Bring On The Job Perks

working on a computer CBS

If they can't get you with a generous salary and benefits, they'll try a massage.

These are boom times in America. In fact, even as the stock market rides a roller coaster, the American economy is in the midst of its longest expansion ever. CBS News Correspondent Anthony Mason reports for Sunday Morning.


Paul Hawkins, manager of an employment call center for USA Relay Telecommunications in Tucson, says that, 10 years ago, it was much easier for companies to attract and retain employees.

Working The Perks
-Bagel day? Ping pong tables? A sampling of goodies available to some U.S. workers.
"We used to be able to sit back on our heels and expect that when an ad was run, we would get a volume of applicants," Hawkins recalls. "Back 10 years ago at Sears, we would get 600 to 1,000 applicants from a Sunday ad. Today, we might be lucky to get 30 or 40."

Tucson, Ariz., has one of the fastest growing economies in the U.S.; last year, 20,000 new jobs were added there. In three years, Universal Avionics' Tucson plant has grown from 35 employees to more than 200. And manager Steven Juliver is scrambling to find skilled workers who can make those famous black boxes used in airplanes.

"As an overall economy, the change is really simple," says Juliver. "We have reached out to communities who often times thought they can't achieve, and through programs like the high-tech program, get these people involved in technology-based training at their level."

The training at Universal Avionics attracted Susanne Van Zandt, who left her job as a dining room supervisor at an old folks' home to sign up for the program.

Says Juliver, "Typically, we attract people who earn less than $8 an hour. The goal is to bring them up to a higher wage."

Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich says that the most important thing going on right now in the labor market is that workers are becoming more productive, no matter what their level.

"They have technology on their side," he adds. "And that means that even if they get a wage increase, it's possible for them to produce so much more that it still pays the company to give them that wage increase. And that means no inflation."

A premium is being placed on the intellectual skills needed to command the new technology.

So Lycos, a cutting-edge computer company in Wltham, Mass., literally massages its employees. You can also take kick-boxing classes or play ping pong or foosball at the office.

John McMahon is the human resources manager of Lycos and, as far as he is concerned, this is a hard-nosed business decision designed to retain employees.

"Quite frankly, what they could do, and we all know this, is that they could take a coffee break in the morning, get on the Internet and, by the afternoon, get a new job, should they so choose," he explains. "So employers' challenge is to make sure we provide both the right type of development work training and also treat them as volunteers, because they have a great many options they can afford to choose from, given their skill set."

But Reich cautions against a general impression that everyone is making a huge amount of money. "Half the workforce is making just about what they were earning, adjusted for inflation, 10 years ago," he says.

It is not only students who are being wooed into the work force. The elderly are, too.

At the Canyon Ranch Spa in Tucson, retired folks like 83-year-old tai chi instructor Dr. Wayne Zee have been sought out in particular.

Says Gary Frost, the spa's executive vice president, "These are not people who are looking to be put out to pasture simply because they've reached this magical age of 65."

One reason the elderly can be part of the work force is that Americans are now living much longer and healthier lives than before.

"One of the greatest achievements of the 20th century was the near doubling of life expectancy," says Dr. Evan Kligman, a gerontologist at the University of Arizona. "Now at age 65, and being healthy, a person can expect to live at least 20 more years, to 85. And many people will live closer to 100."

As a matter of fact, Reich predicts that there is going to be no such thing as a clear-cut retirement age. It is not like the old economy, when a person worked until age 65 and then got a Social Security check and a pension.

Says Reich, "They're going to continue to work in some ways, in some respects, maybe a few hours a day or week, all the way through, as long as they can."

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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