Employers, Employees and Perks: From Hefty Referral Bonuses to On-Site Child Care and Generous 401(k)s, Some Companies Are Going the Extra Mile to Keep Good People. (Management)

Article excerpt

CMP Media, the Manhasset, New York-based technology-media unit of United News & Media, is all business. But don't be surprised if, on a visit to its headquarters, you see both kids and adults at play--employees shooting pool or playing foosball, and their children running around the on-site day care center.

Why the employee-friendly focus? Because, says COO John Russell, employee satisfaction is the key to success in the job market. Leah Landro, CMP senior vice president of human resources and communications, says the turnover rate for employees who use on-site day care for their children is just 3 percent. Compare that to an overall turnover rate of 13 to 15 percent for the entire company. "It's a huge recruiting tool," says Landro. "We have people applying here because of on-site day care."

Publishers are offering all kinds of perks these days in the effort to attract and retain talent in a hypercompetitive world. They're fighting back by offering attractive, innovative benefits that go beyond casual-dress Fridays and summer hours. $500 referral bonuses? Pocket change. Try $5,000. Two weeks vacation? Try three, for starters, at a few companies. Staff feeling overworked? How about sabbaticals? With the national unemployment rate at 4 percent in August, the Internet siphoning off labor, and print-magazine publishing companies booming, the demand for labor is evident. True, the dot-com luster has started to wear off as many Web companies struggle for solvency, but the Internet is nonetheless here to stay as a job-market alternative.

Not only is there competition--clearly evident in an industry-wide turnover rate that is estimated at between 25 and 50 percent--but employee attitudes have changed following the corporate downsizings of the Nineties. "The sense of loyalty is gone," says Michael Kelly, a researcher at the Saratoga Institute, a human resources research and consulting firm. "The person signing up for the gold watch is not very common anymore."

CAN I GET A REFERENCE?

Some types of benefits are paying rewards not just to the employees, but to the employer as well. Referral programs, which offer bonuses to employees who successfully match a prospect with a job opening, are a good example. McMurry Publishing, the Phoenix-based custom publisher of 17 titles, increased its employee referral bonus from $200 in 1999 to $1,000 in 2000. If the person is hired, the referring employee gets the money up front--even if the new hire leaves in a week. "Fortunately, that hasn't happened," says Krisanne Elsner, director of the "Tremendous People" department. "No one has left that quickly." Although declining to cite numbers, she says the program has added enough new talent to be cost-efficient.

McMurry also uses its company newsletter to recruit. If there is an important opening to fill, the newsletter will be mailed to an additional audience of vendors and clients. "In one particular case, we had an opening for a production manager, and we were sending it out to printers. When we had an opening for an ad person, we added ad agencies in the mailing," Elsner says.

CMP upgraded its employee referral program so that on the first hire, the referring employee is paid $2,000; on the second hire, it's an additional $3,000; and for the third hire, the referring employee receives $4,000. When five referrals lead to successful hires, the employee pockets $20,000. Half the money is paid up front, and the other half comes after the new worker has been employed for 90 days. The employee earns a $50 gift certificate just for recommending someone who is granted a job interview. Approximately 20 percent of those referred are hired.

The program has been a huge success, with approximately $72,000 going into the pockets of employees (four successful matches is the record from one individual). "We hired almost 70 people in the quarter that ended July 31, 2000," Landro says. …