Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Consider employee perks as a good investment

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WINNIPEG trucking company TransX made headlines recently by doing what all companies should consider -- recognizing the achievements of long-serving senior employees while reinforcing the message to staff that commitment and loyalty is highly valued.

TransX has instituted a new policy that when one of its drivers reaches the 30-year mark, they can select any type of truck to drive until retirement -- and TransX will foot the bill as a gesture of goodwill and gratitude.

Company owner Louie Tolaini told the Free Press that there is a shortage of drivers in the industry and so "the secret is hiring them and keeping them."

While TransX was the talk of the town here, Google was also getting attention by topping Fortune magazine's list of the best companies to work for. In the same vein, the California-based Internet firm has been recognized for the extent it shows employees how much they are valued. Sparing little expense, Google offers once unheard-of workplace perks like gourmet food in campus cafes, dry cleaning and automotive services to cut down on errand time, stress-relieving massages and free snacks.

No wonder the company receives 1,300 job applications per day for 2,200 new jobs per year. Inside the firm, its nearly 8,000 employees worldwide are known to be enthusiastic and highly motivated and very enthusiastic. It seems Google's "work hard, play hard" policy has paid off.

For the average company, it may be tempting to wave off employee perks as being too pricey, or an extravagance afforded only by big-budget businesses.

The truth is, not providing any extra incentives for your employees may end up costing you more in the end. As unemployment numbers stay low and hiring picks up, employers need to be looking for ways to retain their top talent.

Loyalty-building perks help to keep workers satisfied with their situation and motivate them to remain when opportunities arise elsewhere. An added bonus is that while perks bolster individual productivity, they can also promote better communication, socializing and team building.

When it comes to attracting talent, companies need to create an obvious advantage. Aside from a competitive salary, today's job seekers are looking for corporate perks that can improve their lifestyles and enhance their working experience.

You don't need to spend a great deal of money to ensure your employees are happy. Most people simply appreciate functioning in a relaxed, friendly workplace that takes their need for a healthy work/life balance into consideration.

If you're looking to implement ways to recognize your workers or develop some morale-boosting activities, consider some of these easy, low-cost possibilities:

* Family days: Allow employees to take a day off to care for family members without having to use up vacation or sick time.

* Game room: Let workers have some fun and blow off steam by putting a game in the break room. Some companies encourage the workday use of pinball machines, ping-pong, foosball and pool tables.

* Holiday parties: Why limit holiday celebrations to Christmas? Throw a party for staff and their families to encourage unity and get to know the "other side" of people you work with.

* Learning environment: Invite speakers from the community in to hold free seminars on work- and life-related topics; compensate or cover the expenses when employees take the initiative to improve their education.

* Payday pizza: Order takeout for your team on the company's bill. It doesn't have to be limited to lunch, either. Try treating everyone to breakfast.

* Discounts: It seems obvious, but how many companies remember to give their employees meaningful discounts on the goods and services it provides?

* Tailgater party: Bring a barbecue and turn an otherwise dull lunch hour into a spontaneous staff picnic. Getting everyone out of the office for a group outing is also a great idea.

* Flexible workday: Let workers know if there are options in putting in a standard workday, including flexible hours and working from home on occasion. How about having every second Friday off in the summer to compensate for long hours put in during the winter?

Before introducing employee perks, ensure that they fit in with your workplace culture and help meet the needs of both your staff and the business. And remember, that the price of the perk is not what keeps people happy; it's the genuine nature of the gesture.

-- With reporting by Barbara Chabai

John McFerran, PhD, CMC, C.Psych., F.CHRP, is founder and chief operating officer of People First HR Services Ltd. For more information, visit www.peoplefirsthr.com.

RESEARCH:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16326455/

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/subscriber/business/story/3836764p-4439753c.html

http://home.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/index.jsp?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20070108005839&newsLang=en

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 20, 2007 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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