Gifts of Yesteryear

Last year, high-tech companies took pride in the lavish gifts they bestowed on their employees for the holidays. This year, they are all keeping a low profile.

Most of the high-tech companies give their employees gifts for the Rosh Hashanah holiday. Unlike in previous years, however, the current market situation has divided companies into two groups. Companies in the first group, the employees of which will receive gift certificates worth half of what they received in previous years, at most, are refusing to disclose how much each of their employees will receive, due to considerations of prestige: It's not nice to ask investors for more cash and then give employees a lavish gift.

The second group comprises companies that are keeping their heads above water, but are also declining to reveal the exact value of the gift certificates they are giving to their employees. Here their reason for discomfort is different: How can they give generous gifts to employees after hundreds of others were laid off. Another excuse, which is quite surprising, is their desire not to make anyone envious.

Whatever happened to the statues by Rodin, the trips to Katmandu, first-class air travel and holistic massages? All the temptations offered by the high-tech companies just a year ago, in an effort to recruit employees, have become superfluous, particularly in light of recently published data that shows a drop of over 70 percent in the demand for workers.

This week, a communications company that represents several high-tech companies illustrated the differences between this year and the last. Last year, the start-up companies were competing with each other over the length of the exotic trips given to their employees as a gift for the holidays. The knowledge that the nature of the gifts would be published in the newspapers led many companies to increase the value of the gifts and the length of the trips.

Did the high-tech companies learn their lesson and are they now trying to prevent the creation of another shimmering bubble when the market recovers? This is difficult to believe. After all, the perks and the publicity are precisely the tools that will help the companies to attract workers during the next round of recruiting - if it ever comes.

In the meantime, here is a partial list of high-tech companies that are giving their employees gifts for Rosh Hashanah:

l Mercury seems to be the company with the most creative idea: The company's 400 employees meet every Thursday afternoon for a "Friday get-together." For yesterday's gathering, a few days before the festival, the employees were asked to prepare a dessert and attach the recipe. The recipes will be bound in a book and a panel of judges will decide on the winning dish. First prize will be a weekend in Europe; the second prize is a microwave oven; and the third prize is a dinner for two at a restaurant. There will also be gift certificates worth NIS 500.

l Xerox will be giving its employees gift certificates worth NIS 475, plus a weekend in Cyprus.

l Compugen has organized a beach party for its employees, including dancing, lectures and alternative health care treatments. Employees will also receive an afghan, two mugs and NIS 450 in gift certificates.

l Motorola is giving its workers a medium-sized gift package, containing a bottle of wine, a cook book, candies and honey.

l Intel, like every year, is giving its employees a medium-sized box of chocolates and a greeting card.

l NDS Israel is giving its 600 employees gift certificates worth NIS 400 and a fancy message board for their homes.

l Paradigm Geophysical will give its 160 workers tableware selected in advance from Tollmans

l Enavis is giving its employees a bottle of wine and a package of handmade chocolates, individually designed.

l Comverse will give its workers an original gift, a possible a reminder of better days: an eight-month subscription to the travel magazine "Masa Aher".