Enough With The Ping-Pong Tables—Creative Perks That People Actually Care About

How great would it be to swap Friday pizzas and free coffee for a life coach or fresh groceries? These companies do just that.

It seems like every company tries to tout their cool factor by playing up their ping-pong tables. But it's not just the Googles of the world offering nice-to-haves like free snacks and workout rooms.

While a lot of employee perks over the years have focused on how to make life at work as easy and pleasant as possible--from free lunches to concierge services to in-house doctors and gyms--the best of the best are figuring out ways to integrate people's personal lives into the mix, says China Gorman, CEO of Great Place to Work, a human resources consulting, research and training firm.

"Organizations are really starting to be more human in their relationship with employees," says Gorman. "We are seeing a focus on the full human experience, not just how you are at work."

Here are some ways we're seeing companies get creative and personal about their perks:

Dream managers.

Sure, you've heard of companies offering career coaching or training opportunities to help you improve your skills, but some are also offering life coaching to help employees be happier outside of work.

Infusionsoft, a sales and marketing software company based in Chandler, Ariz. offers employees access to what they call a "Dream Manager," a life coach who helps employees not just with setting career, but also life goals.

The idea is to give employees a sense of control over their lives, rather than making them feel like a slave to the job. Another way Infusionsoft does this is by offering new employees the option to leave with $5,000 if they've completed their initial training and don't think the company is a good fit for them. Better to weed out the weak from the start.

Better places to live.

Your home life is going to influence your work life--there's no question about it. Companies are recognizing this and finding ways to offer perks to employees that help improve their living situation, beyond simply giving them a raise. Liderman, a company in Peru and Ecuador that provides security guard services, gives its employees grants to use toward home improvement. Most employees use the money to build bathrooms in their homes, so they no longer have to use outhouses, says Gorman.

Davidson, a consulting company based in France, has built a dormitory for young employees who have trouble finding an affordable apartment in Paris, given the high cost of living in the city. "We know investing in employees and their life effectiveness creates more trust," says Gorman. "And trust is the fundamental thing in workplace culture."

Healthy Food That You Cook Yourself.

Increasingly, company perks are being designed to give employees access to a healthy lifestyle. It's not just in-house gyms or fitness perks; some companies, like Intel, Marriott, NetApp, and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, offer employees an on-site farmers market where they can stock up on fresh produce.

Software company SAS Institute Inc., based in Cary, North Carolina, runs a culinary farm that supplies fresh produce to its company kitchen, which employees can order from to take home with them. And Acuity Insurance in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, has an onsite pond stocked with fish where employees can take home their catch.

Building trust.

If you're a high-tech company in Silicon Valley, you're competing for the same talent pool as companies like Google. That means you have to have the same benefits those companies offer and more, says Gorman. But it's not just perks that attract the best employees. It's how they feel about the people they work for. "Trust comes from how leadership behaves," says Gorman. "Do they say what they're going to do? Do they make decisions in a way that’s transparent and fair?"

"This sense of integrity capital comes from the top of the organization," she says. "Employees know if they've got it and they know if they don’t."

[Image: Flickr user Faruk Ateş]

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  • Ping pong is the social glue and help to create tight, engaged teams. It is the sport that makes you use your brain the most so employees feel re-energized after playing. That is why ping pong tables are an essential part of any company that wants to succeed.