With the new Bribery Act coming into force sometime over the next few months, this column from 10 years ago today is particularly relevant. What are your thoughts?

BRIBERY. It’s not something that you associate with good business practice, although I’m sure if we’re truly honest then we’ve probably all resorted to minor variations on it over the years to get our own way. But believe it or not, bribery is going to be the next big thing in business.

It’s true. Employers obviously have euphemisms for it, they always do. It’s much nicer to call bribery “perks of the job”, or golden handcuffs, golden bonuses, golden hellos, golden goodbyes, or even golden parachutes. Now, however, loyalty payments, yet another euphemism, are entering a new league.

No longer is an annual bonus enough. Private healthcare is accepted as standard. Cash bonuses to employees who introduce success new-starts are now old hat. And none of these will attract quality people to your business because so many others are doing the same thing.

It’s like a warped form of one-upmanship, really, companies are becoming more and more creative in their perks in a bid to attract – and retain – good employees.

Look at Accenture (formerly Arthur Anderson), the world’s biggest management consultancy: in the stiff competition to attract the cream of the graduate crop they offer a golden handshake of £10,000. They plan to recruit 650 graduates over the next 24 months.

I read in one report of a series of amazing perks, such as the cellar full of claret, demanded apparently by the creative boss of an ad agency (now why doesn’t that surprise me?). Or the much-appreciated free cleaner requested by a busy female executive (good one!). In one company, high-performers can borrow a Ferrari for the weekend.

In the City, the stakes are rising ever higher. It’s not unheard of for Porsche Boxters and personal assistants to be handed over as “rewards”.

And airline Ryanair now has potentially the best-paid pilots in the world, having signed a unique salary package of share options. True, they must wait until 2005 to cash in on the deal, but what a great perk.

The Institute of Employment Studies (IES) predicts the retention of key members of your workforce is likely to become a major business challenge. They estimate that the total annual value of “perks” is running somewhere around billions of pounds a year – and there are no signs of that slowing down.

But surely people must look for more in a job than how much money they can make or how many perks they can skim off the top? No? Where are all the people who join companies for the non-financial triggers, such as career opportunities, faith in the brand, an ethical approach to business, or fun at work?

Thank God for the IES who offer a more practical approach to recruiting and retaining employees.  They have carried out studies over the last decade that have revealed that only 10% of employees actually leave because they are unhappy with their pay. And before you dip into the petty cash to lure that crack team, the IES suggests businesses should analyse the cost to their company of losing key members of staff and relate that to the value of perks offered.

I reckon you should also look at giving your people challenges, recognition, opportunity, and responsibility. Lead by example, and inspire your team with a mission that has the WOW factor, that will capture their imagination, develop their motivation, and be their inspiration.

Invest in quality training for everyone. Promote good people regularly to show the career opportunities within your company. Ensure that your management team shares your belief in how to care for your people otherwise none of your efforts will succeed.

Oh, and if you can create an environment where employees actually look forward to going to work because they have fun too, that usually helps.

It’s true that all that glitters is not gold, and the danger of attracting employees to your business on the promise of exciting perks doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting the right people for the job.  If their loyalty to you can be bought for a mountain bike, then that self same loyalty can easily be transferred to someone else with deeper pockets and a more vivid imagination. You have been warned.