Captive's Silicon Valley culture keeps employees happy

The cafeteria at Mercedes-Benz Financial Services' Farmington Hills, Mich., serves up such items as wood-fired pizza, fresh salads and made-to-order burgers. It also doubles as an activities center.

DETROIT -- Want to retain employees? You might consider supplying them with a game room and “nap pod.” That’s what Mercedes-Benz Financial Services does.

The captive finance arm shares ideas with Silicon Valley to attract and keep its talent base, which leaders believe is the secret to success.

“We’ve been doing [some of it] quite a long time, probably before the Googles and Facebooks were founded,” said Peter Zieringer, CEO of Mercedes-Benz Financial Services’ Americas region. “You try to go beyond the eight-hours-a-day work time and separate it completely from your leisure time and try to create an atmosphere that feels more like you’re in a family than in a workplace.”

At the company’s Americas region headquarters in Farmington Hills, Mich., near Detroit, for example, there is a gourmet cafeteria that serves up such items as wood-fired pizza, fresh salads and made-to-order burgers. It doubles as an activities center. As part of a green initiative, food is served on china with silverware instead of on paper plates with plastic utensils. Employees who opt to take food back to their desks can leave the dish and silverware in a common area on their floor for cafeteria staff to pick up later.

The “nap pod.”

In Farmington Hills, there also are weekly massages, nail appointments, dry-cleaning services and shoe shining available, although employees pay for those services. The company covers the cost of an on-site yoga class, however.

The amenities differ at each Mercedes-Benz Financial location depending on employees’ desires. For example, massages also are offered at the office in Fort Worth, Texas, but employees there also can use an on-site gym or relax in a “nap pod.”

“It’s a deck chair, and you close it up so there’s zero noise inside and you can use it for a power nap or just relax for 20 minutes to half an hour,” Zieringer said. “That, I found very interesting, and I almost fell asleep in it.”

Mercedes-Benz Financial also allows employees to form clubs and gather on-site. For example, employees have formed a book club, card-playing club, running club and golf club.

“We have a very low employee-turnover rate,” Zieringer said. “I truly believe it has to do with things like that. It’s the sum of many, many things that we build consistently over a long period of time that makes people feel welcome to the company and stay a long time.

You can reach Jamie LaReau at jlareau@crain.com -- Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jlareauan

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