On My Mind

Over-the-Top Perks

Do you promote your cooperative philosophy as a perk to current and prospective employees?

August 5, 2013

Some employers have taken employee perks to a whole new level.

Sure, there’s the standard health, vision, dental, and 401(k) plans. But a few employers are going way beyond those to attract and retain a lot of high-tech, hard-working hipsters.

Internet companies like Google and Yahoo have become famous for their perks: gourmet meals, medical professionals on staff, haircuts, dry cleaning, day care, electric scooters, yoga classes, sabbaticals, car washes—the list goes on.

Google offers a program it calls “20% Time” to give employees one day a week to work on personal projects outside their normal job responsibilities. Not to be outdone, Apple countered with something similar called “Blue Sky.”

Zappos, the online shoe and apparel store, claims to be “driven by a culture of fun.” Employees have access to full-time “life coaches” and frequent parties. If you worked at Zappos for a while and decided the company wasn’t a good fit for you, the company would actually pay you $2,000 in cash to leave.

Outfitter Patagonia grants two weeks of full-paid leave to employees who want to volunteer for any eco-friendly, nonprofit organization. And Burton Snowboard Co. offers its employees free season ski passes and a company skate park. And, of course, the company closes when it snows two feet or more so staff can go snowboarding.

Cliff Bar treats employees to a 40-foot climbing wall, fitness center, dance studio, two massage rooms, and nutritionists. The company also will reimburse employees up to $1,000 a year for the costs of commuting by bike, public transportation, or in carpools.

Your credit union probably doesn’t offer its employees yoga classes or climbing walls. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Human resource professionals recommend establishing a clear connection between your perks and your credit union’s strategic goals. Perks that aren’t tied directly to strategies are much less effective and probably a waste of money.

It’s not clear to what extent extravagant perks attract or retain employees. There’s growing evidence that employees really want clear career paths, and they want to work on interesting projects that benefit people in tangible ways.

Credit unions have a lot to offer in this area. You might not be able to compete with the Googles of the world, but you have a compelling story to tell.

Working for a not-for-profit cooperative to improve members’ financial lives is a substantial perk you can actively promote to current and prospective employees.

 STEVE RODGERS is editor-in-chief of Credit Union Magazine.