Qualtrics, a customer and employee experience management company based in Provo, Utah, introduced a new bonus scheme in January that focuses on its own employees’ experiences. The new perk, which replaced the company’s $1,000 Christmas bonus, offers employees $1,500 expressly to fund meaningful experiences for themselves and their families. SHRM’s Kathy Gurchiek takes an extensive look at this “experience bonus” and how Qualtrics employees are using it:
At Qualtrics, a full-time employee who has worked at least one year at any of its 14 offices—regardless of one’s job performance rating or review—may submit a form outlining the experience he or she has planned. Qualtrics deposits the money into the employee’s account for that purpose.
“We’re not going to judge and say ‘you should do this or that.’ … We want you to do what’s meaningful for you, and we want to empower you to do something [special],” said [Mike Maughan, head of global insights at Qualtrics], who used his bonus to visit his parents who had moved to Melbourne, Australia. Unused bonus money does not accumulate, as the company wants to encourage employees to savor life.
Qualtrics employees, 80 percent of whom are millennials, have used their bonuses in a variety of ways: diving with sharks, hiking the Great Wall of China, seeing Hamilton from the third row, or launching a charity to raise money for an orphanage in Kenya. The original idea behind the benefit, Maugham said, was to exemplify the company’s culture of wanting the best for its employees, but it has also paid off as a recruiting and retention tool.
Other employers offer employees travel perks, especially companies in the travel and leisure industries. Although many employees are using it to see the world, Qualtrics’ benefit, which Gurchiek says is unique, applies to a limitless range of experiences. Allowing employees to decide what is most meaningful to them allows the company to effectively personalize this benefit.
Our research on innovative perks at CEB, now Gartner, has found that paid trips and experiences have the strongest relationship with rewards perceptions among the 16 most popular boutique benefits. When organizations offer this type of perk, their employees’ perceptions of their total rewards packages increase by an average of 7.5 percent. (CEB Total Rewards Leadership Council members can see the full results of our study here.)
Overall, our research finds that most organizations believe innovative perks are an essential component of the employee value proposition and an important tool for attracting and retaining talent today. However, these creative perks are no substitute for essential benefits like health insurance, matching retirement plan contributions, or paid leave. Qualtrics offers a competitive benefits package that most employees seem to perceive as generous, according to Glassdoor reviews. If it didn’t take care of its employees’ fundamental needs in this way, the experience bonus would probably not be nearly as attractive.