Mind focussed on the merits of jumping ship, you sashay to the coffee maker only to find the sole token of your boss’s appreciation: a half-eaten packet of fig-rolls. Eyes deadened by the sight, you shuffle back to your desk with one aim only: escape.
The difficulties faced by organisations in their attempts to attract and keep the best talent were recently showcased by the announcement of Radio One broadcaster, Pat Kenny that he planned to move to Newstalk.
Employers don’t compete for the best people on an even playground. Some are better resourced. Others try harder.
Food perks feature large at FactSet Research Systems’ Connecticut base. There, on-site pie, cheese and cup-cake trucks are thoughtfully located within waddling distance of the company gym.
Barbie makers Mattel Inc. send staff home at 1pm on Fridays, possibly to give them sufficient playtime to enjoy the full range of discounted toys at their disposal.
On-site childcare facilities and wall-mounted monitors which enable software staff to watch their kids on screen are an everyday perk at Cisco. And while Autodesk’s Californian offices are a haven for animal lovers, with every day being Bring your Dog to Work Day, Florida-based automotive giant JM Family Enterprises keeps a fleet of yachts for staff use.
While some perks are dubiously attractive, others come at a price. The colonoscopies offered to Atlantic Health’s New Jersey staff have limited appeal, and the expectation that new managers at the Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group hula-hoop at meetings, is likely to overshadow any thrill the San Francisco-based workers may feel at being offered acupuncture.
One perk which acts as a double-edged sword is the concierge service. “Ten years ago it was common for London investment banks to offer this perk to key-employees,” says director of CPL Recruitment Peter Cosgrove.
“It made sense for companies to pay someone to iron the shirts of and run errands for those they billed out at €465 per hour.
“But while such perks were initially well received, it wasn’t long before it became apparent to employees they had little excuse to be away from their desks.”
While concierge services are on the way out for workers, treadmill desks are on the way in, and while they’re undoubtedly a perk, they keep staff where bosses want them — at their desks.
Of course not all companies have the resources with which to splash cash on costly perks. Karen O’Flaherty, chief operations officer of global recruitment consultancy Morgan McKinley says that for those, many of which are start-ups, the talent-attracting strategy involves nurturing an attractive company culture rather than offering traditional benefit packages.
“Remote working, flexible working hours, free staff breakfasts and staff games areas are just some of the perks they offer,” it says.
Dublin-based Deloitte staff are offered extended paternity leave and the option of finishing work at 2pm during summer months, once weekly hours are worked. “In our industry the only asset is our people,” explains Orla Graham, head of HR. “That’s why it’s critically important that Deloitte is a great place to work.”
Free food and laundry services help make Facebook an attractive workplace, but it’s the wackier things like encouraging employees to decorate their work-spaces with artwork and to skateboard down the corridors, that gives it an edge.
Yet Gareth Lambe, acting head of Facebook Ireland, says it’s not perks which keep employees motivated. “We hire trailblazers, hackers and pioneers. We think it’s this attitude above all that keeps staff motivated.”
At Google, the availability of free dining, on-site gyms, nap-pods and imaginative meeting-spaces, are part of their Living Lab’s grand design. And while that helps attract 2.5 million job applicants each year, that’s not the goal.
According to SVP, Laszlo Bock, the carefully planned perks are designed to help staff to live longer. “I think our oldest Googler is 83 years old and we want people at Google for a lifetime.”
Not all workers are so revered. Staff at one well-known organisation have informally renamed it “Concussed”, as in their experience, that’s how it feels.
Then there’s the Newcastle company at which team-spirit was once so low, that a Naked Friday was held to boost morale.
It’s not known if resorting to such drastic action, the bosses had tried and failed to motivate staff with an endless supply of fig-rolls. But it’s fun to imagine they did.