It's All About the Bennys (And We Don't Mean the Benjamins)
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It’s All About the Bennys (And We Don’t Mean the Benjamins)


There’s a war out there for talent. Start ups and technology companies are finding each other battling over top hires. It’s inspiring to see entrepreneurship on a rise but with this spike comes a greater demand for today’s greatest technological minds. These founders are doing what it takes to attract developers and, therefore, are creating some of the craziest benefits one could imagine. Larger companies are beginning to see this lack of supply vs. demand and are upping their own benefit ante. But do all these company culture additions really make an impact? Or have companies lost sight of what employee perks are about?



Let’s paint a picture. Just what kind of perks are we talking about?

FOOD :  Free breakfast, lunch, dinner and unlimited snacks throughout the day have become staples at almost all start ups. Extra points for putting an emphasis on healthy cooking. Beer taps are in the office providing endless company happy hours. There are ice cream trucks and chocolate fountains. Yes, chocolate fountains.

HEALTH: Pay absolutely nothing for health insurance,  have on-site yoga, Pilates and life coaching. Venture to rock wallsdoctors on the premises and a nap area in a mushroom dome.

TRAVEL:  Have your commute fully covered, whether train, bike or car.  Accept down payments on hybrid cars or  $2000 bucks to travel the world.

FUN: Outside the office, enjoy the company sports events and while in the office have at the Wiis, foosball tables, DDRs and music studios.

TECHNOLOGY: How about an iPad upon hiring  or endless trips to the Apple Store?

CONVENIENCE: They’ve got haircuts on-site, laundry picked-up (and dropped-off), apartments cleaned twice a month and dogs allowed at work EVERYDAY. Not to mention, someone on staff who stands in line for your concert tickets (amongst other things) and an entire mall in the office.

STILL NOT IMPRESSED: 100% tuition reimbursement for college? $10,000 towards adoption or fertility treatments? If all else fails, just make it snow.

I think the better question to ask is what a company WON’T do to attract future employees. It’s inspiringly creative to see what these companies have discovered motivate employees. It’s also awesome that companies are putting culture as a top priority. However, despite all these positives, there still is a major piece missing. In a need to compete with each other, companies have forgot one critical component:


The greatest thing about employees is that they are each unique. They all bring something different to the table (otherwise, why else would they be there?). You might have two software developers in your company, and they may share some similar interests, but you can’t tell me that they both like exactly the same things. Just because one enjoys yoga, what scientific reason do you have for believing the other will too? In fact, developer #1 in this situation might be a devoted Yogi and practicing a healthy lifestyle might be a #1 priority for her. If your company offers yoga classes, essentially making it easier for her to achieve this, it will definitely make her more productive and happier in the work place. However, developer #2 may take the classes you offer because they are provided but, if you cut the program, it would have no impact on that employee.

You see, the problem lies in trying to create one solution for countless individuals. Every person gets excited by different things, motivated by different things and focused by different things. How could one benefit plan be expected to fulfill the needs for ALL employees? In fact, what’s even worse, is having a benefit in place that not all employees are taking advantage of. How awful would it be to hire an expensive yoga teacher to come to the office for only 5 employees to enjoy, whilst 50 more are out in the office? Did you really get the return on your investment?

The problem: how does a young company stay competitive while trying to keep up with the other players, stand out and truly reward their employees? The solution: Establish a difference between the culture and the individual.

The culture is things you as a company set: work hours, vacation policy, ambiance, technology used, management style, values, etc. There are also perks that could tie into this. Can your company afford to keep a stocked kitchen and provide meals, for example? Look at those things that are all-encompassing and help shape what environment your employees walk into everyday.

Onto the individual. What does this mean? Simply put: make individual identification a part of your culture. And no, not in reference to the “be a name, not a number” ideology because, truthfully, start ups are a wonderful space to feel like you actually have a voice and are not just another in the crowd. However, start ups need to keep the thought of “everyone having a voice” extended all the way through to the benefits.

It’s simple: Give your employees a chance to choose their own benefits. Then,  your developer who loves yoga can keep pursuing it with all her might, while your other developer who, say, is actually more of a nautical type, can have free access to his favorite sport of sailing.

How do you make this possible? Set an allotted amount aside that can be spent per employee. Create a package of offerings that allows them to choose whichever options they like, until they add up to that set amount (no need to disclose the amount). Insert an opportunity for employees to question if they can choose something that is not on the list. For example, you might have an employee who, instead of joining a regular gym, wants to join a rock-climbing gym. They can ask for this to be considered, and given membership at those establishments are similarly priced, the employee should be able to make that change.

Yes, it is a bit complex but, it’s worth it. Giving your employees a chance to tell you what makes them happy is the best way to, well, make them happy.

Working at a start up is awesome and the things these companies are doing for their employees should be applauded. But if you’re a newly-found start up and you’re trying to figure how you are going to attract talent whilst competing with the big names like Google and Facebook, play off the power of your size.

Empowering employees to feel as if they are creating THEIR perfect work place is the best benefit any company in any place could ever offer.

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