Want to engage employees? Try development, not foosball

Free beer on Fridays and unlimited snacks. Are those the incentives your organization uses for recruitment and retention? Maybe there’s a better option.

All the free beer in the world cannot make employees stay with a boss or a company that has bad leadership.

A recent cover story in Boston Business Journal titled “Tech-Talent Space Race” highlights tales of businesses spending millions of dollars building playgrounds for their employees. Still, employees are more dissatisfied with their employers than ever.

New Gallup research suggests that more than 70 percent of employees are disengaged: They don’t really care what happens to the organization or your customers, and that can be disastrous.

The employees you want are those interested in learning and growing with the organization. They value development opportunities and the chance to work a magnetic leader. They want to be associated with organizations that have a purpose they connect with. Greater autonomy and flexibility in their schedules are also high on their list.

It’s exciting that GE has chosen my home city, Boston, as its new corporate headquarters. However, it may not be so exciting to those who will soon lose their talent to a company known for investing in its people, especially in its upper echelons, rather than in physical workspaces.

What if you took all the money you spend on snacks, free lunches, beer and indoor playgrounds and instead committed those resources to hiring exceptional leaders, developing your people and paying people well? It doesn’t sound like as much fun as picking out a new foosball table, but in your quest to keep up with the Joneses, you’re likely to become all too similar to them.

What if, instead, your organization went across the grain and became a place where employees love to come to work and customers love to do business? If you stop participating in the superficial perks madness, it won’t be long before the Joneses are trying to keep up with you.

Roberta Matuson, The Talent Maximizer® and president of Matuson Consulting, helps organizations achieve dramatic growth and market leadership through the maximization of talent. She’s the author of four books including the newly released, “The Magnetic Leader,” and publisher of The Talent Maximizer newsletter. Follow her on Twitter. A version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn.

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