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Which Benefits REALLY Define The Best Places to Work?

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You can’t refresh your LinkedIn feed without seeing yet another listicle claiming to be the final and definitive list of the best places to work. Whether they’re breaking it down by country or on a global scale, it seems every media outlet wants to give you 10, 15, 25, or 100 of the best places to work, ranked for your convenience.

At best, it’s an oversimplification; at worst, a popularity contest. The question is not how these websites determine why the fourth-best company is superior to the fifth, but which corporate benefits that fourth and fifth-best company has in place to keep employees so satisfied. Is it paid leave? Full health insurance coverage? The ability to work from home? Drinks in the office every Friday?

Through an analysis of power rankings like Forbes’ 100 Best Places to Work and The Sunday Times’ Best 100 Companies, among others, we have compiled our own list of the benefits trends most likely to keep today’s highly skilled talent healthy, happy, and – most importantly – loyal to their firm.

1. Generous Health Coverage

From the beginning and probably until the end of time, workers will value this perk more than any other. With health care costs as unpredictable as ever, to be able to rely on your employer to pay at least a portion of your premiums and copays is invaluable. However, almost none of the top-rated companies offer full coverage. Instead, like Google, the companies pay a strong percentage of the premiums and fill the rest in with things like spousal coverage, free medical screenings and exams.

2. Vacation & Paid Time Off

Let’s face it: Employees love a workplace that empowers them to get out of the office to rest and renew their energy reserves. The best companies offer generous vacation packages – typically between 13 and 15 days for newer employees and scaling up as time goes on. That’s in addition to paid time off, including allotment for parental leave, which has lately become a hotly debated issue in the U.S. Interestingly, very few of the top companies prioritize a telecommuting or work-from-home option, meaning that while employees like getting away for a week or two, these companies have created a culture that employees won’t want to miss out on for too long.

3. Retirement Options

Whether it’s a 401(k), Roth 401(k), 403(b) or a traditional or government pension plan, employers who offer some sort of comprehensive retirement package fare better than those who don’t. In polls of workers, the availability of a retirement plan – even if they aren’t paying into it – is still indicative of a company’s desire to retain employees for the long term.

4. Unique Employee Perks

Many of the top-ranked companies were innovative when it comes to the unique ways it rewards its employees. Salesforce (No. 23 on Fortune’s list) offers paid time off for volunteer work and gives employees $1,000 to contribute to a charity of their choice, while REI spurs employees to get outside and enjoy themselves with two paid “You Days” every year.

5. Annual & Performance Bonuses

A bonus is more than just a paycheck at the end of the year. When it is calculated based on an employee’s performance, it is an indication to that employee that they are being valued as an individual contributor to the company’s culture and its bottom line. Of course, that financial boost at the holidays never hurts!

6. Internal Events

A surprising number of the companies ranked near the top of the lists we consulted offered some sort of regular company event, whether it be Friday happy hours or team-building outings. Compared to health insurance or vacation, these events are cost-effective. They can also bring feelings of enjoyment and positivity to the workplace, which are proven to increase productivity and reduce stress.

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