Which careers offer the best perks?

Salesforce employees
Source: Salesforce
Salesforce employees

Want a career with benefits? The finance and tech industries have the best employee benefits on average, a new study from review site Glassdoor found. The retail and food services sectors offer the worst benefits on average, the study revealed.

Despite the rise in "sharing economy" jobs — which often do not offer benefits — nearly 60 percent of job seekers rank benefits and perks among top considerations before accepting a job, according to an earlier study by Glassdoor, which conducts research on job-market trends.

For the study, Glassdoor looked at a sample of almost half a million benefits reviews posted by employees on its site over a 15-month period (June 2014 to September 2015). Reviewers rated benefits on a 1 to 5 star scale, with 5 stars representing high satisfaction.

Researchers focused on eight industries: business services, education, finance, health care, information technology, retail, manufacturing and restaurants and food services. The firm looked at overall benefits ratings, and broke out three categories: parental leave, 401(k) plans and free lunch and snacks.

Overall, the finance, IT and manufacturing sectors earned the best ratings with 3.72, 3.68 and 3.64 stars, respectively. When companies are competing for workers or strong unions are involved, benefits get a boost, said Glassdoor chief economist Andrew Chamberlain. At the other end, the retail and food services sectors offered the poorest benefits packages. They garnered 3.11 and 2.73 stars, respectively.

"Even when benefits are offered in those industries, they are low quality — a double whammy for workers in restaurants and retail," said Chamberlain.

"Workers who have the most access to benefits and the best benefits are always those with the best bargaining power," he said. "Software engineers or certain quantitative people in finance, for example."

One example is cloud company Salesforce, which was named the top company employees want to work at by job listings site Indeed. It offers all the usual health and financial benefits and takes it one step further by throwing in wellness benefits. The goal is to boost employee engagement — meaning involvement, enthusiasm and commitment — and to fend off competitors looking to woo top talent, said Jody Kohner, vice president of employee engagement at Salesforce.

Across all industries, employee engagement has hit crisis levels, according to a Gallup report published in January. Just 32 percent of U.S. employees are engaged. Worldwide, the figure drops to 13 percent.

Salesforce offers its employees paid volunteer time off. These employees spent time volunteering at a soup kitchen.
Source: Salesforce
Salesforce offers its employees paid volunteer time off. These employees spent time volunteering at a soup kitchen.

Salesforce's wellness perks aim to solve that problem. They include seven paid annual volunteering days, $100 a month to spend on wellness services — such as a gym membership, massage, or consultation with a nutritionist — in-office meditation sessions led by monks and mindfulness rooms on every floor.

"The hunger for this from our employees was unbelievable," said Kohner.

Fierce competition for highly skilled talent in the tech and finance industries means companies must pay attention to what employees want. For example, Netflix offers parental leave for the first year following a child's birth or adoption, Airbnb gives employees $2,000 a year for personal travel and Zillow covers the cost shipping breast milk for employees who are traveling, according to Glassdoor.

"The people who work here [at Salesforce] are going to get called by recruiters all day long and we need to give our employees a reason to not take that call," said Kohner. "Culture becomes the deal breaker, because everybody is going to come at you with a very handsome offer, from a financial perspective."

Drilling into the numbers for three specific types of benefits — family leave, 401(k) benefits and free food — here are the best and worst sectors for benefits.

Parental leave: finance, IT, education

If family is important, finance, tech and education are the most generous industries when it comes to family leave benefits. Finance really stands out — the sector notched a 3.77-star rating. IT and education garnered 3.71 and 3.60 stars, respectively. The lowest-rated for parental leave were in retail (3.41) and health care (3.36.)

"It's ironic that the health industry — which is full of medical professionals — is behind the curve in terms of maternity and paternity leave," he said.

Saving for retirement: finance, education, manufacturing

When it comes to saving for retirement, when companies do offer 401(k) plans, there was less variation in the way employees rated those benefits than others, the report found. Finance topped the list, at 3.83 stars. It makes sense that finance would lead when it comes to financial benefits, said Chamberlain.

"Those people tend to care more about that, just because of their training, and I think that companies tend to respond by offering great plans," he said.

Education and manufacturing also offer strong 401(k) packages, notching up 3.77 and 3.76 ratings, respectively. This is one area in which the IT sector does not shine, with a rating of 3.36. The tech industry's workforce skews younger, and companies are catering benefits packages to address employee priorities, said Chamberlain.

"Free meals and video games might catch the eye of a 25-year-old programmer more than a 401(k) match," said Chamberlain.

Saving for retirement is particularly tough for those in food services, business services and retail, which had respective ratings of 3.28, 3.31 and 3.34.

For job seekers in those industries, do your research and beef up on skills and training, said Chamberlain. Bigger companies, such as Trader Joe's and Costco, tend to offer better benefits than smaller companies, he said.

"Knowing where to look can make the difference," he said.

Eating at the office: tech, business services, manufacturing

If free food is your thing, head to techland. Tech's legendary food and snacks benefits earned the sector the top spot in this category with 4.06 stars out of five. Two other sectors also offer great lunches and snacks: business services, rated 3.94, and manufacturing, which earned a respectable 3.9 rating. One bright spot for those in restaurants and food services was the food and snacks, which employees rated 3.80.

"It is a silver lining for people in food service," said Chamberlain.

Those in finance, for once, did not come out on top when it comes to free food and snacks. They were on a par with other less-well paid businesses, such as health care, with a 3.76 rating. Teachers and store clerks are out of luck when it comes to free food — those two sectors garnered the lowest ratings at 3.22 and 3.34.

For people in industries that generally offer poor benefits overall, there are some things you can do to get ahead, said Chamberlain. Make yourself as competitive as possible by acquiring skills and training and consider moving to a city with a competitive job market, he said.

Places with the lowest unemployment levels generally offer more opportunity to negotiate on salary, wages and benefits. Chamberlain cited Silicon Valley, Seattle, Denver and Boulder, Colorado, in the West, and Raleigh, North Carolina, in the East as examples.