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Apple Unveils New Perks to Attract Talent The iPhone maker rolls out expanded benefits to retain and attract top-notch employees.

By Michal Lev-Ram

entrepreneur daily

This story originally appeared on Fortune Magazine

Apple employees are getting a few new perks (and no, it's not free iPhone 6's).

On Thursday morning the company's head of HR, Denise Young Smith, sent an employee-wide memo outlining a handful of new and updated benefits, including longer parental leave, education reimbursements for all classes taken by employees, an expanded donation-matching program, subsidized student loan refinancing and full acceleration of stock in the event of an employee's death.

"I don't think these [benefits] would be immediately thought of," Young Smith told Fortune. "But for the first time we've probably got four generations in the workplace at the same time, and we need a plethora of programs."

Young Smith, who was recently profiled in Fortune's Most Powerful Women issue, took over the top HR job in February. She has since made diversity and inclusion at the iPhone maker a top priority. In an effort to attract and retain talent, she's also canvassed Apple's 98,000 employees to find out what kind of benefits they care about most.

A large portion of Apple's workforce–two thirds, to be exact–is comprised of hourly employees, and many of them work in the company's worldwide retail stores. But Young Smith says she has made it a goal to roll out new benefits to the broader employee base, both hourly and salaried, across as many geographic locations as possible.

The company's new donation-matching program, for example, will be rolled out to all employees across the countries in which Apple operates. Since 2011, when the company launched its initial philanthropy program, it has matched an impressive $25 million in employee contributions. Now, Apple plans to match employees for their time spent on philanthropic endeavors, not just money. To that end, the company will match up to $25 per hour of non-profit work for a total cap of $10,000 per employee.

Apple also addressed its parental leave policy. U.S. employees will now have a few more weeks of paid parental leave: Young Smith says expectant mothers can take up to four weeks before a delivery and upwards of 14 weeks after and expectant fathers (and other non-birth parents) can take six-week parental leaves. While the new policy is far from revolutionary, it shows that Apple gets that it needs to compete to recruit and retain talent. Most other large Silicon Valley firms have fairly similar rules for parental leave–though some, like payments company Square, offer more time off to both birth and non-birth parents. (And ultimately, the U.S. pales in comparison to most other countries, which have mandated maternity leave; Apple already abides by local rules in other countries.)

Another way Young Smith is trying to woo employees is with Apple's "wellness center," a medical one-stop-shop located in a striking new building at Apple's Cupertino, Calif.-based headquarters. The head of HR says 43,000 employees have already visited the center, which opened about a year ago and employs seven doctors plus a large team of chiropractors, physical therapists and dieticians. In true Apple style, simplicity and sleek design reigns at the company's wellness center. Doctors work out of a central "pod" in the middle of the building, surrounded by a circle of examination rooms, which they enter through a different door than their patients. Inside, the paperless, minimalistic exam rooms hold a small table with an iPad and Mac (what else?). There is a coat closet for employees to hang their belonging–as an added bonus, each closet comes equipped with an iPhone charger. No specimens or bulky equipment are to be seen, and the average wait time for an appointment is no more than five minutes (in fact, the "wait" room is actually just called "reception".)

"It's the experience that sets it apart," says Young Smith, who plans to roll out similar wellness centers in places like Sacramento and Shanghai, wherever Apple has significant pockets of employees.

Under CEO Tim Cook, to whom Young Smith reports, it's clear that Apple's approach to human resources is changing. "One of the reasons I am very appreciative of his leadership is that he's got such a profound care and understanding and empathy of the employee and the employee experience," Young Smith said in an earlier interview with Fortune. "How does that change HR? It makes it preeminent. Our people are the essence and we can't really do anything without making sure we have a culture and environment that is constantly thinking about our people. That's one of the things that Tim [Cook] brought to this."

Young Smith and her staff are on a mission to explore additional benefits–and how to implement more employee experience changes. The longtime Apple exec, who previously headed HR for Apple's retail division, says that more comprehensive commute coverage or commute alternatives is high on her list. She is also toying with the idea of bringing back some sort of sabbatical program, though she prefers the term "renewal." After the late Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1996, he got rid of the company's sabbatical plan, which let long-time employees take several months off of work every few years. Now, Young Smith says she'd like to find a way to bring back some form of lengthier vacation for certain employees.

"As a creative company, we would be remiss not to look into it." she says. (Meanwhile, in order to congratulate his employee base on the successful iPhone 6 launch, CEO Cook recently announced that workers–at least not the ones in retail–will be getting a whole week off right before Thanksgiving.

The new benefits are indicative of a larger trend at Apple–to focus more on people, not just products.

"We've led with products for a long time and we always will," says Young Smith, who admits Apple still struggles with beating its human resources portal's clunkiness. "But we're at a point where people are really important and experience is really important and how people experience our products is really important."

Michal Lev-Ram is a Senior Writer at Fortune.

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