Using Perks to Lure Good Staff: It's a Wash... A Dryer, too. And it's Amenities That They Appreciate


Briefcase? Check. Lunch? Check. BlackBerry? Check. Laundry and detergent? Check and double-check.

Greenfield-based eTapestry actually wants its employees to bring their dirty clothes to work. The tech company has a full-service laundry room -- an unusual perk, like catered lunches and convenience stores that many companies washed their hands of when the economy tanked in 2000.

"Our Midwestern sensibilities removed a lot of the foosball tables that haven't come back," said Karl Ahlrichs, senior human-resources consultant for Professional Staff Management in Carmel. But slowly, experts say, a number of companies in Indiana are resurrecting some perks. Unlike the perks of years past, though, these are more for the sake of productivity than whimsy. They also are designed to attract younger workers who tend to value their time as much as their jobs.

That's certainly the case at eTapestry. Of the company's 83 employees, most are ages 28 to 34. "I think it makes them happier with the overall company they're with, and I think it's going to make them harder to lure away," said Jay Love, CEO of eTapestry, which makes fundraising software for nonprofit groups and churches. "If you count what it costs you to lose one employee and go through the process of replacing them and training them, it's pretty much equal to an entire year's salary. If we can reduce our employee turnover by just a little bit, and it's already pretty good right now, it pays for all of this pretty easily." The company, which has had an on-site kitchen and gym with a ping-pong table for years, added the laundry room when it moved into a new office in May.

Originally, Love said he thought employees would use the washer and dryer to clean their clothes after working out. Instead, employees regularly bring in clothes from home. The laundry room is in use 80 percent of the time during eTapestry's business hours, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. "We never dreamed how many of the working moms and dads would take advantage of it," he said. One employee, Love recalled, walked up to him with a basket full of clean laundry and said: "Do you realize, on certain evenings, you've given me back two to three hours with my family?"

It's time that really matters to employees, especially young employees, said Mark McNulty, president of HR Dimensions in Indianapolis, the Career Partners International – Indianapolis firm. Experts like him call it "work/life balance."  

Employees, when they start work, don't forget they have to wash clothes, or run to CVS, or pick up their kids from day care. So adding a washer and dryer, or a convenience store, or an on-site day care means employees will worry less about other responsibilities." The benefit to employees is to reduce the stress of how their home life impinges on their work life. This is a way to address that equation by taking the stress away," McNulty said. "I'm not going to get to the dry cleaner, so we'll bring the dry cleaner here."

Employees at Eli Lilly and Co.'s Downtown headquarters have access to dry-cleaning and shoe-repair services, a gift shop, a bank, a gym, and medical and physical-therapy facilities. "These are things that help employees do their job and take away some of the day-to-day stress," spokeswoman Joan Todd said. "This is a smart business decision on the part of the company, as well as being a psychological boost for employees."

Of course, some may see a laundry room or a gym as an excuse to keep employees in the office longer. Ahlrichs said at some companies there has even been a backlash. "You're making it easier for me to move in here and stay," he said.

That's one reason some perks may not work in the long run. At first, employees will see them as motivators and then entitlements. "Then," Ahlrichs said, "if you have an expensive benefit that doesn't motivate, what have you got?"

Lilly, for one, doesn't take perks away, Todd said. "People would be very cranky."

Employee perks

Other local employers that offer employees some unusual perks and services:

Ernst & Young - Concierge services; Backup child- and adult-care services; Holiday conferencing: Employees can use company videoconferencing facilities to communicate with out-of-town relatives.

Eli Lilly and Co. - On-site credit union and postal center; Convenience store that also develops photos and rents DVDs; On-site dry cleaning, shoe repair and alteration services; Nursing-mother stations; Fitness center.

Source: Indianapolis Star

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