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Employee Perks Attracting and Retaining Good Employees

Employee Shortage
It’s no secret that there is a shortage of qualified employees in the job market. In an effort to recruit and retain good talent, employers are implementing a host of innovative strategies and are offering a myriad of perks and benefits.
The perks run the gamut, from the mundane to the bizarre…legal and financial advisors, dry-cleaning and house cleaning services, hair stylists, pet insurance, corporate lactation programs, elder-care referral services, gym subsidies, dog-walking services, and car & home owners insurance, to name a few.
Other companies provide quality of life lures such as flexible benefits, telecommuting, child-care, educational assistance and career development programs. Some go so far as to offer on-site massages and manicures, delivered in stylishly furnished recreational areas, ventilated smoking lounges, and well-stocked kitchens.
Successful Recruitment Techniques
So what’s the magic formula? What makes a company skilled at attracting, developing and retaining talented high-performers?
In January of ’99, a study of over 70 companies resulted in a list of “Best Practice Company” strategies utilized to recruit employees. Their “out of the box” programs included: telerecruiting from professional association lists, internet recruiting from databases targeting specific disciplines, computer-assisted and interactive voice response recruiting, internship programs, involving senior management in job fairs, etc.
Successful Retention Strategies
We can also learn about successful retention strategies from the 77 large US companies in the 1998 study conducted and published by the McKinsey Quarterly.
First, they made the “war for talent” a corporate priority – starting at the top of the organization, they developed benchmarks for performance. After agreeing on the high standards that each team member must meet, they ensured that assessment programs were fair and would serve as a vehicle for fostering personal development. And they insisted that their line managers were accountable for recruiting and developing talented employees.
To support the talent-building challenge, the role of human resources was redefined and its capabilities strengthened. More than process managers, HR executives need to be effective proactive counselors with personal and business credibility and strong relationships with the operational departments.
Secondly, these Companies created a “winning employee value proposition.” This means tailoring the company’s brand and products – the jobs it has to offer – to appeal to the specific people it wants to find and keep. It also means paying what it takes to attract and retain strong performers.
A company’s “brand” is the face it presents to the world. At its heart must be an appealing culture and inspiring values -- qualities that apply to every activity and function within the company, and to every aspect of its behavior.
What Employees Are Looking For
So what do today’s employees care about? After surveying 400 corporate officers, 6,000 executives and conducting 20 case studies, the authors of the McKinsey study found that they cared deeply about the company’s culture, values, and autonomy. They wanted opportunities to seek growth and advancement in a highly successful company, which would yield competitive compensation and career advancement. Other executives demanded an inspiring mission, exciting challenges, flexibility with respect to lifestyle choices, geographic location, and compatibility with the boss.
To them, a “great job” encompassed “elbow room” to maneuver, “head room” to be able to make decisions without seeking constant approval from above, a link between daily activities and business results (even if not P&L), a position that stretches, but does not defeat, and offers something new to work on as often as possible, with great colleagues above, around, and below.

Companies interested in embarking on this plan can start by creating an employment niche, which is when employees perceive they work in a unique environment, receive above average compensation, and have opportunities to develop professionally and personally.
The tools and processes needed to develop this niche, as defined by Robert B. Peter II, VP of Programs for the Genesee Valley Capter of SHRM, include conducting an employee demographic analysis to identify the characteristics of your workforce, analyzing turnover – to understand why employees are leaving (voluntarily or involuntarily), or why they are staying, analyzing the recruitment system, and implementing a human resource marketing plan to continuously reinforce the employment niche and communicate it to potential and current employees.
If you’re looking for some innovative tools to incorporate into your retention plan, consider:
  • Non-competes and intellectual property agreements
  • Focus groups
  • Exit interviews
  • Accelerated salary increases for vulnerable groups
  • Adjustments to salary structure based on marketplace movement and workforce supply
  • Retention bonuses and contracts
  • Sign-on bonuses
  • Relocation, technical training, and a tuition reimbursement payback agreement if the employee doesn’t stay for contracted period
  • Spot cash awards for a special accomplishment or project work
  • Career counseling and outplacement/severance agreement packages
  • Altering waiting period for benefits for “key and high-demand” employees
  • Basing the amount of company paid benefits premiums on tenure
  • On-site employee services
  • Sabbaticals earned after attainment of a certain service level
  • Paid internships to college juniors and above during summers
  • Flexible scheduling arrangements
  • Rotational assignments for initial training and to enrich existing assignments
  • Relaxed dress code on select days
  • Separate locations for technical groups to encourage a “think tank environment”
  • Redeployment versus terminations
  • Meaningful new hire orientations (infusing corporate culture & values, and creating a “road for success”
  • Timely performance appraisals tied to merit increases
  • Effective dispute resolution using peer review councils
  • Effective career-pathing utilizing management development /succession planning programs
We should also consider that the top three reasons 3,400 nationally representative employees cited for taking their current position were: open communication (65%), opportunities to balance life (60%), and meaningful work (59%).
The gaming industry is an infant amongst many of the companies in the McKinsey study. However, even the new information technology firms have adopted many of these recruitment and retention strategies.
The choice to be listed as a “Best Practice Company” is yours…

The information in this article was taken from several white papers printed by the Society of Human Resources Management, titled, “Retention Tactics That Work,” “Retention Tools for Turbulent Times,” “Develop an Employment Niche,” as well as published reports by Price Waterhouse Coopers – “Best Practice Company Examples,” and “The War for Talent” published by the McKinsey Quarterly, and “Firms Dreams Up Exotic Perks to Lure Workers,” by the Chicago Tribune.