration is a given …and decent working conditions, holiday package etc. But incentivisation and reward schemes have an increasingly important part to play in attracting and retaining the best staff.

Apple and Facebook have announced that they will go as far as offering to freeze eggs for female employees in an effort to attract more women.

Where large corporates continue to lead the way, small business are now showing that they too can offer the type of off-the-wall schemes that keep staff happy and eager to please by adapting some of big boys’ tactics. Here’s what we’re talking about…

1. Pre-natal news
Apple is being as innovative with staff perks as it is elsewhere, offering US-based staff the chance to freeze their eggs, saying: “We continue to expand our benefits for women, with cyropreservation and egg storage part of our extensive support for infertility treatments.” This is among initiatives that include longer parental leave, education reimbursements for all classes taken by employees, and subsidised student loan refinancing.
Facebook is also on to the egg-freezing perk, offering female employees up to $20,000 (£13,000) for such treatment. Surrogacy assistance and “a host of other fertility services for male and female employees” are also offered.
2. Post-natal moves
Increasingly, companies are providing generous post-natal time-off/pay packages. AOL for instance, runs a Well Baby programme for employees that are new parents and there’s an on-site day care facility for their pre-schoolers.
Here in the UK, Campbell Soup also offers a full nursery programme, plus an after-school programme for 6-12yr olds, and a lactation room for nursing mothers.
And Ernst & Young’s childcare ‘facilities’, includes a working parents' network.

3. Happy holidays
Nine out of the top 20 businesses listed in The Sunday Times ‘100 Best Small Companies to Work For’ 2104 are in recruitment, surely proof that they know something about attracting and retaining staff! Top of this ‘recruiters’ pile came Next Ventures which has quarterly incentive breaks abroad for sales consultants hitting target, and an annual trip to somewhere exotic. And the time off work needed for these is gifted as extra holiday.

On another level, unlimited staff holidays are becoming more popular. At small UK media agency the7stars if somebody wants to take a four-week fly-drive to the US or three-week cookery course, then they can - provided their work gets done.

At Mercy Corps staff are given a number of 'Sunshine Days' off each year so they can take advantage of good weather on a whim.

Then there’s the likes of John Lewis, which owns and runs five holiday destinations for the benefit of its staff. These include a watersports club on Lake Bala, North Wales; a country house hotel in Hampshire; and a 16th-century castle retreat on Brownsea Island, in Poole Harbour, Dorset.

4. Forget time tracking
At Netflix's Los Gatos HQ in California, neither work nor holiday time is tracked. The company only measures what people get done - it doesn't matter when or for how long they're in the office. Abusers of the policy are simply fired!

5. Promote social skills
UK-based online retailer ao.com - ranked fourth in ‘The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For’ 2014 - will stump up half the cost of any social activity, from guitar lessons to scuba-diving, as long as it develops a worker’s skills and is taken up by more than four people. It also offers dirt cheap gym membership at the local leisure centre.

At New Charter Housing Trust Group and Childbase Nurseries, staff can bid in a Dragon’s Den style format for training unrelated to their work roles. Winning pitches can include anything from lessons in ballroom dancing, piano, flower arranging or cross-stitch, to Spanish, dressmaking or cookery classes.

6. Offer healthy options
Forget the free fruit offering – that’s now commonplace. Try a workplace bike maintenance service if you’re trying to get your employees to maintain a healthy lifestyle – that’s what HP, KPMG and Wrigley are doing. Of course that’s just one offering. At Yahoo! for instance, staff are encouraged to play as hard as they work, with the company offering an on-site gym, basketball and sand volleyball courts.

You might expect that the Institute for Integrative Nutrition would do a decent job of looking after staff, and it does. A chef prepares a healthy lunch for staff every day (breakfast and snacks are also provided), and fresh flowers are placed on each desk. There are also biweekly chair massages and if in-house yoga classes aren't enough of a de-stress, there’s always the staff yoga retreat.

7. Play the game
Perhaps unsurprisingly, San Francisco-based gaming company Zynga has in-house relaxation lounges with classic arcade games and Nintendo, Xbox 360 and PS3 gaming systems for its workers to use. But others are doing similar things, including the likes of Grasshopper Group, which has a Nintendo Wii room with free snacks and drinks

8. Beyond Botox
‘Botox leave’ has become the common term for giving employees time off for all sorts of personal grooming activities like facials and haircuts to manicures, pedicures and even cosmetic surgery. London-based ad agency Fox Kalomaski for instance gave employees an additional paid day off for ‘beauty treatments’ during the stressful holiday season in December.

9. Concierge on call
Concierge benefits are not uncommon; an employer may have a dry-cleaning service or employees may have access to a travel agent for personal vacations. However, some employers take these services to a new level. At SC Johnson and Son, the makers of brands such as Glade and Pledge, there's an on-site employee concierge to handle all of life’s chores. They send packages and flowers, pick up groceries, shop around for the best deals on car insurance, take your car in for service including oil changes, and even stand in the queue for concert tickets.

And at companies like Weebly and Akraya it gets even more personal. At Weebly every employee gets a monthly credit to a house cleaning and errand-running service, and Akraya, sends professional cleaners to employees' homes every two weeks for free.

10. Hands up
Companies are beginning to see the benefits of volunteering. Outdoor clothing company Patagonia for instance give employees two-weeks paid leave to work for the environmental charity of their choosing.

At Timberland employees can take service sabbaticals equalling 40 hours of paid volunteer work per year.

11. Green?for go
David Evans and Associates is just one company that offers employees cash incentives to ditch their cars and go green. Staff can claim up to $6 a day if they commute to work by walking, biking, carpooling or riding the bus.

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