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Would you offer free Teslas and sponsored weddings to staff?

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By offering staff free meals and unlimited leaves, big employers like Google, Netfix and PwC are certainly working hard to retain their talent.

But it is apparently a handful of start-ups that are leading the game on employee benefits.

1. Free college tuition to for employees’ children

PwC might be offering its employees $1,200 per year for student loan debt reimbursement, but Chieh Huang, co-founder and CEO of Boxed, has gone a step further.

Last year, the online seller of bulk household goods told employees he will pay for their kids’ college tuition.

He promised he  would set aside a double-digit percentage of his personal stake in the company to pay for staff’s kids’ education, noting that the benefit will be funded by his own money rather than company funds.

He says it is designed to help employees before the company goes public, he told Forbes.

As of now, the company only has 12 children among the families of its roughly 100 employees. And Huang is prepared to commit long-term, he has started a non-profit foundation, funded with a chunk of his personal shares in the company currently valued at between $1 million and $2 million, along with some cash to administer the program.

2. Free Tesla Model 3

Practichem, a small biotech startup has  promise to lease Tesla Model 3s, one of the market’s hottest vehicle to employees when they become available in maybe a year or more later.

Owner Nick DeMarco believes spending money to lease the wildly popular cars will turn out to be a smarter recruiting investment than funneling more money to headhunters.

He is hopeful the media coverage and word-of-mouth from employees will help him hire people with the skills he needs in what he calls an “esoteric field.”

“We’re not sexy. The world’s changed a lot, and technology people are really hard to bring in,” said DeMarco who has 10 full-time employees and is trying to double the company’s headcount.

ALSO READ: The benefits your employees really want

DeMarco wants all his employees to be able to drive the US$35,000 electric vehicle that is expected to hit the road at the end of 2017 for a simple reason- its inspiring.

“The Tesla car is really an inspiring car,” Nick DeMarco told CNBC’s “Power Lunch.” “It’s really an inspiring story, and I want our employees to come in every day and touch that steering wheel when they get out of their car and come in and realize they can do that same sort of inspiring things in our industry.”

3. Wedding fund 

After giving away college tuition, Huang from Boxed is not done yet, he announced last week in a press release the company will reimburse any full-time employee for their wedding up to $20,000.

He made the decision after learning the story of his employee Marcel Graham.

And yes, Huang is paying for Graham’s wedding and introducing the wedding perk.  Graham’s mother is gravely ill and he wanted to get married to his fiancée as soon as possible so his mother could participate in the ceremony.

But like most Millennial, the 26 year old is short on cash, he wasn’t making enough to pay for his mother’s medical bills and save for the wedding. At his work station earlier this month, Graham couldn’t hold it in any longer and broke down.

After he found our about Graham, Huang decided to  do something to change his employee’s life- pay for his wedding.  “We got his fiancée to come in and surprised him; it was water works all around. This is the stuff I enjoy, doing good.” Huang tells Inc. in an phone interview.

Connie Leung, Mercer’s Hong Kong Information Solutions Business Leader said compared to MNCs, start-ups have more flexibility to provide some individual specific or tailor-made perks.  “Their workforce is relatively smaller and with less formal guideline and policies so it may allow more rooms to be creative in the benefits/perks provision,” she said.

For MNCs, their focus in retaining talent is on more on employee value propositions, clear career path and framework, training and development, flexible environment/work schedule, work life balance which apply to most of the work groups or generations as the populations may be bigger and there are already global guideline/policies to govern the benefits/perks provision.

Cedric Luah, head of Health & Benefits — Asia and Australasia from Willis Tower Watons said the question raised on creative perks is employer’s  ability to continuously provide them, especially when the company’s workforce becomes more diverse, in race, gender, age, nationality etc.

For example, a young employee who will not have college-bound children for another 20 years, may find it unfair especially if he joined the company as a newlywed, which meant that he had missed out on the other benefits.
“In my opinion, this is not sustainable. However, benefits as a tool in retaining talent is certainly an important consideration. The key is providing the right benefits for the workforce that caters to the needs more than fulfilling the wants of employees,” he said.

“We believe that the future of employee benefits will be more “life stage” driven, where an employer’s limited budget on benefits spend will be used in the most effective way to cater to different areas for different groups of employee. This will be supported by strong data analytics and technologies that will allow more flexibility and choice for employees, yet allow employers to have better control and contain cost,” he added.

Bruce Elliott, manager of compensation and benefits at the Society for Human Resource Management thinks there is great marketing value in getting creative with perks.

“There is absolute marketing value from differentiating yourself with regards to benefits. It’s kind of serving two purposes — highlighting the social consciousness to current and future employees, but also marketing it to customers who might think ‘oh, that’s a nice company, I think I’ll buy from them,” he told The Washington Post .

Image: Shutterstock

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