We've all at least heard about profit sharing, matching 401 contributions and, of course, the pay raise as ways to boost employee loyalty and morale.
But how about someone to walk your dog? An errand runner to grab takeout or groceries for your family? A free lease and insurance on a 1999 BMW?Chronic labor shortages in fields such as computers and finance are leading some bosses to offer CEO-style perks to rank-and-file employees.
"It's kind of the icing on the cake," says Evan Wilson, who works in human resources for Chicago-based Andersen Consulting and uses his company's errand-running service often.
Employees at SC Johnson Wax and the accounting firm Ernst & Young also get the service. Errand runners will deliver flowers or let the cable guy in. One time, one even ran home to grab a black pump for a woman who came to work wearing one black one and one blue one.
Increasingly, the stakes are being raised in the competition to recruit and keep good employees. Some companies are paying moving expenses for sailboats and antique cars. Others are building day-care playgrounds and opening on-site diet clinics.
John Nuveen & Co., a Chicago investment bank, pays the bulk of college tuition for the children of employees who have been with the company for at least five years.
In just a few weeks, Jeff Finney, a computer programmer in suburban Atlanta, will take delivery on his BMW. In fact, all 45 employees - from secretaries to managers - at Revenue Systems Inc. in Alpharetta, Ga., get to lease BMWs at the bosses' expense.
"The only way I'd be driving a car like this is if I won the lottery," says Finney, who normally drives a pickup truck. "It is probably one of the best perks I've seen any company give."
The response from applicants - thousands of whom have sent in their resumes - would be enough to make many CEOs as green as Finney's BMW.
In fact, a survey completed in May found that the No. 1 concern that keeps executives awake at night is "finding good people and keeping them."
That beat out even "generating profits," the No. 2 concern, according to the survey, conducted by the Atlanta-based executive search firm TranSearch North America.
"You never would have seen that a few years ago," says David Beck, publisher of the trade publication Recruiting Trends. "They're starting to realize how keeping good people directly relates to the bottom line."
Business schools are starting to take note, too.
At Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Business in Nashville, Tenn., MBA students are required to take "soft courses" in human re-sources.
"There's a realization in business today that you need leaders. You don't just need specialists or analysts," says Peter Veruki, head of Owen's planning and place-ment. "They've realized the problems they've had by not having managers who are sensitive to people."
In the real world, managers would find that the perks don't even have to be that expensive.
Ceil Diaz left her job working for the state of Illinois to join the Chicago ad firm EURO RSCG Tat-ham. There, she received a basket of flowers and gift certificates on her one-year job anniversary and got to meet with architects to help plan her work space.
She giggles when she mentions the Nerf machine gun she keeps by her desk.
"I want to work here until I die," Diaz says.