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1. Employee ‘dream survey’ wins loyalty for casino

Station Casinos in Las Vegas used a 20-question “dream survey” to find out what employees really wanted out of life. Then the 14,000-employee company created some unique benefits around those dreams. Examples: Let employees buy computers through payroll deduction, bring in financial experts to teach people how to save to buy homes, host citizenship classes for foreigners wanting to become citizens. The most popular survey-inspired benefit: The casino negotiated with 100 local businesses to offer discounts to their employees.

2. Gas station employees earn trips at 5-year mark

Employees who hit the five-year mark with Sheetz, the Pennsylvania-based convenience store and gas station chain, earn an all-expenses-paid weekend summer vacation at a local resort. That includes golf, massages, pedicures, wine tasting and more. Every five years after, they earn another. Sheetz spends $1 million on the trips. Last year, 850 of the firm’s 12,000 employees were eligible.

3. Reunion of ex-employees helps recruiting, goodwill

A four-day reunion for past employees of Ohio’s Cedar Point amusement park drew about 1,000 “alums” and their families. The event created goodwill and good word-of-mouth among past employees, who paid a discounted rate of $25 for access to the park, food, photos and a band.

4. Building teamwork by paying workers to bond

Team building is a core value at DAXKO in Birmingham, Ala., where each employee gets $50 per quarter to participate in a group activity with co-workers. Teams have gone white-water rafting, wine tasting or horseback riding. A group of engineers pooled their money to buy an air hockey table. The 65-employee company spends about $13,000 a year on the program, which it considers a retention expense.

“It creates stronger relationships, which contribute to retention so they feel like they have a bond and it makes them want to stick around longer,” says company recruiter Kristi Merritt.

5. Baby showers encourage new moms to return

Ninety percent of new moms who work for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta come back to work after they have their babies. Five years ago that number was just 64%. Why the increase? HR started throwing baby showers for expectant and adoptive moms and dads before their due dates.

Held at a local child care center, each shower includes cake, punch, a maternity fashion show and games with prizes such as car seats, breast pumps and diapers. Each expectant parent gets a backpack with a baby blanket and information about how to transition back to work after the baby is born or adopted. The monthly baby showers cost about $50,000 a year and have attracted about 750 of its 7,300 employees, plus some spouses.

6. On-site English classes build skills, allegiance

Foreign-born workers of Cascade Asset Management in Madison, Wis., have the option to take English as a second language (ESL) classes on site at no cost. A local literacy network evaluates employees and conducts the classes. About 15 of Cascade’s 80 employees enrolled. The two-hour sessions are held before or after work. Each class meets twice a week for 16 weeks and costs the company about $3,500. “It shows employees that we are committed to them as people and not just as employees,” says HR director Jennifer Peters.

7. Goodbye casual Fridays, hello Facebook Fridays

Last year, Serena Software, a 900-employee tech firm in California, began Facebook Fridays. The goal: Encourage staff to spend an hour each week on the popular social networking site—updating their profiles, collaborating with colleagues and clients, and recruiting for the company. The company also set up an employee-only group on Facebook. Workers use it as an alternative corporate intranet to share documents and other information.

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