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Which careers offer the best perks?

CNBC logo CNBC 12/05/2016

© Provided by CNBC 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, an earlier Glassdoor study found.

For the study, Glassdoor looked at a sample of almost half a million benefits reviews posted by employees on its site over a fifteen month period (June 2014 — 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, healthcare, information technology (IT), manufacturing, restaurants and food services and retail.

The firm looked at overall benefits ratings, and broke out three categories: Maternity and paternity 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 chief economist at Glassdoor Andrew Chamberlain.

At the other end of the scale, 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 of this phenomenon is cloud company Salesforce (CRM), 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's wellness perks aim to solve that problem. They include 7 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 (NFLX) 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 (ZG) 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. 

Maternity and paternity leave: finance, IT, education

If family is important, finance, tech and education are the most generous industries when it comes to maternity and paternity benefits. Finance really stands out — the sector notched up a 3.77 star rating. IT and education garnered 3.71 and 3.60 stars respectively. The lowest rated parental leave policies were in retail (3.41) and healthcare (3.36.) It was a surprise to find that, said Chamberlain.

Despite the known health benefits for young children of parents staying at home, the healthcare industry is behind, he said.

"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, with a 3.83 star rating. 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 star 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 star ratings of 3.28, 3.31 and 3.34 respectively.

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 (COST), 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 3.90 star rating.

One bright spot for those in the restaurants and food services industry 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 star rating.

Teachers and store clerks are out of luck when it comes to free food — those two industries garnered the lowest ratings at 3.22 and 3.34 respectively.

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 and include Silicon Valley, Seattle, Denver and Boulder on the West Coast and Raleigh, North Carolina on the East Coast, said Chamberlain.

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