Does your company's benefits package include tuition reimbursement, weekly cocktail parties, scuba-diving lessons, ski weekends, white-water rafting trips, and biweekly breakfast omelet meetings -- as did the package of one company we recently talked to? If so, you might be heading for trouble.
The tendency among small growth companies to embellish their fringe benefits is typical, and often dangerous, says John Parkington, director of employee-benefits research at Opinion Research Corp., in Princeton, N.J. "Benefits have become the new frontier to compete for and retain good people," he notes. "Some companies go overboard with their good intentions, conjuring up what they think people want, rather than systematically linking what people need to what the company is prepared to spend." Parkington recommends that companies ask employees to fill out questionnaires on their benefits needs: "You'd be surprised at what's important to people -- and what things people would be willing to live without."