Distrust of the banking sector notwithstanding, many U.S. employees agree that companies within the finance and technology industries offers the best perks and benefits.

That's according to a new study from Glassdoor called "Best Industries for Benefits." Finance and technology sectors both received an average overall rating of 3.72 and 3.68 out of 5, respectively. Meanwhile, the retail and food services industries ranked especially low for worker benefits. What's more, fewer companies in those industries typically offer them to begin with.

To conduct the study, Glassdoor surveyed more than 470,000 benefit reviews on its platform across eight industries.

Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor's chief economist, notes that at the end of the day, salary isn't the most important factor. "Employers should invest in the quality of their benefits programs to attract and retain talent in this tough hiring landscape," he said. "Attractive benefits and perks are an important hiring tool, and we know they are one of the top factors job seekers consider before applying."

To Chamberlain's point, a previous study (also from Glassdoor) had found that every three out of five job seekers see benefits and perks as a top consideration before applying for a position.

As many tech startups continue to offer traditionally valued benefits, such as generous maternity or paternity leave and a solid 401(k) plan, some are taking it a step further with gym memberships, nap pods or free snacks. At IEX, an alternative trading startup, employees are invited to participate in Trivia Night and "Battle of the Bites," a company-wide cook off.  

Others are even offering  student loan re-financing. PricewaterhouseCoopers, Natixis Global Asset Management and CommonBond are among the first companies to introduce repayment on existing student debt as a benefit. Gradifi, a startup based in Boston, Mass., helps employers implement the perk by verifying the debt and managing the exchange of funds between a lender and the employer. The company says it should have more than 100,000 employees enrolled on the platform by the end of 2016, placing revenues at an estimated $6 million.

Still, it's worth considering that student loan repayment -- unlike a 401(k) plan -- comes as taxable income, so workers could end up paying far more than they realize. (About 20 percent of Gradifi's clients, according to founder Tim DeMello, are offering to shoulder the tax bill for their workers.)

Re-financing student loan debt has, in turn, become a powerful recruiting tool for CommonBond, which is mostly made up of Millennial employees. Yet as many private companies are feeling the pressure to cut costs and reach profitability, flashy benefits could be the first thing to go. Earlier this year, Dropbox -- the cloud storage service last valued at $10 billion -- said in an email that it was canceling its free shuttle to San Francisco and its gym washing service, as Business Insider reported. Benefits collectively amounted to nearly $40 million in annual expenses for the company.

Today, as "down rounds," in which companies raise money at lower valuations than in previous rounds, have now outpaced the number of VC-backed, billion-dollar startups since the first quarter of 2015, according to research from CB Insights, a number of high-flying tech companies have introduced similar cost-cutting measures, including Evernote, Jawbone, Birchbox and Tango.

 

Published on: May 12, 2016