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Benefits of creativity

With the competition for quality workers growing fierce, area companies become more creative in structuring their benefits packages.

(page 3 of 4)

Winner: Medium Company

Roche NimbleGen: Multitasking benefits

The workforce at Roche NimbleGen enjoys a generous family leave policy in which they receive one month paid leave, pre-delivery, for mothers and six weeks of paid leave for fathers and domestic partners. Next year, if mothers give birth before that month is up, they can add unused pre-deivery time to the leave they get post-delivery.

Employees at Roche NimbleGen are expected to multitask, but the fringe benefit rewards make it worth their while. Nobody knows that better than Michelle Venturini, who doubles as director of human resources and site SHE (safety, health, and environmental) officer.

There is talk of government mandating paid maternity and perhaps paternity leave, but Roche NimbleGen, which develops gene-sequencing tools, is among the companies that is out in front of Uncle Sam. The company’s family leave policy includes one month of paid leave, pre-delivery, for mothers and six weeks of paid leave for fathers and domestic partners. According to Venturini, it had nothing to do with the makeup of the workforce — i.e. young couples looking to raise a family — it was to recognize the importance of family “in that first year after a child is born.”

Next year, the benefit will be enriched. “When it was rolled out, it was one month paid leave, and if you delivered the baby early, you just lost whatever time in that one month you didn’t get to use,” Venturini notes. “It’s changing so that if you take off the month before and you deliver two weeks early, you can add those two [unused] weeks post-delivery.

“The employee interest is especially with the partners. They appreciate having the flexibility to take the time.”

One would think 401(k) plans, established long ago, no longer lend themselves to creativity, but Roche NimbleGen has given them a new twist. Every year in March, the company deposits 6% of an employee’s Dec. 31 salary in a 401(k) account, whether or not an employee participates in the 401(k) program. For employees who haven’t established an account, the money becomes their 401(k), and they can invest the funds as they wish. Does it provide an incentive for people to establish a retirement account? “It makes them think about it, sure,” Venturini says.

Employees are expected to put a lot of thought into workplace culture, especially as they get opportunities to hone their leadership skills by leading teams in areas outside of their expertise, and as they address the findings of Roche’s global employee opinion surveys. Those surveys have led to things like eight hours of paid time off for community service and greater investment in ergonomically friendly office furniture.

Says NimbleGen President and CEO Rebecca Selzer: “We’re really putting that in the employees’ hands, and they appreciate it and feel a sense of ownership for the company, for their job, and for the culture here.”

(Continued)

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