Money Isn’t Everything
It’s a given for first-day trainees and CEOs alike: Everybody wants to be paid more. But salary alone doesn’t help companies recruit and retain top employees — it’s really benefits and perks (which represent as much as 40 percent on top of your paycheck) that set a workplace apart.
We asked the region’s 150 largest employers to tell us the non-salary extras they’re proudest of, then worked overtime separating the bonus from the blah. The resulting list — sweetened with great perks from smaller organizations — offers more than a few surprises. Anyone up for a free weekend at the Four Seasons?
Jeeves, My Dry Cleaning
Many employers have long offered time-saving personal perks such as prepaid legal help and on-site postal services, but a small tier of large national and international firms has introduced a new level of “concierge services” for busy workers. During audit and tax season, for example, the Philly office of international accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers offers errand-running and vacation-planning for harried number-crunchers. But homegrown financial upstart Commerce Bank is besting even the big boys in this realm: Its “Life at Work” program helps staffers year-round with restaurant recommendations, daycare research and financial advice. Try getting that from Henri at the Ritz.
The Kids Are All Right
Family-friendly health and leave policies are a baseline for any reasonable idea of a “work/life balance,” but a number of Philly-area companies boldly tip the scale to the employee side. With 10 days of paid family leave in addition to standard sick and vacation time, as well as a job guarantee during up to 16 weeks of unpaid leave, banking giant Wachovia gives workers the time they need to care for children and older parents. The company also offers employees with little ones both on-site and backup daycare options and controlled-access private rooms for nursing mothers.
Fox Chase Cancer Center does on-site daycare one better with Creative Beginnings, a nationally accredited early childhood development program for employees’ kids.
As befits a company specializing in employee benefits, CIGNA is an area leader in providing allowances to adoptive parents, with two weeks of paid leave and $5,000 to cover adoption expenses.
Ahead of a growing trend among states to mandate coverage for fertility treatments, PricewaterhouseCoopers already pays for these services throughout the country, and has also been a national innovator by covering therapy for employees’ children with developmental delays.
Many companies reimburse employees who enroll in courses relevant to their current positions, but the University of Pennsylvania Health System represents the local gold standard for education perks, paying up-front for employee undergraduate and graduate education expenses at any accredited institution of higher learning. Even better: They’ll pony up the full tuition for any full-time-employee dependent who enrolls in a degree-granting program at Penn. (The catch? Junior still has to get in on his merits.)
Hot on UPHS’s tail is aerospace multi-national Boeing, which pays for undergrad and grad coursework and other specialized training — including basic flight school — and awards employees 100 shares of stock every time they earn a bachelor’s or graduate degree.
You Will Be the Boss of Me
Leadership and management training programs are a prime way for companies to keep ambitious young employees and move veterans to new levels of achievement. Though one of the most mistrusted (okay — despised) organizations in America, the IRS runs an intensive management and executive development track that serves as a model for other government agencies.
Drexel University, known nationally for the way it integrates students into the working world, offers employees a Drexel Leaders program with certified curricula in collaboration, coaching, interviewing, employment law and conflict resolution.
The 1990s promise of the virtual office never did pan out the way futurists predicted, but at least flextime arrangements and dialing in from the kitchen table are no longer an aberration. Leading the local effort to unchain workers from their desks: PricewaterhouseCoopers, which encourages staffers to make use of a mix of telecommuting and compressed or reduced schedules — and shoos everybody out at noon on summer Fridays.
The Desk to Wellville
Affordable medical coverage is perhaps the main reason so many of us choose to work for someone else instead of slaving over a laptop at home in our jammies. Most of Philly’s largest companies offer comprehensive medical benefits at a fairly low cost, but Community College of Philadelphia gets an A+ for paying 100 percent of medical, prescription and dental insurance premiums for employees’ families and domestic partners.
The Aloha Moment
Vacation and sick-leave policies in the Philadelphia area tend to be on par with national averages, especially among larger firms. But nobody seems to want to give brand-new employees much of a break — except Horizon House, a local nonprofit social services agency that lets new employees earn 24 days of time off in their first year.
Subsidized cafeterias are pretty common in the hospital industry, but who’d have guessed that clothing chain Deb Shops provides its office staff with free lunch every day from a variety of local restaurants?
Making It Easy to Give Back
Corporate matching of employees’ charitable donations is commendably widespread, but some companies in the area go beyond the call of duty in helping their staff members make a difference. Energy supplier PECO matches up to $2,000 per employee per year for gifts to qualified educational organizations, while Wachovia contributes up to $4,000 per employee per year to a range of nonprofits, as well as allowing workers four hours of paid time per month — during the workday — to volunteer in the community or at their children’s schools.
For the past six years, Independence Blue Cross has fielded the “Blue Crew,” a 2,000-member team of employees and retirees who volunteer their time to more than 70 local community projects and organizations.
Staff members at the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation get to experience everything new in the city — exhibitions, restaurants, attractions — before the rest of us.
Not only does the Commuter Services Office at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital hand out SEPTA schedules and process TransitCheks; it also arranges for discount parking for all employees at 12 surrounding garages and runs a free shuttle for even-lower-cost remote parking.
Employees of Comcast are entitled to free high-speed Internet and digital cable — 42 gazillion HBO channels included! — and deep discounts on phone, HDTV and pay-video-on-demand services.
Nurses in the Albert Einstein Healthcare Network are eligible for an annual RN Excellence Award worth up to $8,000.
Even a building as humongous as the Philadelphia Museum of Art can’t display the entire collection. Staffers get to see an ever-changing assortment of works in the administrative offices — like the Monet over in HR. Other bonuses: free tickets to blockbuster exhibits, and free or discounted admission to 3,000 museums around the country.
Commerce Bank has declared open season on bureaucratic baloney by inviting workers to “Kill a Stupid Rule” and bag a $50 bounty.
After three months on the job, new employees of the Four Seasons can check in, with a guest, for an overnight stay that includes dinner and breakfast the next morning. After six months, you can take three nights free at any one of the company’s 70 locations. (Food and drink are 50 percent off.) Stick around for a decade to earn 20 nights a year.
Every holiday season, the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust treats its employees to a day of shopping, with breakfast, lunch, and store discounts.
And the clear winner for the most civilized perk in Philadelphia: afternoon tea at the Fox Chase Cancer Center, a daily tradition dating back 60 years.
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