Employee satisfaction is essential to a company's overall success, which is why it's crucial to establish a positive company culture, and offer incentives and job perks that excite and inspire staff as well as attract top talent to the recruiting process.
While every employee loves a salary increase, there are other ways to reward workers besides offering more money.
Here are 16 impressive employee perks offered by large and small businesses.
1. In-house professional development
Many movies have focused on a protagonist who starts as a lower-level employee at a company and dreams of one day becoming CEO. Some big companies offer in-house professional development programs that can make this seemingly fantastical path a reality.
Car rental giant Enterprise, for example, operates a management training program through which trainees are placed at a location near them, and are then moved up to airport location management and, from there, to possible corporate positions. Enterprise's professional development program is proven to work. Years ago, Pamela Nicholson started in the program, and she's now the company's CEO.
2. Massages and yoga
At the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the office environment and company culture are designed to support employees' mental and emotional well-being. Unsurprisingly, offices have healthy food options for the staff. They also have employee perks such as weekly massages and yoga classes available during work hours to ensure that everyone feels comfortable, happy, and creative throughout the workday.
3. Free books
Employees who love free books will be drawn to Penguin Random House's Free Book Program. Employees can order multiple books and e-books, free of charge, from a list of more than 100 titles, which is updated throughout the year. Employees can also join or form book clubs with their colleagues to discuss plots and practice team building.
4. Daily pints of ice cream
Ben & Jerry's rewards its employees with three pints of ice cream every day. While it may seem like the opposite of many employer wellness programs and on-the-job offerings of healthy snacks, Ben & Jerry's employees are popular with their friends and loved ones, with whom they are encouraged to share this daily job perk. Employees also have a say in the names of ice cream flavors, and, of course, boasting rights if theirs is chosen.
5. No official work hours
Netflix's job perks include the ultimate take on flexible hours and a fair work-life balance, placing them among the household-name companies with the best employee benefits. At Netflix's California headquarters, vacation days and work hours aren't tracked. The company only measures what people get done; if employees do their work, it doesn't matter when or for how long they're in the office.
The company encourages employees of all levels to take time off, including new parents, whom the company claims often take four to eight months off, even though the company doesn't have formal parental leave policies in place. However, that vacation time might not be completely off the clock. "We intermix work and personal time quite a bit, doing email at odd hours, taking off weekday afternoons for kids' games, etc.," says Netflix's "Culture" description.
6. Plenty of time off
When you work hard, it's nice to have an employer who lets you play hard, too, like Boston-based Metis Communications. In addition to three weeks of vacation time, staff members get their birthdays off and a bonus vacation week during the last week of December. After you've worked for the company for four years, you get a fourth week of vacation every year; after five years of employment, employees are eligible for Friday vacation days in the summer. A proper work-life balance is a hallmark of Metis' company culture.
7. Focus on family
Deloitte offers incredible perks focused on parents and parents-to-be. Eligible employees, both moms and dads, can get up to 16 weeks of paid parental leave to bond with new babies after birth or adoption. The leave can also be used to care for a spouse, domestic partner, child, sibling or parent with a serious health condition. Eligible employees can even be reimbursed for up to $25,000 of expenses related to adoption or surrogacy.
8. Onsite health services
In addition to standard health insurance benefits, Steelcase takes care of its employees' health at the office. The design and manufacturing company has an onsite well-being hub where employees can make appointments with a massage therapist or registered nurse. The company also offers "healthier home meal" ingredient stations in its cafeterias where employees can prep a meal to cook at home instead of visiting a drive-through after work. Steelcase also hosts Curious Minds, a series of lectures on topics like personal wellness and eldercare.
9. Mental health support
Capital One Financial is another company that cares for its workers' well-being, including their mental health. The company's employee assistance program provides counseling services, either in person or by phone, as well as informational services to help with big changes like moving or having a baby.
10. Continuing education
As the cost of higher education continues to rise beyond what many people can afford, companies are offering tuition assistance as a perk of employment. At Starbucks – known to many people as one of the household-name American companies with the best employee benefits – , full- and part-time benefits-eligible employees can take advantage of the company's college achievement plan to earn a bachelor's degree through Arizona State University's online program, with full tuition reimbursement.
In 2017, Starbucks expanded the plan with its new Pathway to Admission Program, which gives academically ineligible employees another chance to qualify. ASU support specialists work with employees to help them qualify by identifying which courses they need. They can then take up to 10 freshman-level courses tuition-free as many times as needed.
11. Student loan paydowns
For employees who already have a degree, student loans can eat into their paycheck for years. That makes companies like PwC, which provides help paying down student loan debt – a job perk similar to tuition reimbursement – especially attractive. PwC offers its employees $100 per month, totaling $1,200 a year, strictly toward student loan debt. The benefit is available for up to six years, which, factoring in interest, can help employees save up to $10,000.
12. Midday surfing
Outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia encourages its employees to stay physically active. The California-based company provides bikes, volleyball courts and onsite yoga for its workers. In a unique take on the concept of flexible hours, employees are encouraged to catch a wave or two in the middle of the workday: The reception desk posts daily surf reports and makes companywide announcements on especially good surf days.
13. Giving back
Multiple studies have shown that workers, especially those in the millennial generation, value brands and employers that emphasize doing good in the world. That's why companies like tech behemoth Google – a brand that has long led the field of big-name companies with the best employee benefits – are making their own contribution to employees' volunteer efforts. Google not only matches employees' monetary charitable contributions, but for every five hours of volunteered time, Google donates $50 to that nonprofit.
14. Office parties
At San Francisco-based music app developer Smule, employees can bring their instruments to the office for the company's weekly jam sessions. There are also various holiday parties, including a Halloween costume party, Thanksgiving lunch, Wednesday game nights and monthly karaoke party.
"This year ... we celebrated the Lunar New Year, making dumplings together," said Sharon Negev, Smule's head of human resources. "We believe that developing a strong sense of belonging for employees from diverse backgrounds makes our experience as employees and humans more meaningful."
15. Freedom (and funding) to travel
Travel booking company HotelTonight gives employees the chance to travel for free or enjoy a cost-cutting employee discount through hotel credits. HotelTonight employees have a chance to win an impromptu free vacation through monthly 'spin-the-wheel' events, and they are also eligible for flexible vacation time, which lets them experience the HotelTonight app and stay in partner hotels.
16. A pet-friendly environment
Love your four-legged friend like a child? So does PetSmart, which offers employees a variety of pet-related benefits. In addition to a 15% employee discount on pet-related merchandise and grooming, PetSmart employees get other job perks such as free training classes and discounted veterinary services. And if you don't want to leave your dog at home, many PetSmart employees bring their pets to work with them.
Dogtopia is another pet-friendly workplace. Employees can partake in the brand's personal wellness programs that can be used toward doggie daycare and vet visits. Employees who don't have pets, however, can still put it to use by applying it toward gym memberships and healthy snacks and lunches. "We made sure everyone can get some benefit from the fund since not everyone in our office has a pup," said Toni Teplitsky, Dogtopia's director of marketing.
Max Freedman also contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.