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People may queue up for the foosball table or office slide at the beginning, but eventually “cool” perks lose their appeal. Smart business owners don’t just copy the latest engagement trend—they offer incentives that staff actually value.

We asked five entrepreneurs who run PROFIT 500-ranked companies to name the perks that their employees love.

1. Loosen the reigns

At critical points in a project, we do expect our employees to be answering emails at all hours to be responsive to clients in need. In exchange, we realize we have to allow our employees the autonomy to do their jobs their way. So over the past year, we have restructured to give employees the flexibility to work where, when and how they want in order to get the job done.

—M. Sue Bennett, principal & CEO, Bennett Design Associates (No. 115)

2. Support career growth

We offer individualized training based on the goals of each team member. We aim to grow people’s skills so they are more marketable to any company—not just our own. Although it sounds backward, it has generally brought loyalty. And it has been a big draw.

—Nick Karadza, co-founder, Rock Star Real Estate (No. 194)

3. Build camaraderie

We invest in team-building initiatives so that teams across all departments can work with one another and learn about what other people are doing. This establishes trust and respect. We also use these opportunities to understand whether people have the desire and potential to advance into different groups.

—Sarah Asterbadi, CEO, ClubRunner (No. 444)

4. Rethink productivity

We use Kolbe Indexes, which assess how people naturally do things rather than evaluating their personality or knowledge. It helps our staff understand how they, and the people they interact with daily, work and approach tasks. It improves staff relationships, increases morale and allows us to modify tasks so that people are not working against their instincts.

—Rachel Mielke, CEO, Hillberg & Berk Accessories (No. 102)

5. Enable work-life balance

In 2013 we introduced paid, unlimited vacation in our workplace, and this has been a very successful demonstration of trust. We all work hard while we are here, but there is a lot of emphasis placed on life outside work as well. Family, and personal health and happiness always comes first.

—Bryan Arthur, CEO & Managing Partner, BluEra (No. 407)

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