Employees: Your favorite perk/benefit?

Okay, folks, I need some suggestions/input here, if you have a moment.

The company I work for is on the smallish side – around 100 employees. We have a basic benefits package – health, dental, 401(k), flexible spending account, stuff like that.

Our CEO is putting together a recognition program for employees who have been here five years or longer. He’s asked me for some suggestions on the types of perks or benefits we could offer.

He has thrown out two suggestions himself – an automatic $50 company contribution into each employee’s 401(k) account each month, and an automatic company payment of $10 toward each doctor’s visit, above what insurance already covers. (As you can see, we’re working under a relatively small budget for these perks.)

Now, I’m not in human resources, and I don’t know what’s legal and what’s not. The CEO doesn’t care at this point – he just wants some suggestions. He’ll let our lawyers/HR folks sift through the details to make sure we comply with all applicable laws/labor regulations.

So, I need some help from fellow Dopers. What job-related benefits/perks do you have now (or have you had in the past) that you appreciated? Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  1. Reduced-rate (or free) membership at a local health club/gym – our company could offer to pay all or a portion of the membership fee for recognized employees. This would not only benefit the employee, but long-term could also benefit the company by lowering insurance premiums.

  2. Free membership at members-only businesses like Sam’s Club or Costco

  3. Free membership in a local credit union

  4. A company-matched “vacation fund” that each individual employee could contribute to via automatic deduction (either pre-tax or post-tax); each employee could then use the money as a vacation “savings account.” The company match would need to be capped, obviously.

  5. A weekly (biweekly, monthly, whatever) drawing for a VISA gift card. You can get these in many denominations ($10, $50, $100, etc.) and they can be used almost anywhere.

Any other suggestions?

Just gotta say that an extra $600 dollars a year into my 401(k) would be awesome. I think that one’s a great idea.

Yeah, that 401(k) thing surprised me. We don’t have company match for our contributions, so that one would be nice if it gets implemented.

What “you’ve” come up with so far??? Hmph! :wink:

I’m telling you…employees want MONEY. That’s what motivates people and makes them feel recognized.

All the other perks are nice and all but when it comes down to it…it’s the cold, hard cash.

My apologies, dear.

Aries28 came up with the VISA gift card idea. The rest were mine. :wink:

I was just kidding you big goof.

I work for a software company in the education market, and we work with all of the database companies, so my favorite perk is having free access to all of the information they provide.

Congresional Quarterly
Encyclopedia Britannica

Not that it would work at your company, but…

The favorite perk I’ve had was when I worked summers at a public golf course. You guessed it: free golf.

I’m with you’re lovely wife on this one. People want money, pure and simple. Contributions to 401k are good, but nothing is going to beat cash in hand (such as gift cards) as far as morale and appreciativeness are concerned. Discount programs are so-so, since not everyone would be able (or want) to take advantage.

Nope, gotta go with cash. Find a way to give people cash and everyone’s happy.

I like the match in the vacation fund. That would be really cool if people took advantage of it.

  1. Do the Credit Unions work differently where you are from? Where I live (Sask, Cda) the Credit Unions are just like a normal bank (Granted there is a lot of different between the different Credit Unions (servicewise), but what is it about the Credit Unions in your area that your employee’s would like a membership? Unless you’re talking about paying their bank fees.)

The Costco is a good idea.

Is the business you work for the type of business that the employee’s might benefit from your service/product/etc? If so give them a free one (ex: do income tax, vacuum rental whatever)

The 401(k) contribution sounds awesome! Where I used to work, one of the perks of being in the marketing department was that we often got free tickets to Cards, Blues and Rams games. If there were extras or no one wanted them, the marketing department got first dibs on the company skybox. I wish I were more of a sports fan - I would have appreciated it more.

Our company also used to give gift certificates to the local mall and supermarket over Christmas and for employee anniversaries (i.e., every employee got something on the yearly anniversary of their date of hire).

My company lets you choose from a small catalog of gifts valuing about $30 for a 5-year award, plus you get a big fancy certificate. The ten year catalog has more expensive gifts, and so on. Plus a week of extra vacation time after ten years, I think.

For my department (big company):

For performance awards (monthly), we get a giftcertificates.com certificate for $25, which can be used at a whole list of stores both brick-and-mortar and online, two hours off with pay, and of course, a big fancy certificate. If you get this award, you’re eligible to be chosen for the next level, which is awarded quarterly.

The next level up gets a day off with pay, a one-night stay at any of our hotels and $100 in “funny money” (buy dinner and charge it with an expense report.) And you’re eligible for the next level.

Next level’s winner gets a week off with pay, a 7 night stay at one of our resorts or hotels, $600 in travel money and a really really big fancy certificate. This is an annual award, obviously, as they aren’t going to give too many of those away!

There is one large credit union in my area that is advertising an open enrollment right now. Otherwise, though, the credit unions around here are members-only – you have to work at a certain business or for a certain institution to be eligible for membership. Most of the large companies around here are affiliated with a credit union.

As perks go, this one isn’t that hot. However, the credit unions tend to have slightly better interest rates than the local banks, so it might generate some interest.

The only sticking point is that we have employees in five distribution centers across the country, and I don’t know which, if any, credit unions are available in all five areas.

Well, it is and it isn’t. We sell office furniture. Our employees can get the furniture at cost from the manufacturers now. I’ve suggested that the company could chip in to pay for a portion of the cost and further lower the price for employees, but overall there doesn’t seem to be enough interest among the employee body to justify this as a legitimate perk.

I don’t think you’ll be able to do the 401K thing - I don’t think it’s allowed to give some employees a different employer match than others. But your legal & HR departments will check that, as you said.

If that doesn’t work, I’d go with something that is available to them NOW and available to all people. Like Amazon gift certificates or those Amex gift checks. Not everyone is going to be able to use a Costco membership. Not everyone will use extra payments to the doctor’s office (beyond what insurance pays) or a health club membership. And I can tell you, if you award things that not everyone is going to be able to use, it’s going to be perceived as a hollow benefit, done to make the company look good without considering what the employees really want.

Cash is the way to go.

I like the idea Gym Membership. BUT… you have to allow the employee to pick their own gym. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a benefit to employees who are like me. I hate working out at those muscle havens. I feel very uncomfortable - almost claustrophobic - in crowds and I hate to work out with men. I go to a Curves type place and love it. I wouldn’t join another gym just because it was free.
If you allow them to pick their own gym, you can pick an amount you will pay towards the fees. And more employees will want to get involved. I’d be thrilled if my company paid my $30 per month fees. That would be $30 I could put in my savings account every month.

What would be really cool though:
You should pick more than one incentive. When an employee hits their 5 year mark, they get to pick their incentive. That way, if someone wants a Costco membership and not a gym membership, they can have it. I don’t know how much Costco is but I think BJ’s is $60 per year. That’s not much of an incentive. Maybe you could give a membership and a smaller certificate every month. You could allow up to $65 per month for a gym membership. You could also donate $65 per month to the 401K or $65 per month to the vacation plan. That way, no one feels like they’re not appreciated because your perk doesn’t fit their lifestyle.

You can also make the perk more valuable at 10, 15 and 20 years. My stepfather’s employer used to do this but their perks were out of a catalog. I know he got a crappy watch, a beautiful clock and an emerald ring. Obviously, his 35 year perk was worth more than his 5 year perk.

I don’t know about your credit unions but mine is free. You just have to be a city employee or the relative of one. I’ve also belonged to one where you had to be a resident of Western Massachusetts and one where you just had to be alive. Maybe Alabama is different though.

Aries is right. Employees would rather have the money directly, instead of you spending it for them. They can use it to buy their own Costco memberships or gym memberships or whatever.

At the first of every month, have your CEO put on a fur coat and a hat with a feather in it and walk around with a big roll of fifties, peeling them off and handing them out. If someone did exceptional work that month, they get two, along with an “mmm-MMM! That was fine!”

Mark my words, morale will skyrocket.

Thanks, folks. There are some good ideas in here, and I’ve already forwarded some to the CEO.

I agree completely that discretionary cash (in whatever format) is the ticket. Employees here have not had a raise in three years – in fact, senior management took voluntary pay cuts 18 months ago to avoid layoffs.

The CEO wants to have a recognition program because our industry has been in the toilet for the past 3 1/2 years. The industry as a whole is down 45 percent over that time. This program isn’t so much a five-year-anniversary thing as it is a recognition of good work. To be eligible, employees must have worked here for five years. Once they meet that, a committee will determine if their work qualifies them to be a member of the program.

For that reason, he doesn’t want a traditional recognition program, with employees choosing gifts out of a catalog and whatnot. He wants to give the employees something that’s valuable to them. The trick is finding something that’s equally valuable to office workers, warehouse workers and truckers.

The obvious answer, as my wife and others have pointed out, is cash. However, for whatever reason we can’t just give cash. I dunno if our Board of Directors is against bonuses in principle, or if something else prevents it, but I’ve been told direct cash is not an option.

I dunno if the members will have a menu of perks/benefits from which to choose, or if they’ll just get all of them. At this point, I’m just the idea-man.

Two nice perks for me are a vehicle allowance of $850/month and first class travel. But these were negotiated on the front end.

How about increased vacation time? That’s one thing I know I’d love to be increasing as my service with my company increases.