Company perks and benefits exist to help your team members feel valued and appreciated. But blanket, one-size-fits-all perks like free beer and ping pong tables actually do anything but that.
Anyone who’s worked at a startup knows what I’m talking about. ‘Company culture’ is a hot topic right now, and it sometimes feels like founders are throwing money at anything and everything that could make their startup seem like a ‘cool’ place to work.
Fridges stacked with beer bottles, kitchens laden with free snacks, endless freebies and all-expenses-paid nights out... these are the frantic hallmarks of a startup with a newfound interest in ‘engaging’ their employees. And of course, those ping pong tables - once synonymous with a casual Silicon Valley cool - are now so widespread they’ve become a painful cliché.
Startup employee benefits are meant to help employees feel valued and special. In a competitive job market, where the right hire could be the difference between a startup going global or going bust, these perks are meant to help attract the best, and then keep them engaged and motivated. But the fact is these perks offerings are now so generic, they have become essentially meaningless.
Without considering the individual needs of your team, you run the risk of alienating your employees by offering benefits that just miss the point. Free beers will not appeal to non-drinkers. And when it comes down to it, who actually enjoys ping pong?
Perks don’t have to be so generic. Below, we show you how to offer a perks and benefits scheme that makes your team feel genuinely listened to and appreciated - helping them feel more engaged, productive and connected with the wider company.
1. Be open to suggestions, and listen to your team’s feedback
If you’re looking for new ideas for social events, then widen that conversation out to the rest of your team. Not only will it ensure that you only offer perks your team actually want, but they’ll also feel more listened to and actively engaged in the process.
“Yes there needs to be culture, but there also needs to be structure. Not everyone in the team drinks - so we changed the way we run socials and focus on dinner instead. With perks, a lot of them are subjective, but we try and gear them towards people’s interests - we have such a diverse team and we need to make sure we’re including everyone.” - Lisa Pirrett, Head of Operations @ Housekeep.
When you do offer new perks, don’t be afraid to ask your team for feedback. It’ll help you better understand if it was a success and something you should continue doing.
“We try to make our perks appeal to everyone by trialling them on a feedback basis. Some benefits, like medical care, were committed to by our founders upfront. Others have come through employee suggestions. We are keen to ensure there is a good representative spread for all.” - Gareth Lloyd, Lendingblock
2. Treat people as individuals
Your company is full of individuals - and it pays to remember that. Instead of deciding yourself on how you’re going to spend your perks budget, why not think about passing that choice on to individuals.
One popular idea is to replace any budget normally spent on generic offerings with a personal allowance controlled by individual employees. Sure, you could just give someone a pay rise, but that can make it hard for employees to visualise exactly what they are receiving from their employer. Allowing them to choose their benefits themselves makes the gesture much more tangible.
“We have a fund allocated to each employee, and they choose what it is spent on - this includes everything from gym memberships to well-being treatments, or even a charitable donation.” - Abi Hanna @ Instrumental.
Tailor each individual’s perks and benefits, and don’t be afraid to ask what they need in order to do their best work. Don’t assume that you know what they need - it’s more likely to be something only they know.
“We offer a monthly well-being allowance because we know different people are motivated by different things. Ask your team what actually makes their lives better. We believe you get the most out of your employees if they’re well, and the business benefits in return.” - Lucy Ponsillo, Forwardspace.
3. Refresh your perks often - and don’t be afraid to ditch perks that aren’t working
Keep updating your offering and use your team to work out what the new offering should be. One idea might be to have an initial conversation with a new joiner around what might help them to be productive at work - this helps maintain a steady influx of new ideas into the business.
“You can never guarantee your perks appeal to every single person in the business, but you can try to understand what employees want up front. Plus, refreshing benefits every so often is critical.” - Gareth Lloyd @ Lendingblock.
Bear in mind that as you grow, the people you hire become more diverse - so your perks might need to evolve over time.
“The demands and needs of a team change over time. It’s important to reconsider the perks you offer as the size, scale and demands of your team change." - Ben Gateley, COO @ CharlieHR.
How perks and benefits strengthen your startup
Perks should be offered to motivate your employees, show them that they’re appreciated, and to make their time at work more pleasant. Thoughtful, considered perks help send the message that you’re invested in your team as individuals, and in return, they'll feel more engaged in their work.
Get your perks right, and you can help your team feel like more than just employees - they become a part of the bigger picture, and more engaged with the overall mission of the company.
Reckon your team could use some love? Check out CharlieHR's latest feature, Perks - designed to show your team just how highly you value them.