How do companies attract and keep hold of their best and brightest talent? In light of the recent announcement that in Silicon Valley Apple and Facebook announced that they would be paying for female employees’ egg-freezing procedures, I wanted to see what companies in the UK are offering employees and what they hope to achieve.

Firstly lets remind ourselves of exactly what Apple and Facebook are offering and why this is so ground breaking. They are both offering coverage of egg freezing of up to $20,000 for the procedure for non medical reasons – usually adding up to $10,000 per round plus a $500 to $800 annual storage fee.  The companies hope to improve attraction and retention of top female employees, a problem in the male dominated Silicon Valley IT industry. One fertility expert even stated that ‘covering egg freezing can be viewed as “payback” for women’s commitment.’

However this appears to be the latest tip of the iceberg in what has been described as the Silicon Valley “perk arms race” – a new take on the more common slogan ‘war for talent’. Both companies are known for offering generous family and wellness-oriented health benefits already, such as Facebook giving new parents $4,000 in “baby cash” to use however they want.

The latest research on employee engagement and attraction picks out Gen Z & Millennials, as well as Gen Y to some extent, as wanting a more flexible salary and benefits package than previous generations. Companies need to, and are, adapting. This is especially true due to the rapid expansion of technology over the last decade and a half.
What ‘extreme’ benefits or perks are offered in the UK where there is also a need to attract and retain top talent.  Here are some of the most ‘out there’ perks around:

  1. Dreams can come true: Search engine marketing specialist Propellernet offers to make a dream come true. Each employee writes down their ultimate dream on a ball and places it in a sweet dispenser. When Propellernet hits its target the machine is given a spin, a ball is released and a dream comes true!
  2. Hit the Beach: Energy recruitment firm Spencer Ogden sends employees who hit their targets three months in a row to their Ibiza office (beach front location) to soak up the sun
  3. Time for a climb: Internet hosting company Peer 1 Hosting has set-up in their office a giant helter-skelter slide, a cinema, a treehouse, a putting green and even an in-house pub
  4. Puppy Power: The luxury online furniture retailer allows employees to bring their dogs to work saving on pet care costs and increasing employee happiness
  5. Gaga over Gaga: Staff in the London office of music streaming service Spotify get treated to free gigs at lunch time from the likes of Lily Allen, Lady Gaga and Muse
  6. Cordon Bleu: London-based technology company Football Radar has its own in-house chef on call to keep employees well fed 
  7. Retail Therapy: Games firm Neon Play gives new joiners £100 to spend on anything that they feel would improve their work space. Previous purchases have included everything from ping pong tables to second-hand paintings

Even Google offers its London workers unlimited gourmet food, nap rooms, free massages, and even a music-jamming room.

Apart from invoking envy in the rest of us, notice the digital link to nearly every firm – Spencer Ogden being the exception here. As Josh Bersin wrote: “[Millennials] don’t want a career; they want an experience.” This new culture of engagement, largely driven by new tech companies, has set a new standard for workplace environments.

This new way of working that technology firms are pioneering is forcing companies to think more creatively about how they attract and retain their talent. So whilst egg freezing is the latest perk and does offer something genuinely different, the true test will be measured in the results to the following questions: Where does the talent end up? What engages top employees? Has productivity increased and can this be linked to benefits?