HRM online looked at 10 examples of employers that have adopted non-traditional ways of rewarding their employees for a job well done.
1. Green bonus
When pharmaceutical company MDA moved to new offices in Sydney, car parking spaces were at a premium, so it introduced a ‘sustainable commute benefit’.
The company rewards staff who catch public transport to work, car pool or ride their bike by giving them $10 for each business day they don’t drive to work. The program runs on an honesty system, with staff swiping their employee card if they’re eligible.
2. Making movies
Australian film company Madman Entertainment offers employees free DVDs and tickets to film screenings. But perhaps its most creative benefit is its annual Madman Employee Short Film Festival for which staff take time during work hours to create their entries.
3. Managing money
Money can be a major source of personal stress. To help reduce this for its employees, accounting company Ernst & Young provides them with personal financial planning and financial education programs.
“Some Australian companies are providing resources, such as financial planning, budgeting advice or debt boot camp, to help employees get a handle on their debt, pay off their credit cards and start saving money,” says Tim Nice, HR consulting firm Mercer’s leader of the executive reward business in the Pacific region.
“This helps reduce stress at work too, because, if they are thinking or worrying about how they are going to pay their bills, they are likely to be less effective.”
4. Pet treat
At clothing retailer Cotton On’s head office employees are welcome to bring their dogs to work. What started as a ‘bring your dog to work’ week was so successful it became regular practice.
“It’s about creating a work environment where people feel comfortable,” says Stephen Canning, CEO of HR software company Pay Global. “Your employees spend a lot of time at work, so you want them to be comfortable.”
5. Surf’s up
Outdoor clothing company Patagonia, based in California, encourages employees to go surfing in the middle of the day.
“It’s a perfect alignment of company values. They want people to be interested in things like surfing because that’s the lifestyle they’re selling,” says Nice.
6. Happy travels
Australia’s Intrepid Travel offers employees 75 per cent off any trip at any time, as well as a 50 per cent discount for travelling partners, friends and family.
“It’s a benefit to employees, but the benefit to the company is that all staff who take advantage of it become ambassadors and they become passionate about travel,” says Canning.
7. Bowling and bocce
At Google’s headquarters in California, employees benefit from on-campus childcare, gyms, bocceball courts and a bowling alley.
“These kind of benefits are tied to the kind of workplace they’re trying to create at Google,” says Nice. “They know that people work hard, but they want to give them a chance to step outside of their work by bowling or playing bocce because it helps with their creativity.”
8. Set sail
Automotive distributor JM Family Enterprises keeps a fleet of yachts near its Florida office for employees to use during appreciation events.
“If it’s located next to the ocean and 80 per cent of the employees are into sailing, it’s probably an awesome benefit,” says Nice. “But it’s more about it tying into how the company sees itself and how its employees view it. The value might be higher in the employees’ minds than what it costs to implement, and this is the key.”
9. Fully covered
Software company Adobe offers employees in its Sydney office private medical insurance that covers outpatient care and hospitalisation. The benefit is also available to their eligible family members.
“We’re seeing more benefits in the health and wellness space,” says Nice. “It might be about how companies structure work, such as encouraging people to move around. There are also benefits that help employees build resilience and cope with stress, providing them with at-work and out-of-work resources.”
While paying for private health insurance is not unusual for companies in the US, it is uncommon in the Australian market. In addition, this kind of benefit attracts Fringe Benefits Tax in Australia. “Fringe Benefits Tax can really limit some Australian companies from competing for talent globally,” says Nice. “US companies tend to be consistent in their benefits for employees across the globe. But FBT forces a lot of Australian companies to be much more creative in the kinds of benefits that they offer.”
10. Unlimited leave
Employees at US media company Netflix can take as much time off work as they like. Annual leave is not tracked and employees can go on holidays when they choose, provided their managers know where they are and that their work is covered.
“It’s really up to managers to apply this properly. You need to have the right culture and values that people live and breathe, so no-one abuses it,” says Canning. “At Pay Global we have an ‘as required’ leave policy and it’s an extension of what our managers are doing anyway, which is looking after their staff and taking an interest in their careers and challenges both in and outside of work.”