Employees who use computers off the job are more likely to use their computers efficiently at work. At least that was the thinking at Multiplex, in Ballwin, Mo. To encourage computer literacy, the beverage-dispenser manufacturer offered low-cost, interest-free financing for employees' home computers.

The deal cost Multiplex little. When the $28-million company bought equipment for its offices, it added employee orders, passing along the bulk discount to employees. Employees paid 10% down and covered the balance with monthly installments deducted directly from their paychecks. The only cost to Multiplex was the finance charge on the money it fronted employees for the machines.

It was worth it, says chairman J.W. Kisling. Of the company's 65 office employees, more than half made purchases. Kisling says that he's convinced the program not only improved technical skills inside the company but also boosted employee morale.