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Oct 2013

4 Reasons Perks Won't Help Your Culture or Your Hiring

Susan LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo (ex-ACK-qwee-o), a workforce consultancy building cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. She got her first W-2 at 14 and hasn't stopped working or thinking about the way people work ever since. Follow her @SusanLaMotte. Too often I hear company leaders or recruiters say things like: “Our culture is great. We have free lunches, you can bring your dog to work, and there’s free beer every day at 5pm.”

Workplace culture does not equal perks.

Perks aren’t culture. Even ridiculous perks. Culture is culture. Culture is the way in which you work–the norms and values that define who you are as a business and what makes you different. It’s how you get work done and the way people are expected to behave. Culture is your foundation and then your build your business around it–including perks. Here are four reasons you shouldn’t confuse perks and culture:

Perks Are False Promises

If you just focus on perks, it’s like promising a gorgeous engagement ring–without meeting the guy. If the guy sucks, the ring is only sparkly for so long. Then you get tired of it. No one stays at a company for the perks. They stay for their boss, the product, the potential, the work. Why waste time luring people in only to lose them after the fourth date (week)?

Perks Can Blow Up In Your Face

Sure, dogs in the office are cool. But what if that new developer you’re trying desperately to hire is allergic? Think about the ridiculousness of that conversation: “We’d love to give you an offer, but we typically have dogs in the office so this isn’t going to work.” Really? You’ll give up a great candidate for that?

You Don’t Want a Candidate to Make a Decision Based on Perks

When you get that fantastic candidate to fill the void on your sales team, do you really want him to take the offer based on free beer? No. You want him to be passionate about what he’s selling, the team behind the product or service and the future of the business.

Perks Don’t Make Your Employees Perform Better

Free drycleaning or a easy-access gym might make employees’ lives easier, but it won’t turn an average developer into a stellar one. Culture, values and work rules are much better at vetting out candidates who won’t perform well in your environment. For example, one candidate might be a Ruby rockstar but she can’t get used to your super-fast product development cycles or deal with the complete transparency that’s part of the way you do business Should you ignore perks? No–they’re important rewards and incentives to your business. Just don’t hang your culture and hiring hat on them. Otherwise you build a company based on fringe benefits instead of on values. And when you create perks for your business, tie them to your culture first. If one of your core values is customer service, perks should be designed to make it easier to service customers (making it quieter, freeing up your time, or giving you a budget to spend to develop relationships with customers). Don’t want to give up on perks? Don’t. Just make sure your culture, values and work rules are strong. And sell those first. This post originally ran on the author's blog.
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