New Zealand businesses are offering more perks and incentives to attract and retain their workforce in a tight job market.

From public transport subsidies to extra parental leave and staff discounts, employers say it is essential that they offer the right incentives to get the right staff.

Bupa recently increased its workers’ paid parental leave by 12 weeks for primary carers and two weeks for secondary carers. It will also provide 20 days paid domestic violence leave.

Bupa people director Kate Dee says the extra leave was provided on the request of the company’s 4000 employees, who staff 48 care homes, six rehab sites and 33 retirement villages across New Zealand.

“Our people told us parental leave is important to them,” Dee says.

“There are many opportunities and benefits [potential employees] take into consideration. The more you can offer, the best chance you have in attracting quality applicants.”

More parental leave also increases employee retention rates and reduces training and recruitment costs – and a happier, supported workforce results in “longer, healthier, happier lives for our residents”, Dee says.

For Merivale Care Home caregiver Bianca Archibald, the extra paid leave will be a big help.

Archibald is pregnant with her first child and is due in early April.

“Pregnancy is a stressful time with lots going on, so it’s nice not to have to worry about the extra support. Just to know that it’s going to be okay and sorted is great and a real bonus,” Archibald said.

The country’s 55,000 care and support workers won a $2 billion pay equity settlement that gave pay rises of between 15 and 50 per cent – about $100 a week – in July 2017. The minimum wage is also set to increase by $1.20 to $17.70 in April – the largest increase in the adult minimum wage in New Zealand history in dollar terms.

Despite the bigger wage bill for a company such as Bupa, Dee says it is important to continue investing in staff to attract and retain them.

“People have more choices these days on who they want to work for. It’s a competitive market and these types of benefits are what people are looking for.”

Vodafone says it’s not enough to simply say “good onya” to workers.

Among the perks the communications giant offers are a free smartphone and plan, which its permanent employees receive on their first day. Whanau are also offered discounts on mobile and broadband plans.

It also offers annual flu shots, free Southern Cross health insurance, a 24/7 counselling service, and permanent workers of more than 15 hours a week also get life and disability cover.

Vodafone’s head of HR centres of expertise, Katie Williams, says a combination of the right technology and a focus on outputs rather than time spent means flexible working practices work well.

“Most of our staff have the option to work in any location including our various offices in New Zealand, their homes or other locations such as a cafe or a library. We also give our staff the option to work overseas,” Williams says.

Staff can also work flexibly on an ad hoc basis so they can, for example, go to a school function or those returning from maternity leave can ease back into work by working fewer hours but still getting paid for 40.

They also get a top up of the Government’s paid parental leave so they keep receiving their full salaries.

“We also offer two weeks of paid paternity/partner’s leave to employees supporting their partner in those first weeks,” Williams says.

“Another thing we’re really proud of is Volunteer Leave. Employees [get] paid volunteer leave to take some time for a charity of their choice for up to two weeks and still get paid.”

Every employee also gets a “Your Day” to do whatever they like.

On-the-job e-learning and industry training also contributes to NZQA-accredited qualifications.

Employees also get discounts from more than 70 retailers across New Zealand.

Strategic Pay’s Craig Cameron says incentives come in many shapes and sizes, yet all aim to improve worker performance and achievement. And it can be tricky to decide which type of incentive is right.

“In certain businesses such as not-for-profits or the public sector, bonus schemes can be very rare. This may be because the culture of what these enterprises do doesn’t match up with the idea of incentives. For businesses in the private sector, incentives have long been considered a fantastic option. Yet, businesses can still run into problems if incentives aren’t structured the right way nor targeting the right areas.”
He says a good incentive plan will depend on what the company is trying to achieve: for sales roles, where the focus is on targets and goals, a commission structure may be effective.

Incentives have to be measurable and not discretionary, or they can be meaningless.

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