4 reasons not to confuse perks with corporate culture

Free beer on Friday and dogs in the office are nice perks, but they aren’t the only reasons your company is great. Perks should reflect company values—not the other way around.

Too often I hear company leaders or recruiters say things like, “Our culture is great. We have free lunches, employees can bring their dogs to work, and there’s free beer every day at 5p.m.”

Workplace culture does not equal perks.

Perks aren’t culture—even ridiculous perks. Culture is culture.

Culture is the way you work-the norms and values that define who you are as a business and what makes you different. It’s how you get work done, and the way you expect people to behave. Culture is your foundation. Build your business around it-including perks.

Here are four reasons you shouldn’t confuse perks with culture:

1. Perks are false promises.

Only focusing on perks is like someone promising you a gorgeous engagement ring without introducing you to the guy. If the guy sucks, the ring will only be sparkly for so long.

No one stays at a company for the perks. People stay for the boss, product, potential and work. Why waste time luring people in only to lose them after the fourth date (week)?

2. Perks can blow up in your face.

Sure, it’s cool to have dogs in the office. But what if that new developer you desperately want to hire is allergic?

Think about the ridiculousness of that conversation: “We’d love to give you an offer, but we typically have dogs in the office. This isn’t going to work.” Really? You’d give up a great candidate for that?

3. Perks shouldn’t be the reason a candidate wants to work for you.

When you get a fantastic candidate to fill the void on your sales team, do you really want him to take the offer based on free beer?


You want him to be passionate about what he’s selling, the team behind the product or service, and the future of the business.

4. Perks don’t make employees perform better.

Free dry cleaning or an easy-access gym might make employees’ lives easier, but it won’t turn an average developer into a stellar one. Culture, values and work rules are much better at vetting out candidates who won’t perform well in your environment.

For example, one candidate might be a rock star, but she can’t get used to your fast product development cycles or deal with the transparency that’s part of the way you do business.

Should you ignore perks? No; they’re important rewards and incentives to your business. But you shouldn’t hang your culture and hiring hat on them. If you do, you’ll build a company based on fringe benefits instead of values.

When you do create perks for your business, tie them to your culture first. If one of your core values is customer service, design perks to make it easier for employees to service customers (make the office quieter, free up time, or offer a budget to spend on developing relationships with customers).

You don’t want to give up on perks? Then don’t. Just make sure your culture, values and work rules are strong, and that you sell them first.

A version of this article originally appeared on the exaqueo blog.

Susan Strayer LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo. exaqueo is a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact them to learn more about how they can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develops an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.


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