Offering creative perks to attract talent

In Santa Monica, California, you are just as likely to see a dog as you are to see the sun and the sea. They are everywhere. Every morning, as I walk to NHK’s Los Angeles Bureau, I come across German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, white dogs, brown dogs, small dogs and big dogs. Dogs, dogs, dogs.

The dogs belong to the employees of Amazon and some of the other firms with whom we share a complex with and who are part of the 9% of business in America who allow their employees to bring dogs to work, according to data from the Society of Human Resource management.

Three kilometers down the road from NHK at GumGum, an AI company that specializes in computer vision technology, I meet Huck, a three-year-old black and white Australian Cattle mix dog. He belongs to Erica Nishimura, GumGum’s data curator. "His presence in the office brings smiles to everyone’s faces including mine. He eases stress and takes the edge off," she says.

On this warm cloudless day, there are about a dozen dogs scattered throughout GumGum’s three-story office located a few blocks from the beach.

Many employees of GumGum bring their dogs to work.
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"In this day and age, many people want to have dogs and other pets," the company's CEO, Phil Schraeder, says. "As we look at how companies can differentiate and offer unique benefits, I think this is one of those very powerful ways to entice talent."

Indeed, in a fantastic economy and in an industry where talent is king, the dogs are but an affectionate, furry pawn in the quest to attract and retain talent.

"When you’re a growth company and you’re really looking to hire talent to be successful, you’re competing with the big guys, the big teams that have the robust benefit packages and plans," Schraeder says. "In having a dog-friendly policy in the office, it helps employees identify with the type of culture they are stepping into and it gives us an opportunity to truly compete in a different way."

Phil Schraeder, the CEO of GumGum.

In the talent arms race, companies have become creative with their perks. Amazon allows employees to share their parental leave benefits with a non-Amazon spouse, social media network Pinterest offers unlimited vacation time, and Epic, a software company based in Wisconsin, helps fund their employees' four-week sabbatical overseas.

In Nashville, Tennessee, where the unemployment rate is below the national average (2.7% to 3.7% nationally), WSW Certified Public Accountants turned to San Francisco-based car fueling service Yoshi to help its employees avoid one of life’s most rudimentary and annoying chores; pumping gas.

Under the system, the employer pays the employee’s Yoshi membership fee, which ranges from US$16 to US$20 per person, the employee pays for the gas, and Yoshi sends its blue pickup truck once a week to refuel the employee’s vehicle.

"It’s competitive in the marketplace for hiring," says Julia Johnson, director of operations for WSW. "This is one of those things that helps our company stand out."

"They see this as an employee perk," Yoshi CEO Bryan Frist says. "It keeps people around. We call it ‘vacation day equivalent.’ It’s what you can give your employees back for the time wasted going to the gas station every year."

Bryan Frist, Yoshi CEO

On the day we visit Nashville to see the Yoshi truck in action, the temperature outside is 9.4 degrees Celsius. "It’s great that I don’t have to worry about going out in the cold," says WSW employee Kim Low. "This is something that I've never heard of before, so it was great when they came to us and said this is something we are going to do."

Similarly, back at GumGum, the dog policy has been a great fit for Ms. Nishimura and the company’s Santa Monica culture.

"Santa Monica is a great place to have your dog because there are a ton of dog friendly restaurants. Even when I go out to lunch or happy hour, a lot of the times I can bring Huck with me."

Now I wonder, when will I be able to bring my dog to NHK’s LA Bureau with me?