On-the-Job Perks Are Still Out There

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The job market continues to be tough, but there are pockets of areas where employers are getting creative with perks to keep their best employees and attract new ones.

With job openings predicted to outstrip available workers by as much as 10 million in seven years, some employers are laying on the perks now to bolster their reputations as top-notch employers later.

Everything from pet medical benefits to napping rooms to office concierge services, companies are getting creative in their attempts to woo employees and to make their lives a little bit easier along the way.

The health care industry, which is grappling with massive nurse and lab technician shortages, is showing some particular creativity. At Indiana Heart Hospital in Indianapolis, employees can call on their own concierge to help them get a work-day oil change, buy tickets to a show, do Internet research on a topic of personal interest or pick up their dry-cleaning.

"These are things you'd research in your office," said Emily David, director of guest relations who oversees the hospital's concierge program. "We're saying, 'let us do the research for you so you can focus on your job.'"

That means, "you don't have to go on your Saturday to get your oil changed," said David. "It's like belonging to a neat club."

Indeed at a time when many employers are cutting health insurance benefits for their employees, others are providing coverage for their employees' pets. Others are offering stipends to offset the cost of adopting a child. Still others provide a quiet place where their employees can take a short nap during the day. Bank One is offering a more practical perk—contributions to 401(k) accounts and stock grants.

In some cases, employers are offering creative and offbeat benefits because "they have no choice if they want to retain valuable workers," said John Challenger, CEO of the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that within seven years, there will be just 158 million workers to fill 168 million available positions. Employees will have the luxury of being more particular when it comes to deciding where they will spend their work hours and perks will matter.

"When we first got the nap room everyone thought it was kind of a joke," said Portland, OR-based R&H Construction Human Resources Director Amy Hill. "But now everyone uses it."

So for those of you looking for a job, a labor shortage is just seven years away...

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