Canadian Consulting Engineer

Employee Incentives

December 1, 2007
By Bruce Lee

Employment recruitment tactics are changing. Younger professional employees no longer automatically take what companies offer without question. They are more assertive and demanding about having life ...

Employment recruitment tactics are changing. Younger professional employees no longer automatically take what companies offer without question. They are more assertive and demanding about having life balance. When it comes to compensation benefits, organizations have to think outside the box in order to attract new employees.

The situation is urgent because of the ongoing skilled labour shortage. Most engineering and oil and gas companies, for example, have a backlog of work and not enough employees to complete their projects. Overtime is necessary, delays are the norm, budget overruns are common.

What do successful companies offer in order to stand out from the competition and attract new employees? How do they retain more of the employees they currently have? With overseas companies recruiting Canadian talent to build their mega-projects, the stakes are high.

New perks on offer

Relocation bonus. As a solution, the starting point is a competitive salary which continues to escalate upward. In many cases bonuses of up to 35% of the base salary are necessary to attract employees to move to remote locations where the big projects are.

Health Care Spending Accounts. These packages are the key new trend. They give employees the opportunity to pick and choose from a flexible package that allows them to alter their choices as they mature. For example, early in their career, they might allocate a higher percentage of the dollars to orthodontics, and then later in life they would switch to vision, massage and chiropractic care. With some companies employees can take in cash what they don’t use of the allotted amount, or transfer it to a pension plan.

Increased Vacation Pay. What was the industry standard of two weeks for new hires is now almost universally three weeks. And after being employed for two years you get four vacation weeks. One company is recognizing previous industry experience to be counted toward years of employment. Another has a formula of taking a person’s age less 20 to determine vacation weeks based on two weeks for every 10 years. For example, a person aged 50, less 20, equals 30, so with two weeks for every 10, the person gets six vacation weeks.

Time Off. A leading company in Canada recently started giving every employee two Fridays a month off, 24 in total. To earn this, employees either take a shorter lunch break or work an extra 30 minutes the rest of the week. Other companies offer new employees from five up to 17 paid personal days off every year.

Retirement Savings. Companies are matching between 3 1/2% up to 6% of annual salary for employee RRSPs. Some match an additional 5% in savings plans.

Maternity Top-up Benefits. Increasingly seen are maternity top-up benefits of up to 100% for 36 weeks for new parents and adoptive parents. Men can take time off for newborns.

Other benefits that companies are now offering:

* Corporate offices shut down for up to 10 days over Christmas.

* Company car and parking lot allowance.

* Health club membership and scheduled time in work day to attend.

* On-site fitness facilities and a professional fitness trainer.

* On-site day care and on-site room to house students during teacher professional development days.

* On-site dining room with subsidized prices.

* Scholarships for children entering university.

* Birthday as paid day off.

* Compassionate leave. Three to eight paid days; more if travel required.

* Finders fees. Up to $3,000 for referring new employees who stay.

* Happy staff. Lots of recognition events such as for new babies and birthdays.

* Education. More in-house courses and off-site tuition fully paid.

* Phased in retirement leave programs.

To be really successful, you need to offer a competitive benefits package that is valued by the recipients. At the same time, try to avoid supporting an attitude of entitlement among employees, otherwise their loyalty decreases.

To ensure employees appreciate their benefits and that the result is improved personal productivity, one company has each employee sign a high-performance contract. This contract sets objectives for the employee that are in sync with the company’s plans.

Bruce Lee is president of Encore Seven, an employee training company in Calgary. His keynote speeches and workshops focus on employee retention and individual productivity. See


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