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Perk Up, Buttercup! 5 Incentives for Your Staff

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By Robyn Hagan Cain on April 24, 2013 12:59 PM

What is the best law firm perk of all time?

Plenty of firms provide meals and coffee, but Washington D.C.’s Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner thinks much bigger than caffeine and carbs. It offers tuition reimbursement to cover 100 percent of staffers’ law school tuition, The Washington Post reports.

That's a potentially hefty sum. According to the Post, the firm -- which specializes in intellectual property work -- has 761 employees in the D.C. area along, and 974 nationally.

In order to qualify, employees have to work as "student associates" while in law school. It sounds like a win-win. The firm gets top-tier talent, receives the benefit of the student associates' services, and it bills clients for those services at a lower rate. The students, meanwhile, get tuition and experience.

(The firm also offers non-attorney staffers a chance at free education based on how they perform in classes. "To receive full reimbursement, the employee must get an A in the class. A B is eligible for 80 percent reimbursement and a C is eligible for 60 percent," the Post reports.)

For a small firm, paying off staffer-turned-attorney loans may not be feasible, but even small perks can make for a happier office. Consider adding one (or more) of these five incentives to perk up your employees' day.

  1. More paid time off. Instead of only letting your staff accrue vacation, consider incorporating automatic "floating holidays" into the vacation bank. Or, implement unlimited paid vacation and let staffers take as much -- or as little -- time as they need, as long they are completing their work.
  2. Backup child/elder care. Sometimes an employee's regular child or adult/elder caregiver has to cancel. That means stress and missing work. Reliable backup care plans provide alternative child care and home-based child and adult/elder care on an "emergency" basis. That doesn't mean that you'll be paying for an associate's nanny; simply that your associate can use the back-up care service for a day or two if the regular nanny calls in sick.
  3. Meals. Instead of leaving your staff to a freezer full of Lean Cuisine, periodically offer in-office meals. Just be sure to figure out whether those meals are for your convenience or a fringe benefit, and adjust your tax reporting accordingly.
  4. Commuter benefits. Commuter benefits providers identify tax incentives that reduce employee commuting expenses and save payroll taxes for employers, according to Commuter Check (a company that provides commuter benefit services). Everyone could use a break on gas/parking/transit bills, right?
  5. Field trips. Don't underestimate the value of team bonding time. Schedule a firm outing for a concert or a sporting event.

Tuition reimbursement may guarantee loyalty by attaching contractual strings to a firm's purse strings, but it's not the only way to make employees feel appreciated. Even small perks like meals and services let your staff know that you value their work.

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