Companies are turning to unusual perks

June 7, 2021, 9:00 AM UTC

Good morning,

At a time when the war for talent is heating up and burnout is on the rise, some companies are turning to perks to show appreciation and help with engagement and retention. I talked to leaders at OneDay, Pacaso, Siemens Mobility, and Chipotle about unusual benefits they’re rolling out to employees.

OneDay: A remote work destination

A change of scenery can make all the difference in supporting worker wellbeing, Deena Naccarella, CFO at OneDay, told me. The video technology company’s New Digs program reimburses employees for a stay at a destination away from home where they’ll work remotely. 

“Last August, our co-founder and CEO Clint Lee felt the effects of working from home,” Naccarella says. “He decided to take his family to Colorado to work remotely for a few weeks. And after coming back and feeling refreshed, he was inspired to share this with his team.”

OneDay, a Dallas-based start-up with under 50 employees, offers a video storytelling platform used by 5,000 senior living communities in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, she says; and recently launched Convey to help real estate agents sell properties through video.

All employees are eligible for the New Digs program launched in August. There’s a peer nomination process where an employee returning from a trip nominates the next colleague. At the time of our conversation, 24 employees were nominated and 14 have taken trips to destinations across the country like Park City and Moab, Utah; and locations close to home such as Austin and Waco, Texas. 

There’s no determined length of stay, according to the company. The funds supporting New Digs comes from the budget for business travel and office expenses that were unused due to the pandemic, Naccarella says.

Pacaso: Credit toward second home co-ownership and stock units

“We know that our talent is our most valuable asset, so we’ve developed a compelling benefits package,” says Austin Allison, co-founder and CEO of Pacaso, a startup with just under 100 employees. The company is geared toward those who want to own a second home but elect to become a co-owner. “In addition to the equity that we offer to all of our employees, we also offer a $25,000 credit toward the purchase of a Pacaso home, unlimited vacation, a $700 stipend to outfit a home office, and more,” Allison says.

He’s excited about the latest perk — a new Equity Grant Referral Program which awards 500 restricted stock units to employees for each closed buyer referral. The impact of Pacaso’s company perks is measured by annual and quarterly employee surveys.

“As a fairly new and fully distributed company, we like to communicate transparently and often with our crew,” Allison explains. “One of our core values is that we ‘row together,’ and organizing our business in a collaborative way is essential to that.”

Pacaso also tracks the adoption and utilization of specific perks, he says. 

“For example, we have baseline data on employee referrals, and an increase in referrals can be considered a sign of success,” Allison says. “But while this quantitative data is important, it’s equally or more important that we assess the qualitative responses from our survey feedback in order to get a deeper understanding of the sentiments of our crew.”

Siemens: Cash reward or points

“We offer both managers and employees the opportunity to provide instant feedback and recognition to team members and peers for going above and beyond through our STAR Recognition Awards system,” says Marsha Smith, CFO at Siemens USA, with more than 40,000 employees, and Siemens Mobility North America, a transport solutions company with 3,500 U.S. employees.

Recipients receive either cash awards or points that can be redeemed for gifts and merchandise. “Our managers enjoy the ability to provide their employees with special recognition for extraordinary achievements and contributions,” Smith says. “Employees appreciate being able to highlight colleagues who have jumped in to assist on projects or challenges.”

Smith says the ongoing program is measured through employee engagement surveys and retention percentages, noting a “14% increase over two years in the number of employees wanting to stay with Siemens Mobility, and a 7% increase in the number of employees who would recommend Siemens Mobility as a great place to work.” She continues, “As one employee said in a recent employee engagement survey: ‘I received a number of Star points. This new rewards program is great and the products are from great brands with a lot of different options.'”

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.: Education expansion 

“Chipotle recently expanded its debt-free degrees program to include culinary, agriculture and hospitality majors, in addition to the existing business and technology degrees at 10 universities,” says Jack Hartung, CFO of the fast casual restaurant chain that has more than 60,000 employees. “We wanted to develop a program with a variety of options, emphasizing flexibility and freedom of choice, in areas that will help propel the business.” 

How is the program’s success measured? “We assess using a variety of metrics, but retention and advancement have already proven successful with our overall Cultivate Education program,” Hartung says. Chipotle has seen a retention rate of “3.5 times higher” among students who are enrolled in Cultivate Education, he says. “Additionally, crew members using the benefit are 7.5 times more likely to move into a management role within the organization,” Hartung added. 

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada


Join us for the first of a virtual three-part series event for emerging CFOs and senior finance leaders, Stepping Out of Your Finance Comfort Zone, presented in partnership with Workday, June 16 from 11–11:45 a.m. EDT. Geoff Colvin, Fortune’s senior editor at large and I will moderate a conversation with: Kristina Salen, CFO at WWE; Harmit Singh, EVP and CFO at Levi Strauss & Co.; and Tania Secor, Global CFO at R/GA. We’ll explore the rise of big data analytics, A.I., machine learning, and even talk crypto. You’ll have a chance to learn from these finance leaders who successfully scaled the ladder and are now sharing what it takes to get to the top. Click here to register now.

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