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Have we all accepted that beers and ping pong are not a company's culture?
These "perks" have always reeked of: "Are we having fun yet?"
What's the point of your company's perks? How should you choose those perks if the default "fun company" perks are so pervasive that they're meaningless?
Choose perks which are aligned with your company's core values. Core-value-aligned perks (CVAPs) will, like your values, be unique to your company, filter out the wrong people, and attract the right people. If you buy a ping pong table and kegerator to keep pace with other startups, you're just copying them. Instead, you need to use perks to build a differentiated company culture.
Which Companies Have Core-Value-Aligned Perks?
Let's start with my own company.
You can read Tortuga's core values on our About page.
Aside from the basics of insurance coverage and a 401k, many of our unique perks are based on our first core value: Work on Our Terms. This core value also aligns with the work that we do building gear for urban travelers like ourselves.
- Work from Anywhere: We are a distributed team so our teammates work from wherever they choose: home, the library, a cafe, or a coworking space. We'll even reimburse them for their coworking memberships.
- Team Retreats: Because we don't share an office, we get together twice per year for a team retreat. Each retreat includes 2-3 days of work sessions, team activities (aquarium, escape room), and the best food we can find. We've hosted retreats in San Sebastian, Montreal, and Lisbon. New Orleans is next.
- Desk Set Up Bonus: Since we don't have a desk already set up for you, we'll pay you to set up your own workspace. All new teammates get a $250 bonus in their first paycheck to create their ideal working environment. Taylor spent hers on noise-cancelling, BOSE earbuds to create her ideal work environment wherever she is.
- Global Entry Reimbursement: This is my favorite because it's useful and unique to Tortuga. The TSA's Global Entry program allows for expedited reentry into the US when returning from traveling abroad and membership in TSA Precheck for expedited security at US airports. Our team of travelers appreciates this simple perk because it's hyper-revelant to our team and values. Global Entry is a perfect low-cost, high-impact perk at $100/employee every 5 years. The relevance of a perk to your values is more important than its price.
Who else is getting CVAPs right?
As always, Buffer is also on top of this idea even if they didn't name it.
In a post titled, "Why Buffer Perks Are Different Than Typical Startup Perks," they outline some of their value-aligned perks, including:
- "[A] free Jawbone UP, which tracks your sleep and your exercise and steps"
- "[A] Kindle Paperwhite with all the free Kindle books you’d like (fiction, non-fiction, no questions asked)"
Notice that both of these unique perks are designed to attract the right teammates and encourage behaviors that Buffer values.
If you don't care about your health or like to read, these perks will be irrelevant to you. Buffer is trying to weed out bad cultural fits as early as possible.
The last example comes from Basecamp. In the introduction to their upcoming book, The Calm Company, they outline how their perks are designed to encourage what they value, like having a calm company.
Our benefits are focused on getting people out of the office, not enticing them to stay longer. Fresh fruits and veggies are delivered to people’s houses, not the kitchen at work.
We’ll pay for you to get a massage, but we won’t bring the masseuse to the office. Loosening up for 60 minutes only to tense back up hunched over your desk is faux relaxation. No “stay here” signals. Everything’s about wrapping up your reasonable day, going home, and living your life.
Basecamp contrasts their perks, designed to send you home to enjoy the rest of your life, with startup perks designed to keep you at the office slaving away.
Read the rest of Basecamp's perks and benefits.
Know any other companies using core-value-aligned perks to attract the right teamamtes and to stand out in the marketplace? Tell me about them.
- Building Your Company's Vision by Jim Collins is the best primer on core values.
- Is the Tech Bubble Popping? Ping Pong Offers an Answer: This WSJ article reads like the Onion.
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