Bespoke benefits can bring loyalty and build teamwork more effectively than cash bonuses – so here are ten schemes making a difference in successful businesses
1. Make their dreams come true
We all have once-in-a-lifetime ambitions. Brand agency Coley Porter Bell runs an annual contest called Blue Skies. People submit their personal creative dreams. The winner gets £2,500 and two weeks’ extra holiday to make it happen. Last year’s winner travelled to Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival.
2. Put on your oven gloves
Events discovery app Line-Up holds Beer and Cake Friday. It’s not frivolous. Co-founder Chris Crossley explains: “Without fail, we have beer and cake on a Friday afternoon. We provide the beer, but staff take it in turns to provide the cake. From the intern to the CEO, everyone has a turn and is scored on the quality and creativity of the offering.”
3. Pay moaners to quit
A bad egg can spoil the vibe for the whole team. So why not devote financial resources to weeding out the saboteurs? Amazon now offers $5,000 to get staff to quit. The offer, called Pay to Quit, is made to workers at its fulfilment centres. Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and chief executive, says the pay-out improves morale.
4. Boost paternity pay
Legal obligations for maternity and paternity pay are pretty paltry. At construction company Mace, employees with two years’ service get 20 weeks’ maternity leave at full pay and paternity leave is at also at full salary, not the lower statutory level. There’s also full private medical insurance, income protection and life insurance.
5. Offer mentoring
Ambitious staff may look outside their company for mentors. But at events management firm Zibrant, the whole roster of 200 staff is offered mentoring within by seniors. The firm reports the scheme has improved promotion prospects of female staff, who had been less vocal about expressing their desired career paths.
6. Embrace Mother Nature
Software developer HeadForwards is fortunate to be based in Cornwall near the beach. Toby Parkins explains his firm’s ethos: “We aim to have at least one social, outside-work activity per month. During the summer, we frequently have beach BBQs after work. Bowling, laser tag games, go-karting, kayaking, sailing, fishing, surfing all feature.”
7. Invest in their skills
BT takes employee education so seriously it has a chief learning officer (CLO), working independently of human resources. CLO Deborah Lee says the idea would work well in smaller firms too: “The role can be similar in smaller organisations and would cover succession management, skills strategy, training, recruitment, recognition, performance and retention.”
8. Cheer them up
Direct marketing agency Lida employs Happy Makers. Chief executive Victoria Fox says: “In the agency world, people have to work very hard. There are peaks and peaks with the very occasional troughs. To help these periods along, we have a support team, The Happy Makers, who leave little messages of encouragement and low-cost edible treats when people need that lift.”
9. More time off
Accountancy giant Deloitte works hard to retain top talent. Last year it introduced TimeOut, the right to request a block of four weeks’ unsalaried leave each year without justification. The firm also measures employee output, not time spent on tasks, to cut back on presenteeism.
10. Stay creative
At executive search firm Stott and May, staff enjoy Alice in Wonderland themed offices, staff and family trips to New York and Las Vegas, Rolex watches for top two billers every month and a monthly lunch club. There’s a “30-minute dash” in which founder Stephen Stott gives an employee random currency and, if they manage to exchange the money and buy something, they can keep the cash in sterling.