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Four Hungarian companies with hearts

Now that the economy is revving up, companies are increasing benefits to keep their best people from standing up. However, the ones that have the most chance are those that try to be caring all the time.

Daily stretching classes, exercise balls, free cappuccinos, salt lamps, health screenings – no, these are not the services of an all-inclusive spa hotel, but some of the perks that caring companies in Hungary offer their employees. And when we write “some” we actually mean “a few exceptional ones”. For most employees, their employers are found wanting. “All we get is our salary, period,” – said most respondents when asked by the Budapest Business Journal about the perks they receive. While multinationals and the biggest Hungarian companies usually provide comprehensive employment benefit packages, the picture at the level of small businesses is not quite so rosy.

K&H Bank interviewed 700 SME managers at the beginning of last December about benefits planned for 2011. The result of the survey showed that the proportion of SMEs providing such benefits grew to 63% this year, from 54% one year earlier. The most popular benefits are food vouchers, transportation contributions, holiday vouchers and pay bonuses.

Check your teeth

A potential, but not yet widespread benefit is a program of dental checkups for employees. VitalPoint Dental Center is providing a unique on-site mobile dental checkup program for companies. The program builds employee awareness regarding dental health and helps them evaluate possible aesthetic improvements. The HUF 2,000–3,000 per person cost of the ten-minute consultation is covered either by the company or by the employees, who also receive a discount voucher for a more detailed, clinic-based consultation and scaling and polishing. Companies that have already used this service include PwC, Music Television, Raiffeisen Bank, Nestlé and Carnation.

Caring organizations are those whose priority is to develop loyalty among employees, customers and shareholders. In today’s profit-centered world, caring companies may do much better in the long run than firms with only short-term profits in mind. Some of the benefits the BBJ encountered are highly creative, showing that companies do not necessarily have to spend a lot to make their employees happy.

Videoton – corporate tournaments

“We organize corporate tournaments in soccer, ping-pong and squash every year to promote employee health and wellness,” Ottó Sinkó, co-CEO of industrial group Videoton told the BBJ. Videoton is the 50% owner of a sports hall, where employees can also practice these sports around the year.

Videoton provides complete health screening to several hundred employees per year. The program has already saved several lives, Sinkó stressed. In addition, the company has its own clinic with specialists in several fields. Videoton has altogether 8,000 employees.

Family benefits include day care, summer camps and family vacations. Videoton, which is headquartered in Székesfehérvár, supports a local kindergarten that was built by the company. “We also organize summer camps for our employees’ kids and provide accommodation for the whole family in holiday homes at Lake Balaton during the summer,” Sinkó said. Both options are very popular, he added.

Videoton gives out theater tickets to approximately 3,000–5,000 employees per year and also offers tickets to various sport events.

These benefits are financed partly by Videoton and partly by a foundation that was set up with HUF 200 million capital 15 years ago, Sinkó said. The foundation, which receives contributions of HUF 30–50 million per year, originally aimed to provide social and cultural support to both Videoton employees and retirees. Now, it also supports certain local and national issues.

Egis – healthy lifestyle

Pharmaceutical firm Egis has a comprehensive employee benefit plan, with HUF 1.5 billion a year spent on the recreation and healthy lifestyle of its employees, the company informed the BBJ. The firm launched a cafeteria plan on January 1, 2011. The benefits employees can choose from include food vouchers, payments into voluntary pension funds and health funds as well as vacation vouchers, internet vouchers, local transportation benefits and housing subsidies.

Employees receive a 13th month pay and can apply for interest-free home loans, as well as financial aid when their kids start school, said Egis. The company has six holiday resorts, sports clubs and a fishing club. The 75-year-old Egis Sports Club offers several sports activities, from basketball through sailing to tennis.

Egis organizes a family day and a sports day every year and, of course, a corporate Santa Claus visits employees’ kids every December. The company provides day care and kindergarten for a maximum of 150 kids, with flexible opening hours in line with employees’ work shifts. Egis also organizes arts and crafts, sports and fishing camps for kids every summer.

Benefits include health screenings, and employees were also offered free shots at the time of the H1N1 epidemic. The company joined a health awareness campaign called “Egészséghíd PartnerLánc” in 2010, aimed at emphasizing the importance of a healthy lifestyle and regular health screenings.

The Ten Characteristics of a Caring Company

1.Sustains a work environment founded on dignity and respect for all employees.

2.Makes employees feel their jobs are important.

3.Cultivates the full potential of all employees.

4.Encourages individual pursuit of work-life balance.

5.Enables the well-being of individuals and their families through compensation, benefits, policies and practices.

6.Develops great leaders, at all levels, who excel at managing people as well as results.

7.Appreciates and recognizes the contributions of people who work there.

8.Establishes and communicates standards for ethical behavior and integrity.

9.Gets involved in community endeavors and/or public policy.

10.Considers the human toll when making business decisions.

Source: Center for Companies That Care


HLB Klient – daily stretching

“Our fifteen-minute daily stretching class at 10:45 enjoys quite a high attendance,” said Zoltán Lambert, managing partner of accounting firm HLB Klient. The class is held on the terrace on warmer days and in one of the meeting rooms when it is cold outside. The company also rents a gym for two hours every week to play soccer or basketball.

Klient offers a “wellness reimbursement” of a few thousand forints to employees for buying a personal care equipment of their choice, ranging from foot massagers through exercise ball chairs to salt lamps. Annual health screenings conducted by private health care provider Medicover cost about HUF 400,000 per year.

The company also moved into a new, bigger and brighter office two years ago. “We think that natural light is very important for the well-being of our colleagues,” Lambert noted.

Klient carried out an employee satisfaction survey with the assistance of a consulting company last spring. “I think that employees need to know that they have a voice regardless of their position in the organization,” Lambert said. The evaluation of the effects of the survey is still underway.

Google – foosball table

Google, which is ranked fourth on Fortune magazine’s list of the 100 best companies to work for in 2011, is famous for its perks, including free food, online fitness centers and relax rooms. Although the company cut some of the frills such as afternoon tea and annual ski trips in the wake of the global crisis, it still receives more that one million applications a year. The firm’s Budapest office is currently quite small with only six employees, but it is expanding with job openings in the fields of sales, legal and public policy.

The perks in Hungary are certainly not as impressive as at the company’s headquarters. While there is no on-site fitness center with a personal trainer, Google provides commercial gym subsidies for its remote offices, including the Budapest office. Employees can play on a foosball table and the company has also recently purchased a massage chair. Hungarian Googlers receive a supplement for getting to work in Budapest. Family benefits include a return-to-work program and paid paternity leave.

“We care not only for our employees, but for society at large,” PR manager Krisztina Radosavljevic-Szilágyi told the BBJ. The company has invited students to “Doodle 4 Google,” a competition to design Google’s homepage logo around the theme of “What Hungary means to you.” Google will give HUF 1,000 after every submission to the Bátor Tábor Foundation, which offers complex therapeutic recreation programs for children with serious illnesses, as well as a HUF 1 million tech grant to the winner's school.

Google also aims to assist local small businesses in establishing an online presence, with free trials and a host of education materials with its recently launched project called “Neten a cégem.”