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Perking Up

Employee perks take on a whole new meaning in 2006.

Remember those late-'90s days of excess and abundance when employees were offered everything from company cars to concierge services? Perks are making a comeback, but there are a few important differences this time around. Today, the focus is on perks that make employees' lives easier and give them more time to work-like on-site carwash services--and employees are expected to pay for such services. "There will be more of a partnership around perks," says Sharon A. Winston, senior vice president and managing director at Lee Hecht Harrison, an HR consultancy with a location in San Jose, California.

In addition to perks designed to make employees more productive, another trend is perks that help create work-life balance. Entrepreneurs should keep in mind changing demographic needs, says Winston--such as baby boomers dealing with elder--care issues--and offer workplace benefits that can help, like flextime or telecommuting.

Today's employees also seek perks that can help their long-term careers. "Give [employees] opportunities to develop their skills--everyone wants to feel as if they're moving forward," says Beverly Smallwood of Magnetic Workplaces, a Hattiesburg, Mississippi, leadership and team-building coaching firm.

Perks create an attractive workplace, but a collaborative atmosphere is key. Says Lawler Kang, workplace expert and author of Passion At Work, "Let's say you have $1,000 to spend on employees. Ask them how they'd like to see it spent." The end goal is to make employees feel valued and appreciated--and to keep them around. Click here for more information on employee retention.

This story appears in the April 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »