Unlimited free food. In-office gyms. Hammocks. Rock-climbing walls. Personal concierges. A $10,000 workplace furnishing allowance. Modern workplace perks are getting a little bit ridiculous. When companies go overboard, they can come off looking like try-hards – which might make candidates start to wonder why they need to go to such extent to keep people happy.
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But at the same time, many candidates can't help but marvel at how glamorous it all sounds. After all – who wouldn't want their employer to pay for their wedding? That's why recruiters go out of their way to tout their companies' best qualities, all in hopes of attracting the best talent.
To be fair, if competing employers offer all those benefits, you do have to keep up. That being said, an employer needs to go beyond perks to actually make their workplace desirable.
It's not perks that retain talent – it's a great company culture. Here are three ways to create a culture that gets people excited and engaged:
Replace Free Food With Better Socializing Opportunities
Don't get me wrong: Free food is awesome. I live for free samples, and if there's any food at work, I get excited. But what is free food in the workplace subconsciously doing to us?
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It's actually making us way more tied to work than we should be. Instead of leaving the office for lunch or – God forbid – making our own lunches, we get our meals right at our desks. And hey, why stop at lunch? The kitchen is full of snacks, so you might as well work later and eat some of this food for dinner!
In other words, free food can make people stay at the office too long, which can lead to overwork and burnout. On top of that, it's damn costly! In the U.S., organizations spend more than $20 billion on corporate catering annually. And if you ever decide to cut those costs or the office manager forgets to stock up, staff won't be happy.
Your safest bet is to offer free coffee and surprise your staff with food occasionally – but not as incentive to stay at work later. Create a great lunch room with long tables where people can sit and socialize. Institute a policy of "no eating at the desk" so people aren't glued to their work all day without interruption. Have managers and team leaders eat in the same space as employees do. This will create a great communal culture and make communication easier during work hours.
To showcase this during the recruiting process, have the candidate sit down for lunch with the rest of the staff. You'll also be able to use this opportunity to see how they get along with others.
Replace Time Off With Work Flexibility
Many "top employers" lists are laden with companies that provide a ton of paid time off to their employees. While I'm all for that, it's not necessary.
What you can do instead is create an environment where employees come to work to get work done, and if they want time off, they just need to give a solid reason and construct a game plan. This means booting the 9-5 schedule and giving employees ownership of their time. Some people are simply more productive after 11 a.m., and some can work late into the night. Some would rather take a solid month off every year, while others would prefer the occasional long weekend.
With all the great technology-enabled communication methods available to us, staff might not even have to come into the office at all. Remote work is gaining steam as a viable alternative to the central office for many organizations.
You can use your flexible work arrangements to attract new hires, too. Discuss with your candidates their work styles and preferences. Then, show them how your workplace can meet those preferences.
Replace the Open Office With an Open-Door Policy
While everyone working in the same giant room might sound like it will lead to an open, collaborative community, it's not all it's cracked up to be. Some people just can't work that way, nor can you really expect people to be productive sitting in bean bag chairs.
It's a better idea to create an office space that caters to every individual. Offer a mixture of closed-off spaces, private offices, team spaces, and public desks. Your culture should include people who have different work styles – if it doesn't, you're doing culture fit wrong.
Instead of trying to use an open space to promote communication, create a culture that encourages open discourse. Foster an environment in which employees feel comfortable speaking to their superiors and readily give feedback to each other to facilitate improvement. This can easily be done by implementing H.R. software that encourages communication and easy collaboration.
This will be particularly attractive to candidates, since they'll be able to see where they fit in and won't feel overwhelmed by the open office space, which can scare away candidates who have never experienced it before. Highlight your company's open culture in the hiring process by showing candidates data on how your people interact with communication software and how productive and successful they are as a result. Prospective candidates find room for growth much more appealing than physical room to work.
You can also show candidates how your company has benefited from the employee feedback it encourages. This is a great way to prove that you care about your employees' opinions.
Long story short, let your candidates know that you care about empowering your employees. Show them that you care about their growth and the value they can add to your company.
While most companies think that flashy perks are the most effective way to get the best of the best, the reality is that following this strategy means you'll end up hiring people who care less about the company's success and more about the frivolous benefits it offers.
Isabella Parks is the digital marketer for WIRL, an employee feedback software.