All of automaker Tesla's cars run 100% gas-free, and all of its employees get health care, life insurance and other benefits 100% cost-free.
Tesla benefits manager Nate Randall, speaking recently at EBN's 25th annual Benefits Forum & Expo, told attendees they would be "incredibly envious" of his position.
He likely was right.
Founded in 2003 and based in Silicon Valley, "Tesla makes kick-ass, sexy electric cars," Randall said. As if that weren't ambitious enough: "Our company vision, basically, is to change the world," he added.
That ambition is perhaps most evident in the firm's workforce, which nearly doubles every year. Currently its 2,500-plus workers are 95% U.S.-based and 85% male with an average age of 36.
When Randall came onboard with Tesla, company brass gave him the directive to "create the benefits of the future. Create it for our company. Make it unique. Make it awesome."
Make it awesome, but still make it affordable - an impossible task?
"We're not Google," Randall said. "I can't just throw everything at employees. ... it's not like I have a whole ton of money." Still, what Randall and Tesla do offer speaks for itself.
"Every single employee who starts at Tesla gets health care and a full suite of benefits for no cost," Randall said. "They get dental, vision, life insurance, all that stuff." He also mentioned small but still meaningful benefits, such as bereavement concierge services, that, for their price, go a long way with employees.
Asked how Tesla is able to make such offerings, Randall said that, as with cars, forward thinking leads to cost-savings.
"We believe that some of the factors we have in there like free preventive visits and free preventive prescriptions and birth control will, over time, help limit our costs, " he said in a later inveriew. "And these are things the industry told us; we didn't come up with this stuff."
He also recommended benefits managers target their specific danger zones. With a staff as young as Tesla's, for example, maternity costs are huge, and the company is planning on innovating how it controls those costs in 2013.
"In the grand scheme of things, [health care] doesn't cost us very much money," Randall said in Phoenix. "We're self-insured, so most of these people are not using the care anyway." He lamented that the numbers seem to indicate "our employees are too damn busy to go to the doctor."
When it comes to crafting health benefits, Randall said it takes more courage than cost savvy.
"There's a certain amount of bravery that I think people are lacking. They don't want to be the person in their organization to suggest changes that might or might not be controversial, or might cause problems. ... An engineer, if they have an idea that they totally believe in and they know is the right way to do it, they're going to fight for it, and they may not win, but they're going to show that they have value. And I think, unfortunately, a lot of benefits and HR people are not in a position where they're willing to do that, or maybe they're not enabled to as well."
Of course, only time will tell if the rapidly expanding automaker can offer the same benefits experience to 5,000 workers, or 50,000.
"If I come back here in two years and it doesn't work," Randall quipped, "somebody has to offer me a job."
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