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Emily Kirtley, an auditor at BKD LLP, takes advantage of the copmany's free soda perk. Kirtley says when employees work long hours, they tend to refuel with caffeine.
Emily Kirtley, an auditor at BKD LLP, takes advantage of the copmany's free soda perk. Kirtley says when employees work long hours, they tend to refuel with caffeine.

Employer perks foster staff loyalty

Posted online
Employees don’t just look at salary when they consider whether to accept a position or stay on with an employer. Benefits matter too – and more than some companies may realize.

MetLife’s recently released Ninth Annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends shows that employees feel better about their jobs and are more loyal to employers if they are happy with their benefits. According to the study, employees who are very satisfied with their workplace benefits are about three times as likely to indicate that they are highly satisfied with their current jobs and feel more loyal toward their employers – 71 percent versus 25 percent – compared to those who are dissatisfied with benefits.

Some local companies already are providing benefits they hope will bring greater employee satisfaction, and therefore greater loyalty. Though most companies provide traditional benefits such as health insurance, 401(k) or other retirement plans and vacation, sick and bereavement leave, there are several that offer additional benefits to keep employees happy.

Accounting firm BKD LLP offers such incentives as matching gift programs, extra money for overnight travel, reward time off and free beverages for employees.

“It’s a demanding profession,” said John Wanamaker, managing partner of BKD’s Springfield, Branson and Joplin offices. “We try to offer as many amenities as we can.”

In BKD’s matching gift program, for example, when employees donate to their universities or colleges, the firm will match up to $500 of each employee’s gift. And the firm’s overnight travel policy pays employees $50 a day extra for overnight travel beginning on the 26th night away from home.

“We have people who travel quite a bit for us. This benefit is designed for those people who are true road warriors,” Wanamaker said.

BKD also gives employees who go above and beyond the call of duty for a project extra time off as a reward for their efforts, Wanamaker said.

There also is the convenience of free drinks, as BKD employees can help themselves to soft drinks, coffee, filtered water, hot tea and iced tea all day long at the office. Wanamaker would not disclose how much the firm spends for the free drinks perk.

For many nontraditional benefits, employee convenience seems to be the name of the game.

At St. John’s Health System, an on-site store saves employees a stop on the way home, said Jennifer Elswick, director of co-worker services. The store, located inside St. John’s Hospital, is stocked with milk, eggs, diapers, take-and-bake pizzas, batteries and sushi delivered fresh from Ocean Zen every day, among other items.

“We also sell gift cards for about 60 different merchants,” Elswick said. “That is just huge during Christmastime.”

An added benefit for the employees is that St. John’s works to keep prices of items sold in the store below what would be paid in traditional retail settings. The shop also offers $1 per night DVD rentals, and employees can use payroll deductions to pay for items at the store, which is open 7 a.m.–4:30 p.m. daily.

The store has evolved through the years. About 12 years ago, it sold logo clothing and discount tickets to amusement parks and not much else.

About five years ago, it moved to its own storefront, moving again in December to a spot nearly triple in the size, Elswick said. The store is located near the hospital’s human resources department and accessible only to employees.

Because St. John’s has employees in a 13-county area, it also offers an online store with many of the items, shipping them through its courier service so employees don’t have to pay shipping costs.

St. John’s also has an on-campus farmers market at the Springfield hospital. The market is held every Wednesday during the growing season, which generally runs spring through fall.

Through a partnership with Rick’s Automotive, St. John’s employees in Springfield can get their vehicles fixed during the workday, without having to leave work to take them to the shop. Rick’s Automotive picks up the automobiles, repairs them and returns them to St. John’s.

“It all ties in to work-life balance,” Elswick said. “We offer these things so after work, they can truly just focus on spending time with family.”

Great Southern Bank encourages employee loyalty with its discount home loan benefit that can lower employees’ mortgage payments by hundreds of dollars a month, said Matt Snyder, vice president and director of human resources for the bank.

Participating employees must meet all the qualifications for a home loan, but they receive a special interest rate that varies, but is typically only about what it costs the bank to borrow the money to loan for the mortgage.

“In other words, we’re giving them our wholesale price,” Snyder said, noting that if the employee leaves the bank, the interest rate increases to market price.

For these companies, unique benefits are simply a way of thanking employees for their work.

“We just try to do anything we can to make their lives easier,” Wanamaker said.

With employee loyalty on the decline – the MetLife study shows it’s at 47 percent, compared to 59 percent three years ago – companies might want to take a close look at benefits, according to Anthony J. Nugent, executive vice president of U.S. business for MetLife.

“Worker loyalty has been slowly ebbing over the last several years, and it is important that employers take action to turn the tide around,” Nugent said in a news release. “There is no doubt that the rebounding economy will bring more opportunities for employees, especially the high performers.”[[In-content Ad]]

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