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Life at work: At Walker & Dunlop, long-time employees get special vacation rewards

Walker & Dunlop.

Location: Bethesda.

Employees: 430.

When Teri Wenger notched her 40th year of work at real estate finance firm Walker & Dunlop last year, the human resources team was in somewhat uncharted territory.

The Bethesda-based company typically offers special rewards to employees who hit specific tenure milestones. But it’s so rare for someone to work 40 years at the same firm, the team didn’t have a set package for Wenger’s circumstance.

They soon figured one out, though, allowing Wenger to plan an elaborate vacation. Using a $25,000 gift from the company, Wenger has booked a cruise with her husband and a group of friends that will take them to London, Amsterdam, St. Petersburg and a few Scandinavian cities.

When it comes to rewards, “I have not met anyone else that their company does anything like my company does,” said Wenger, the firm’s vice president of services.

Even employees with shorter tenure enjoy similar offerings. Staffers receive $2,000 cash for their three-year anniversary and $3,500 for their five-year anniversary.

As the milestones get bigger, so do the perks: After 10 years with the company, employees are given one extra week of vacation time and $7,000 to spend. After 20 years, employees get $14,000 and two extra weeks of vacation time. If someone logs 30 years, he or she gets $20,000 and three extra weeks of vacation time.

The program has been in place for 20 years, and the value of each award has increased over time. Paula Phillips, senior vice president of human resources, said she recently weighed whether to eliminate the program when Walker & Dunlop acquired competitor CWCapital, a move which doubled its staff and created the potential for the offering to get more expensive.

But after discussing it with chairman and chief executive Willy Walker, Phillips decided it was worth keeping.

“Willy and I agreed that it’s a really neat program, and the cost isn’t a lot,” Phillips said.

Each year, the awards are given out at the company’s holiday party. Walker makes remarks about each recipient, acknowledging his or her key contributions to the firm.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.
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