REAL TALK: Make it about the work, not the perk

These days, it is standard for most startups to come complete with a foosball table, kombucha on tap and fancy snacks in the kitchen. And to offer an array of other perks - from travel stipends to gym memberships to Netflix subscriptions.

Indeed, perks have become part of startup life.  And there is nothing wrong with that - except when companies and employees put too much emphasis on them and too little emphasis on what really matters.

Photo by:

Photo by:

Deep down, what most people want is to be challenged by their work. They want to work on great projects and they want to work with great people.

As Patty McCord, author of Powerful and co-creator of the Netflix Culture Deck, puts it: “Hiring high performers for employees to work alongside is … a perk far better than foosball or free sushi.”

And besides, anyone who would decide (at hiring time) to work for your company or not based on whether you provide game rooms, free drinks, and cool posters, etc. — is not someone you should consider seriously anyway. You want employees who want something deeper.

You want them to be passionate about the company’s mission and vision. To live the company’s core values. To enthusiastically collaborate with the team to reach the company’s goals.

Photo by: Helena Lopes

Photo by: Helena Lopes

Millennials, just like every other generation early in their careers, want to learn a lot. So in addition to them knowing your mission and vision, and their particular job — teach them the fundamentals of the business, so they can connect to it and understand how they can contribute to it.

In fact, everyone on your team should know the fundamentals of your business and how it all works. This keeps employees learning more, which is important to them.

You are essentially helping them help you.  And keeping them engaged, which is far more important than cool perks.

Sure, it’s nice to have perks in the workplace, but they are not, and should not be, crucial.  What is crucial is that you build a team and culture that values the work (growing, stretching, achieving and succeeding together) over the perks. 

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