Employee Perks That Work

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Few things have kept pace with the rapid growth of our industry as much as employee compensation. Bonus programs tied to division or company profitability have generated unprecedented compensation levels. As the housing boom subsides and begins shrinking this year's bonus checks, the focus on compensation will take on a new tact.Namely, how do you attract and/or retain great people who have become accustomed to such extraordinary income opportunities?

September 01, 2006

Few things have kept pace with the rapid growth of our industry as much as employee compensation. Bonus programs tied to division or company profitability have generated unprecedented compensation levels. As the housing boom subsides and begins shrinking this year's bonus checks, the focus on compensation will take on a new tact. Namely, how do you attract and/or retain great people who have become accustomed to such extraordinary income opportunities?

Most builders want to reward their employees for jobs well done. Rewards, perks, benefits — whatever the company may call all the non-monetary types of compensation — are moving front and center as employees feel the market adjustment in their wallets. The variety of offerings we hear about ranges from standard to quite creative.

Take Christopherson Homes in Santa Rosa, Calif. It which hands out a monthly Peoples Choice award, says the company's president, George Casey Jr. The prior month's winner chooses the next winner, who is always a non-management employee who best exemplifies customer service. Recipients are honored at a brown bag lunch and earn a framed certificate and a gift card. "It is a big deal and promotes recognition of those in the trenches who often go unnoticed," Casey says. The company also uses Way to Go forms to highlight employees who are "doing something right." Way to Go employees are recognized at the brown bag lunch, too, and every time they receive Way to Go recognition, they enter a drawing for a gift certificate to a local restaurant. "We find this promotes a culture of finding people doing the right thing and recognizing them for it."

Another way the company recognizes loyalty, Casey adds: employees who reach 10, 15 and 20 years with the company receive a trip that can include seven days on a cruise or in Hawaii with their spouses.

Another builder we've worked with has a 4–5-day workweek. This company closes at 1 p.m. every Friday so employees can get a head start on the weekend. This is such a valuable perk to employees that they organize their workweek to be as efficient and effective as possible. They value the extra weekend time and want to ensure they continue to deserve it.

When retaining and recruiting talent, touting such perks can be a valuable tool. Not only are they highly desirable, but they also speak volumes about the company culture.

We often hear, "it's not all about the money," and efforts like these make it ring true. They go a long way toward building loyalty and commitment. So, why not try one or two things on a temporary basis and see what works best for your company? Ask your team for input, too; nothing makes your employees feel more valued than when you ask their advice and act on it.


Acknowledgements
Rodney Hall is a senior partner with The Talon Group, a leading executive search firm specializing in the real-estate development and home building industries.


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