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Weird Employee Perks That Go A Long Way

Photos by Hilary Ehlen

Health insurance, retirement funds, dental, and PTO are all attractive to employees. However, in order to attract people in North Dakota’s competitive hiring market, employers need to set themselves apart. We take a look at four companies that are doing just that by offering their employees “weird” employee perks.


Stoneridge Software

Stoneridge Software has used its employee perks to grow tremendously over the past year, hiring 80 people to its now 180 person team over the past 12 months. We sat down with Briana Scearcy, Stoneridge Software’s Chief People Officer to find out what amazing perks Stoneridge is using to find and keep its employees.

Briana Scearcy, Stonebridge Software's Chief People Officer
Briana Scearcy, Stonebridge Software’s Chief People Officer, is a key driving force in setting the companies’ culture.

What “weird” perks does Stoneridge Software offer?
The benefits or perks that we offer are pretty extensive. We take care of the premiums for all of our team members’ health insurance. So we essentially offer free health insurance and that’s all the way through from single to family. We do the same with dental so we take care of everyone from a health and wellness standpoint. On the more unique side, we offer unlimited vacation time, we offer 100 percent paid maternity leave which is 12 weeks and we off 100 percent paid leave for our dads, we also offer the same benefits for parents who are adopting. We give every employee a $2,500 allowance for learning and development benefits, this can be used on anything from books to journals or memberships and some use it to go to different conferences. We reimburse for cell phones and internet. On the fun side of things we have beer on tap and popcorn available every single day and on Thursdays, we go out to lunch together for beer and pizza at a local dive bar.

Stoneridge keeps beer on tap, which rotates seasonally.
Stoneridge keeps beer on tap, which rotates seasonally.

Why does Stoneridge Software offer the employee perks that they do?
My personal philosophy is that I want to offer and fight to offer as much as I can for our team members so that when they come to work, they don’t have to worry about anything but the job that they have to do when they come into work. I fight to make it as easy as I can for our team members.

Employees get unlimited access to free snacks.
Employees get unlimited access to free snacks.

How do you monitor morale at Stoneridge Software?
We use an external tool called Office Vibes which creates a weekly survey that goes out to all of our people. Thankfully our trends in terms of engagement and work enjoyment have stayed pretty consistent. When it dips, we typically hire someone to relieve some of that stress and workload.

Every Friday, Stoneridge Software has an in-person meeting in the companies lounge area.
Every Friday, Stoneridge Software has an in-person meeting in the companies lounge area. The Barnesville branch video conferences with the Fargo and Minneapolis branch to brief everyone on what has gone on that week as well as give everyone kudos for recent accomplishments.

“I’ve never worked for a company where that has been such a priority to carve out a half an hour a week to just be together,” said Scearcy. “I think as we’ve grown, it has helped keep everyone on the same page.”

Labor Masters

Out of the box perks aren’t just used by large companies to find and keep employees, small local companies use them as well. Labor Masters’ owner, Nancy Kelly has worked to make sure her three full-time employees feel cared for.


(Left to right) Ian Beaton, Todd Trottier, Nancy Kelly, Vickie Hendrickson, and Dawn Kearns pose with the Louis Vuitton bags that they got for hitting their sales goals with Labor Masters last year.
(Left to right) Ian Beaton, Todd Trottier, Nancy Kelly, Vickie Hendrickson, and Dawn Kearns pose with the Louis Vuitton bags that they got for hitting their sales goals with Labor Masters last year.

What weird/out of the box employee perks does Labor Masters offer?
Since I opened Labor Master in January of 2014, I have made it my mission to make sure that I share our success with the people that I work with. I give everyone a free monthly car wash membership (who doesn’t love a clean car?), I pay for their cell phone bills, I bought the office a JURA latte maker and when I get a chance and am anywhere near a coffee shop, I bring everyone their favorite coffee drinks. We celebrate birthday month for everyone! That means from the first day of the month to their birthday, they get presents, cards, balloons, and other quirky items I see that they might like. We hit our annual sales goal last year so I surprised everyone with Louis Vuitton bags, which was so much fun. For the past three years, I have rented a condo on the beach in Marco Island Florida or Naples Florida for my employees and a guest of their choice to go for a week. I pay for airfare for two, a rental car, and provide $100 per day in spending money. I have also bought iPad and laptops for everyone to have at home. One year I bought everyone a certificate to take their concealed carry class. I also purchase all of the Labor Masters gear they could possibly want to wear. I have also buy tires for everyone when they need them, no one likes to spend money on tires, do they? Also, at least once a year, I pay for everyone to have their car detailed. I really like to buy things for them that they would not typically buy for themselves.

Kelly makes a latte, which her employees have unlimited access to.
Kelly makes a latte, which her employees have unlimited access to.

Why do you think it is important to offer these perks that go beyond health insurance or 401ks?
I remember working for a large company when I first started in the employment business. They would send us a catalog that we could use to pick out an item on our anniversaries. That was so much fun and then one day it stopped. It seemed to me like they really didn’t care about keeping us happy and only cared about the bottom line and keeping the profits for themselves. I want to bring back the “perks”! I want the happiest people that do the best job, that are so good, they could leave but don’t want to because of how much they are appreciated.

Is there a weird perk that seems to be a favorite among employees? 
I think their favorite is the beach vacation! I like that they can take a well-earned vacation and not have to save up or spend their hard-earned money. Most people when given extra money will use it on bills, kids, or something else other than a vacation. They work so hard, they need the sun, sand and downtime and not have to worry about a thing.

Every year, employees at Labor Masters get a beach vacation!
Every year, employees at Labor Masters get a beach vacation! Photo via Labor Masters.

How do you think these perks affect your companies culture? 
I believe my co-workers know how much I appreciate them. We have the best time and we laugh at work every day. We work hard to provide the best temporary employees to the best customers on the planet. When your people feel appreciated and loved, they take ownership of their job.


Peterson Farms Seed

Photos via Peterson Farms Seed

Peterson Farms Seed calls their employees superheroes, so, they try to provide each with super treatment. The companies General Manager, Scott Sanders, knows it all too well.


Scott Sanders, Peterson Farms Seed General Manager.
Scott Sanders, Peterson Farms Seed General Manager.

What are some the “out there” perks Peterson Farms Seed offers their employees?
A few things that come to mind are our internal team member awards and our monthly company meeting.  We have a tenure award, which goes to any team member who has been with the company for 10 years.  We provide them with an all-expenses-paid trip anywhere inside the U.S. for themselves and their significant other.  Additionally, we have a “superhero” award that goes to team members on their 15th Petersonversary.  Those team members are recognized at a company meeting and are awarded their very own look-a-like bobblehead, which goes on our superhero wall in the office.  The superhero award is my favorite award because it rewards longevity with the company. And who doesn’t want their own personalized bobblehead? Finally, we have a monthly company meeting where we talk about what’s going on in the industry, any company news (new hires, etc.), and our department managers provide an update on what’s going on in their department.  At each meeting, we provide breakfast to all of the team members.  It’s just a way for us to remind everyone about our “family-like” culture and treat everyone to a meal.

Peterson Farms Seed wants its employees to feel and act like superheroes. So, everyone gets a personalized superhero bobblehead at their 15th anniversary.
Peterson Farms Seed wants its employees to feel and act like superheroes. So, everyone gets a personalized superhero bobblehead at their 15th anniversary.

Why is it important to do things like this for employees?
I believe it creates a sense of identity for our company and for our team members. It lets both our team members and our customers know who we are as a company and as people.  We value things like loyalty, integrity, and character above most everything else. It’s a way to show that to our team members and practice what we preach, so to speak.  It’s also a great recruiting tool; in today’s environment, employees want more than just an “8-5” type job, they want to feel proud of where they work, they want to have fun while doing it, and they want to be recognized for their achievements.  Today’s workforce has more choices than ever and it’s important to provide differentiation in order to stand out among other companies.

Can you tell me a little bit about the “Joy Squad”?
Well, it’s a lot like the party planning committee on The Office.  They are in charge of planning events like holiday parties, national-whatever-days, and events like our annual chili cook-off and Mario Kart day.  Their role is to make sure everyone is involved and to create as much fun as possible surrounding an event, whether it be an outside event or something we have internally.  It’s a great group and very important to our culture, because just like any business we can all get bogged down with the day-to-day grind, so they are there to remind us to have a little fun once in a while! 

The Peterson Farms Seed employees get to compete in a chili cookoff once a year.
The Peterson Farms Seed employees get to compete in a chili cookoff once a year.

Microsoft

Microsoft’s second largest field campus in the world is located right here in Fargo, North Dakota. And, the technology giant does not skimp on employee perks. We sat down with Rayonna Hystead, Communications Coordinator, to learn more about what all Microsoft has to offer its employees.


Rayonna Hystead, Microsoft's Communication Coordinator.
Rayonna Hystead, Microsoft’s Communication Coordinator.

What “weird” or “out of the box” employee perks/amenities does Microsoft offer?
Microsoft offers a wide range of benefits. As we believe a balanced life doesn’t just include work, it also includes mental and emotional wellness, financial wellness, and physical wellness. Some of our benefits are more common in the industry including, competitive pay, bonuses and stock awards to eligible employees based on individual performance, as well as benefits to help team members lead a healthy life, save for the future and enjoy their journey here at Microsoft including medical, dental, vision care, 401K, parental leave and family care leave. In addition, employees get a credit to spend towards gym memberships, workout equipment, and tax preparation. Some of the benefits that are more “out of the box” include a 24-hour nurse line, Microsoft’s Employee Stock Purchase Plan, a loan refinancing program, financial planning services, employee resource and networking groups, tuition reimbursement, a Microsoft library, LinkedIn learning, employee discounts through Amazon Prime, and donation matching through GIVE. On-site at Microsoft, we offer our team members a free beverage program. Team members get to enjoy beverages ranging from milk, pop, and juice to V8, coffee, tea, and sparkling and flavored water. In fact, after water and coffee, skim milk is the number one consumed beverage followed by Mountain Dew. Additionally, team members have access to free menstrual products in all restrooms. Game rooms are located in each building to provide team members with a chance to take a break from work and engage with their coworkers.

All employees have access to free soda, juice, milk and Starbucks coffee.
All employees have access to free soda, juice, milk and Starbucks coffee.

How does this help recruit employees and keep them happy?
What can be perceived as a small perk can be enough to make someone’s day easier, happier, or provide the perfect environment for them to achieve more. When recruiting individuals for our team, the perks add up. People can see a positive work environment coupled with amenities to make our work enjoyable, easier, and more rewarding. We want team members and potential team members to know we are investing in them and in turn, hope they choose to invest themselves in their work at Microsoft, in our culture, and in our mission.

Microsoft's campus has a full-size cafeteria with quality and cheap, food options for its employees.
Microsoft’s campus has a full-size cafeteria with quality and cheap, food options for its employees.

How do these perks affect the culture on campus?
Microsoft’s mission is to “empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more.” In addition, to empowering customers of our products and software, Microsoft empowers our employees to achieve more by offering benefits that reduce distraction, stress, and provide an environment where employees can collaborate, have fun, and work at their best. Around campus, there is a sense of pride and gratitude in our benefits, our workspaces, and the people we share our time with. This isn’t just a place to work – It’s a place to live, connect, grow and achieve more.

Microsoft has multiple game rooms throughout the campus where employees can play everything from Fifa 19 on an Xbox One to table tennis.
Microsoft has multiple game rooms throughout the campus where employees can play everything from Fifa 19 on an Xbox One to table tennis.

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Written by Brady Drake

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