Little Things for Employees Reap Big Rewards for Companies
June 23, 2012 (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) One surefire way to make employees happy is to furnish them with perks such as iPads, tickets to Cardinals game and trips to the Caribbean.
Those are some of the things employees of small businesses in the St. Louis region noted on surveys when giving their employers high marks.
After the end of tax season last year, all 100 or so employees of the St. Louis accounting firm Anders Minkler & Diehl walked into their office to find a surprise on their desk: a note that they were getting a new iPad 2.
The company wanted to do something special to celebrate a strong year for the business and to recognize employees for the brutally long hours many of them had been working through its busy season, said Donna Erbs, the company's marketing director.
"They loved it," she said. "Everyone from the receptionist to the partner got one. ... Even the interns got one."
Netelligent, a Chesterfield-based technology company, also gave employees iPads after meeting sales targets in the first quarter of this year.
"It was like Christmas around here," said Nicholle Rosson, a company spokeswoman.
The iPads have been a helpful tool for the company, which offers employees a flexible work schedule so they can work from home, at a coffee shop or while on vacation.
"We might have people come in to the office once or twice a week," Rosson said. "The president is at the lake right now -- working remotely. ... It's really helpful for families."
Creve Coeur-based KnowledgeLake tries to keep the workplace fun and interesting with a foosball table, free soda fountain machines, Starbucks coffee and a selection of fruits and snacks in the break room.
The company has even brought stylists to the office to give employees free haircuts, said Dana Downs, the company's human resources administrator.
And every Friday, KnowledgeLake organizes a bingo game with the receptionist calling out letters over email every hour or two. Prizes include $25 gift cards or $50 in cash.
On top of that, employees are given four weeks of paid time off a year, which they begin accruing as soon as they start.
"It's important for employees to have a good work-life balance," Downs said.
Ann Wegmann, president of manufacturing company Budnick Converting in Columbia, Ill., rewards employees who have done a good job by taking them to a Cardinals game, using the company's season tickets. Wegmann often buys them lunch, too.
"It lets the people who work here know that I appreciate the job they do," she said. "And it's an opportunity for me to get to know individuals."
On a more serious note, during the recession when times were especially tough, Wegmann took a number of steps to avoid layoffs.
"We think very highly of all the people who work here and didn't want to cause anyone a hardship by letting them go," she said. "And we also didn't want to have lost our talent when the economy picked back up, and we knew it would."
So the company balanced its budget by reducing worker hours, which it then reinstated a couple years ago.
At Maryland Heights-based GFI Digital, employees enjoy many opportunities to go on all-expenses paid trips.
It starts out with the company's annual meeting every January, during which employees and their spouses can spend the night at the Lodge of the Four Seasons at the Lake of the Ozarks. After the meeting, the company hosts a dinner and awards banquet that often features a live band.
At the banquet, the company has started giving out a customer service excellence award. The prize last year was a Harley-Davidson. This year it will be a week for up to 12 guests at the company's lakefront property at the Lake of the Ozarks.
On top of that, the sales staff often has different contests and incentives going on throughout the year. In August, successful sales employees get to go on the president's club trip, which is a three- to four-day all-expenses paid trip to a fun location. This year the trip is to St. Thomas.
"There's always some incentive going on," said Lisa Murawski, the company's human resources manager. "The owner takes every opportunity to recognize the employees for a job well-done. He believes the employees are number one to the success of a company."
And then there is the company's car program. If employees meet their sales quota for two years, GFI Digital provides them with a car. After six years, they are eligible for a BMW.
"It's funny if you pull into our parking lot, people are like, 'Man, there are BMWs everywhere,'" Murawski said.