Back in June 2004, Inc magazine ran a short story on new employee benefits – focusing on child-care facilities. It grabbed my attention as it really made the case for non-cash incentives as a critical part of employee attraction, retention and engagement processes. Read the article here.

This, by the way, was not aimed at big companies. Inc is a magazine specifically targetting small and medium size enterprises. The company in question employed only 50 people, losing on average only 1 per year. A phenomenal achievement in the SMME sector! Small and medium companies have an opportunity to “steal” top talent from big corporates precisely because they have the flexibility to provide non-traditional employee benefits.

Since then, and especially fuelled by the recession, companies are doing more and more to provide non-traditional benefits to their top talent in an effort to both retain them, and also get the most out of them.

“Can I bring the kids?” might be the question that triggered the Inc magazine article. But here are a few more that might be helpful:

  • If I answer emails on Saturday night (you did give me a laptop and Blackberry, after all, and expect me to check them even when at home), can I go and watch my son play rugby on Tuesday afternoon?
  • I am battling to understand and connect with my teenage daughter, and it’s really taking my focus off my work. Can you help? (Many companies realise that trouble with spouses and teenage children impact hugely on productivity, and are offering both counseling and training/support for staff in these areas).
  • I am struggling to manage my finances. Can you help? (IBM is the biggest company we know to offer their staff personal financial management – and they did so before the recession – as a value add that also helps boost productivity and focus at work. Read our story on this here).
  • I want to contribute to my local community, will my company give me time to volunteer at a local charity and even sponsor me as part of their CSR initiatives?

That’s just a start. I am sure you can see the point we’re trying to make and work with your own team to find incentives that really do incentivise them.

By the way, talking of incentives, the best book to read on this topic is Daniel Pink’s “Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us” (buy it at

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