Top employee perks for today and tomorrow

As labour markets tighten, smart employers look for ways to add value to the employee experience to attract and retain top talent.

What companies are doing today gives us good indications of what is coming tomorrow and next year. According to Kate Harrison, writing for, the perks fall into seven categories: game rooms, food, physical health, mental health, time off, company retreats, and free stuff. We would add an additional category, "cool offices", but perhaps in Silicon Valley where many of the IT companies are located, cool offices are a given.

Game rooms have become much more sophisticated, since when leading edge companies had foosball, billiards, and Ping-Pong tables and darts. Adding to the traditional games, some companies now offer arcade games, like "Dance, Dance, Revolution" and even simulators.

Food: The free lunches of the 1990s have given way to Dropbox's granola wall, fresh squeezed juice station, and made-to-order stir-fry bar. "ONTRAPORT offers its employees their choice of two daily breakfasts, including a breakfast burrito
bar, and daily lunch, including a salad bar. Their free daily farm-to-table 'Worksnax' include press juiced from Ah Juice, 
in Santa Barbara. And the Tandem Computer Friday afternoon Beer Bashes have evolved into's two kegerators*, providing employees anytime access to cold, locally brewed beer.

Physical Health: The gym memberships and workout rooms of yesterday have morphed into the likes of's climbing wall and Google's conference rooms on wheels (eight-or ten-person bicycles). Plus, companies like Soul Cycle offer unlimited free spinning classes and many companies are offering to track employees' fitness activities through Jawbone Up® devices (our favorites) and FitBits.

Dedicated Rooms. Besides the numerous perks we mentioned for Dropbox, it offers a plush music room, equipped with instruments and big soft couches arranged, in a lounge/bar atmosphere.  

The last time I visited Malaysia, The Hilton Kuala Lumpur, the property offered its employees dedicated rooms for fun play and serious work. The Chill Out Room features board games, computers for play, and electronic massage chairs. On the other hand, The Think Tank is a learning environment with several computers, including two for doing homework and four for accessing the Hilton online training database. Tame by US standards, these perks are really meaningful for employees in Malaysia.

Mental Health. Employees at the Palo Alto-based firm Medallia receive cash are given cash to "seek out and overcome their fears, whether business-related or personal".  Medallia employees have taken all kinds of classes, including professional boxing, singing or dancing lessons, and even stand-up comedy. 

Time Off. You have probably heard that a growing number of companies, including Netflix, Virgin America, and Hubspot, are now offering unlimited vacation days. But this arrangement doesn't approach what Motek, a software company in the inventory management field, used to offer and now Moz offers to its valued workers. Motek gave its employees one month off and a bonus of $5000 to use for transportation, food, lodging, and entertainment. Moz offers three weeks off and $3000 bonus.

Some companies are experimenting with alternative work schedules. At Boogie, employees work four days/week. They start work at 8am and break for a two-hour lunch at 1pm, then work from 3pm to 7pm.(We're not sure how this schedule would work for families who have children who go to bed at 7pm?) And of course, each employee enjoys an extra 52 days off/year. And paid sabbaticals seem to be coming back. While large companies like Microsoft and American Express never stopped offering them, now Capterra offers a five-week, fully paid sabbatical every five years. 

Free Stuff. While most companies offer their employees free or at-cost versions of whatever they sell (including classes, memberships, furniture, cars, etc.), many companies in other businesses offer a variety of free goodies unrelated to their companies. Before we became virtual, we at The Herman Group offered symphony and theatre tickets, Entertainment® Discount Coupon books, and American Automobile Association (AAA) memberships. Other examples of what companies offer include Netflix and magazine subscriptions, customized shoes (usually Nikes or Converse), make-up or spa services, babysitting, petsitting, and technology products (MacBook Airs,
iPads, iPhones, iPods, and LED Monitors were the most popular).


Of course, the employers' challenge is two-fold: first, they are competing with other companies that are continually looking for ways to add more and more value and second, employees are constantly redefining expectations, based on the status quo. In other words, the value that you added in January becomes "what-is-expected" by September or even sooner. Then companies must look for even more creative ways to add value to successfully compete.

Expect to see companies find more and better creative ways to enhance the employee experience with all-organic and more elegant food (Google already offers a sushi bar) and all kinds of additional "freebies".

*Kegerators are refrigerated kegs of beer.

From "The Herman Trend Alert," by Joyce Gioia, Strategic Business Futurist. 336-210-3547 or The Herman Trend Alert is a trademark of The Herman Group, Inc.


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