Tech companies generally have some of the best employment perks in the world, which is why employers in other sectors may want to look to Silicon Valley for cues on how to attract and retain talent. An employer doesn’t have to be a tech giant to offer enticing perks that keep workers satisfied and motivated.
Higher salaries alone do not attract and retain talent. While compensation will always be a top consideration for employees, a number of workplace benefits weigh as importantly as salary requirements.
In a recent CareerBuilder.com survey of nearly 4,000 full-time workers nationwide, approximately 26 percent said receiving special perks is an effective way to improve employee retention.
For many employers, the idea of benefits is limited to health insurance and vacation time. In the tech industry, however, employers often offer unique benefits and perks to continue motivating their best and brightest talent. And there is an astounding variety of incentives.
Below are six examples of how tech companies reward employees. While some of these perks may be unrealistic for employers to offer, the underlying goals are within reach: aiding in attracting top talent, improving the quality of employees’ daily work experience, and adding real value to the bottom line.
Promote Career Development
In nearly any organization, the top employees tend to want continuing opportunities to develop, grow, and build their careers. Employers can foster opportunities in multiple ways.
At Intuit, employees looking to continue their education can expect up to $5,000 per year of financial aid for job- and career-related courses. To encourage employees to explore new fields, Intel moves people to new positions every 18 to 24 months on average. New Intel hires are supposedly told, “Welcome to your next five jobs.” At Hitachi Data Systems, the IT subsidiary of the Japanese electronics company, employees are encouraged to uphold traits like wa (trust) and makoto (sincerity and fairness), principles that can go a long way in developing one’s career.
Of course, a rising number of employees expect personal nourishment in addition to professional growth from their work.
Many companies are providing fitness incentives as part of their wellness programs to help employees improve their health. Meanwhile, Salesforce.com includes community service during orientation, and its employees get six days a year to do charitable work. Intuit provides formal rotation programs for new employees and a few hours of “unstructured time” per week for employees to work on their own projects, while Cambridge Consultants invests in its employees’ hobbies and entrepreneurial ventures. Schweitzer Engineering Labs includes an extra $80 as an educational allowance in employees’ first paychecks of every month, which in the past has gone toward foreign-language instruction software and medical-emergency training.
As employers and employees both address work/life balance, the family-friendly workplace is becoming a more conventional perk. On-site daycare is just one example of how employers focus on families today.
Chesapeake Energy has a new on-site 63,000-sq-ft childcare center, and Salesforce.com also offers a childcare center. Meanwhile, SAS Institute provides subsidized Montessori childcare. Facebook provides new or expecting parents with not only reimbursement for daycare, but also four months paid parental leave, $4,000 “baby cash” for the new arrival, and reimbursement for adoption fees.
Meanwhile, many people consider their pets as family members. Combine that with the fact that research has shown that the presence of dogs in the workplace can reduce job stress and build trust between coworkers, it’s not surprising that some companies open their doors to workers’ pets. Autodesk, Zynga, Google, and AnchorFree, for example, all have pet-friendly offices.
Focus on Flexibility
Research repeatedly shows that workplace schedule flexibility can benefit businesses of all sizes and result in increased job satisfaction, lower turnover, and lower insurance costs. Increasingly more companies are coming to accept that employees can be incredibly productive via flexible work schedules, when they pay less attention to employee time-keeping and focus more on work results.
At some Silicon Valley companies, employees can take as much vacation as they’d like, as long as the work gets done. Generous-to-unlimited vacation policies have worked for Netflix, Zynga, Xobni, and SigFig, as well as Evernote, TrackVia, Ask.com, Automattic, and Yammer. The basic principle is that giving employees plenty of time to recharge their batteries will ultimately help increase motivation and productivity overall, and that the best measure of success is what workers accomplish.
A bit of fun is one of the best ways to allow coworkers from different departments to catch up with or get to know each other.
Red Ventures’ headquarters houses a full-length indoor basketball court, a gym, and a putting green, and employees are encouraged to take breaks and enjoy the amenities. Meanwhile, Google’s offices have a pool and ping-pong tables, bowling alleys, and slides.
For employers with smaller budgets, there are more realistic ways to encourage fun. Eventbrite promotes team breakfasts, biking activities, and trips to a trampoline park. National Instruments foregoes its holiday party in favor of a full week of employee-appreciation events, including speaking engagements, health fairs, and a deck party. SAS Institute’s employee perks include an intramural sports league, and DreamWorks Animation employees have art shows, craft fairs, movie screenings, art classes, and lectures throughout the year. Meanwhile, the women of Autodesk get together each month for an after-hours “girl’s night out” at the office as well as larger events like karaoke parties.
Focus on Food
The workplace perk that seems to garner the most enthusiasm from employees is a simple one: free food.
One of Google‘s most famous perks is its dozens of cafes with free, healthy food. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Dropbox and StumbleUpon employees get free meals and have access to kitchens stocked with snacks. Eventbrite, too, provides a “never-ending snack supply.” From daily catered meals and on-site chefs to snack carts and well-stocked pantries, the quickest way to an employee’s heart might just be through his or her stomach.
The tech companies mentioned above know the value of enticing and rewarding top talent, and they do so in some creative ways. However, what works among tech companies in Silicon Valley isn’t guaranteed to work for manufacturing employers. When it comes to perks, companies should offer them but carefully consider and tailor ones that best attract and retain their own employees.