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Employee Engagement

Today’s Most Innovative Employee Benefits


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By Nives P. Covnik

Part of the draw of each year’s CNN Money/Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list is learning about the sweet perks big business is offering to their employees and all the reasons why exactly we want to land the job at one of the companies on the list. This year, Fortune selected the companies by conducting employee surveys in over 300 companies. Workplace environment and culture, job satisfaction, management credibility, hiring, healthcare and other benefits, pay and perks, communication, camaraderie, and diversity were all addressed in the surveys. SAS, Boston Consulting Group, Wegmans Food Markets, Google and NetApp climbed to the very top of the list.

According to the surveys, perks are still available even during a time of budget cuts and higher stress. Many wonder how sweet these perks really are, at a time when temporary jobs are in and permanent jobs are out. According to federal data, 2.3 million Americans held temporary jobs in March, up from 2009 when only 1.7 million worked temporarily, what is clearly indicating that companies are not in favor of long-term commitments, as reported by CNN Money.

Nevertheless, a report by Quantum Workplace [PDF] revealed that after 2010 passage of the health-care overhaul bill, favorable perceptions of employee benefits increased. On the best benefits list are telecommuting, compressed workweek, 100% healthcare coverage, on-site gym, on-site childcare, gym discount, paid sabbaticals, and gay-friendly policies.

The Perks

SAS, a software firm that is on the very top of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to work for 2011 list for the second year, has among its legendary perks childcare at $410 per month and summer camp for kids, on-site healthcare, a beauty salon, and even car cleaning.

Out of the 2011 list, 14 companies are paying 100% of the health-care premiums for their employees, more than one quarter are offering on-site child-care, 82 companies are allowing their employees to telecommute at least 20% of the time, and 21 companies are offering paid sabbaticals.

Surveys showed that some companies are rewarding their employees with quite unusual perks, among them life coaching, fertility benefits, wine bars, Botox and tans, fun and games, and even pet-friendly perks. Zappos, a shoe retailer, has a trained on-site life coach; Atlantic Health, the New Jersey health care provider, has child care at its hospitals; Alston & Bird, a law firm, has a $25,000 fertility benefit for the employees that includes coverage for in-vitro fertilization and even acupuncture; DPR Construction has a wine bar installed in all firm’s offices, with Texas branch featuring in-house saloon instead of a wine bar; and NuStar Energy has a corporate jet available to employees in times of crisis. The employees of Chesapeake Energy, a gas producer, have access to a fitness center that has seven tanning beds, yoga classes, and the company’s on-site medical center is offering dermatology services including cancer screening as well as Botox injections.

A lactation consultant and a nursing-moms room equipped with a refrigerator are available for breastfeeding mothers at USAA, says Working Mother. USAA’s mom-friendly policy also includes hospital-grade breast pumps. The mentoring program at Valassis proved to be yet another “invaluable” tool that helped answer the questions of moms-to-be. The report by Working Mother also mentioned a Bon Secours new grandmother, who was able to “donate” 70 hours to her daughter, another Bon Secours employee, so that the new young mom could stay with her new baby for two months with pay.

Benefits and Employee Engagement

Employee engagement and business success are linked, no matter what the economic climate, says Quantum Workplace, a group founded in 2000 that has surveyed 1.5 million employees every year from some 5,000 companies from every industry and of all sizes. Additionally, says the Great Place to Work Institute the publicly traded 100 Best Companies have been consistently outperforming major stock indices, the Russell 3000 and S & P 500.

Similarly, a 2010 report by the Credit Suisse Research Institute revealed that companies that are focused on brand building are generating high profits and returns and long-term growth. On the Institute’s list “27 Great Brands of Tomorrow” are Alibaba, Almarai, Amazon, Apple, and BIM. In three to five years, the companies on the list are expected to outperform the market, Institute says.

According to Quantum Workplace, Americans strongly believe in a successful future, even though positive perceptions have fallen 2.3% since 2007 and have only slightly increased since first Quarter of 2010. Employees’ understanding of each company’s plan for future success is also down 3.3% since 2007.

Workplace improvements, system and hardware upgrades, and investing resources in workers have also been rather slow, Quantum Workplace further states. Working as part of a smaller team has prompted many employees to question whether they are truly valued as the most important resource, and the perceptions of pay equity have also declined. The ratings of advancement opportunities are also down since 2007. Nevertheless, four out of five employees still like their jobs, finding them challenging and interesting.

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