Business: A startup focused on making invention accessible by crowdsourcing new product ideas.
Where: New York, New York
Who: Nikki Kaufman, head of People and Culture
Cool perk: “The first week of every quarter, we totally shut down the office,” says Kaufman, forcing staffers to take the full week off. Which equals four weeks a year of mandatory vacation – on top of Quirky’s unlimited vacation policy.
Why it works: “We’re catered to these sprints and reaching quarterly goals. We give people a chance to accomplish amazing things and push the limits of what’s possible on tight deadlines, so we want them to have the time to go to doctor’s appointments, spend time with kids … whatever makes people feel good,” says Kaufman, who adds that no one has abused the company’s generous vacation policy.
Business: A shaved-ice franchise company.
Where: Florence, Kentucky
Who: Tony Lamb, Founder and CEO
Cool perk: Kona Kollege, which allows paid summer interns to turn their sweat equity into a down payment on a franchise. After students intern for two to three summers, Lamb says the company will pay the $15,000 franchise down payment. Lamb says a Kona franchise can be a great source of passive income for young entrepreneurs, who may have other career aspirations.
Why it works: Lamb says the program gets interns to work hard. “Why not give them the incentive to work for you for two to three years, and have them involved, ingrained and so excited about building the business for you? It makes for a great employee, and from the corporate side, I get an amazingly trained guy who comes in as a smart franchise owner,” says Lamb, who calls it a “win-win-win scenario” for interns, franchise owners and the corporate office.
Business: A digital advertising startup.
Where: San Francisco, California
Who: Mo Lau, CFO and head of human resources
Cool perk: Unlimited Amazon Books budget for employees and catered lunch discussions. “We consider what’s important for personal development,” says Lau. “If you can go through a ton of books, we’re happy to pay for it, because we want to help employees develop,” says Lau, who says the company also pays for conferences and coaches, when books aren’t enough. Continuing in the learning vein, Lau says the company hosts weekly catered “lunch lectures,” where employees or outside guests come in to talk about what they’re passionate about. (This is on top of daily catered lunches, which Lau says is “standard” for Silicon Valley startups.)
Why it works: Lau says the company’s benefits get the team to work more productively and work harder – not to mention the fact that paying for employee development results in better-trained employees.
Business: Startup aimed at disrupting the dog-kennel industry.
Where: Santa Monica, California
Who: Aaron Hirschhorn, founder
Cool perk: Dogs allowed in the office – and a daily dog walker, free of charge. Hirschhorn says the office has between 10 and 18 dogs visit each day. “The only rules is that excessive barking isn’t allowed, they have to be friendly or well-behaved, and they can’t poo or pee on the floor,” says Hirschhorn. A dog walker comes from 2 to 4 p.m. each day to walk the dogs on the beach, which is only two blocks away.
Why it works: “Competition for talent is high, especially in engineering and product,” says Hirschhorn, “so we do everything we can to differentiate.” Hirschhorn says the dog policy is also important for a company focused on dogs, because they want to attract people who share the company values. “Even for our customer service department, we want to foster the love of dogs. It’s about having the right people who can bond with dogs,” says Hirschhorn.
Business: A big data company focused on HR solutions.
Where: San Francisco, California
Who: Steve Goodman, CEO
Cool perk: A private chef who cooks three meals a day. Goodman says breakfast might be scrambled eggs or homemade waffles, and the last dinner he had was chicken cacciatore. “Most people eat all their meals here,” says Goodman.
Why it works: “We have round tables that sit six or eight, and no more than 3 people from the same department can sit at the same table,” says Goodman, which fosters collaboration, communication and a friendly environment.
Business: Fashion resale startup.
Where: Los Angeles, California
Who: Tracy DiNunzio, founder
Cool perk: Morning surf lessons and three catered meals a day. “Most of us eat three meals a day here together,” says DiNunzio. And morning surf lessons? Taught by the HR director, who’s a former pro surfer, of course. “They go about once a week, and by 9 a.m., they’re all showered and at their desks,” says DiNunzio.
Why it works: DiNunzio says eating meals together allows people to be productive in the office and spend time together. “Our social lives revolve around what we do here, and we’re friends outside of the office,” she adds.
A new Gallup poll finds only 30% of employees are actively engaged at work – but these startups say keeping workers motivated and productive can be fun. From private chefs to over-the-top vacation policies, it’s not only Google that knows how to innovate when it comes to employees benefits.