Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Benefits of a Unique Company Culture

There is a steady supply of people writing blog posts about how their unique working environment means they're hiring "A players" because of some combination of the following:

  • They only have a four day work week
  • They have a high intensity startup environment with exciting work
  • Everyone has stock
  • Everyone has a profit share
  • 20% Time
  • An onsite chef
  • Everyone works from home
  • The company loves open source and employees spend their spare time writing more of it
  • Fussball Table
  • Table Tennis Table
  • The office is made anime figurines glued together to form a protective structure
  • A masseuse
  • Some kind of famous person
  • Anything else someone has thought might be cool
It's great that these kind of benefits are being offered to employees. There's no doubt that these kind of benefits help employees feel that they're being valued. In many cases benefits like this will have a better payoff in motivation and happiness than a similar cash increase would. 

The problem with how these benefits are presented is that some companies have convinced themselves that their particular combination of benefits is going to lead to significantly happier and better employees than other companies have. They proceed to spread their new formula as hiring gospel, but this isn't an optimal approach to finding the best people for your company.

In the job market each potential benefit will be valued differently by different potential employees - some people love having a masseuse and others don't like to be touched.  That's a good, employers are dealing with the a market for employees and actually benefit from differentiating themselves. A niche offering appeals to those in a niche, you can get employees more affordably if their wants match a particular set of unique offerings than if you simply compete on price. 

Some of the benefits that could be offered are in opposition to each other and most organisations will only have the resources to select a few anyway. Instead of adopting whatever the latest fad in benefits is, a benefit package needs to be carefully crafted to target the particular people that the company wants to attract.

If a companies' benefits target the particular type of individuals the company wants to attract, for instance 20% time is a better benefit for attracting open source developers, then they'll act as a filter if you make it clear that the company values people who value these kinds of benefits. Over time the employee base will end up being those people who value the particular configuration offered by the company[1].

Many people like to talk about hiring A players, but A players aren't a static category. Potential A players generally have particular areas to which they're most suited. An A player in a bank is someone who can deal with massive system complexity and produce very high reliability software; An A player in a startup is someone that can deliver quickly on a wide array of potential changes in a short time frame. The best bank employee might be an experienced developer who would like evenings to spend with their kids and a decent set of health care benefits while the best startup employee might be more on the lookout for how many ways you can get stimulants into their bloodstream.

Instead of setting out to evangelize their set of benefits to other companies more companies should encourage a wide array of benefits and differentiation amongst companies. The worst outcome for a company would be to convince many employers in an area to adopt the same style as themselves.

This illusion of A Players all being recruited by a company's own special set of benefits is the cause of all the blog posts by different companies in the same area espousing completely different views on attracting A players. One company busily states that they only hire people with a certain level of passion to pour into the product while the other insists they get the best results by working four days a week and relaxing. If you're seeing both their blog posts then both companies are probably successful and both believe they've found the secret sauce to getting the best people. In reality, both are right. They just don't realize that they aren't competing on the same factors for new employees.

1. Behavioural psychology shows people will come to be unwilling to take offers that cause them to lose benefits they already have.


Anonymous said...

It makes a company simply unique and could attract the free-spirited talent who had enough of the rigid corporations. Most hip companies are often under a series of uk umbrella companies that makes it an autonomy without the corporate feel.

Zane Hovell said...

Another scheme that may be of good use to the employee, the employer and the government is to have a salary packaging benefit. Back home, we have this novated leases wa where it made getting a car easier.

Thomas Woodall said...

Well, a company has a unique culture if one can play poker with the boss outside office hours and beat him without getting a demotion. If you keep beating him in poker, it would be nice to add an application on your phone for pot odd calculator.

Bridget Hall said...

The problem these days is that most people sign up for companies because their potential bosses will be the one's taking care of the contract hire costs for the cars they'll get (getting too greedy on the perks, see?).

Michelle Helena Cabrera said...

You just enumerated some of the things I've always wanted in the office! Well, one more thing I would add to that is the novated leasing. I would love to use a vehicle, although not technically mine, but I could call "my car."

Courtney Amanda said...

I have friends who have experienced this 'unique' work environment in London, in IT contractual jobs. These benefits are what every employee would wish for. I know I would.

Emily Morientes said...

To be honest, I'm the kind of person who would make a big deal of the benefits I'll get from a company. It's the first thing I want to know before applying. With these examples you gave, I think I've just got higher standards.

Audrey Maurice said...

A better way to know what employees need and want for the company is to hear their thoughts through surveys. They might give excellent ideas on how to create a unique company environment. But of course, it's still the company that decides whether it should officially be a benefit for everyone or NOT. Still, the survey itself could also be a benefit too!

Derrick Patterson said...

Yeah I agree with Audrey. It is still on the company to decide what benefit/s they shall be giving out to all of their employees. It is like, a company deciding if they will be buying or not some used telehandlers.

Isla Bickford said...

Benefits [slash] incentives. Why don't you add the lease? I'm sure it's one way for your employees to enjoy the company: offer car finance plans because transportation is a necessity. It's somehow telling your employees, "Get a car of your choice, come to the office on time, and enjoy traveling during your free time." Yes, they will be obliged to perform better and increase their productivity.

Derrick Patterson said...

In the employee benefits, does it include bankruptcy car loans? I've never heard any company giving or providing any benefit such as this one.

David Percy said...

One of things I look out for when choosing the company that I will be working with is the benefits the company gives to their employees. The only thing that I am not sure of is, if an auto loan is covered by that benefits.

Nikolaj N. Schultz said...

I'm just glad that I am working as a virtual assistant. It pays well and I really don't need to bother myself with a lot of company rules. It's impersonal yet secure. My favorite kind.

Jacob Grove said...

Instead of a simple "car loan," why not "car loans for people with really bad credit"? Now that's a benefit! If I could find a company that offers that kind of car loan planning as a benefit, I'd definitely apply for any position. I might make up to the bad credits during my working years, so I won't hesitate to try.

Anonymous said...

Surely this will post an effect to the overall sale of the cars and vehicles in the market. Just a suggestion, they should perform elaborate studies before implementing a program that would post an effect to overall condition of the economy.

Maryam Corbin said...

Learning how to value their customers will help them gain good name in the industry. I still believe that word of mouth is still the best promotional step in marketing your shop, store or business.

Seth Cazaly said...

Well, the car loan plans sound nice. I would love to loan, even a used Hyundai Sonata.

Richard Ritchie said...

Uniqueness in terms of company presentation equates to a more possibility to be recognized by the public consumers. In this way, since there are a lot of automotive companies around, they better prepare something different and rare to make the people around them pay attention to them.

Nicholas Bruce said...

Businesses in any field should always consider everything in consideration especially if they are dealership businesses. Only in this way, they could assure that they are caring their clients the way they should be.

Angela Jacobs said...

What every company should realize is that once an employee enters into a new company, the employee brings with him cultures from different companies and forms yet another with that new company he is entering into. This culture along with his behavior forms a fit and find his way into the system when the combination is good.

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