Decoding The Corporate Perks Facade: What It Really Means

Google is the pioneer of offering perks to attract top talent and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

A friend of mine works at Google HQ and describes his situation as “too good to walk away from” even when he gets bored. Free food, snacks, shuttle, laundry, etc will do that.

The startup scene has escalated to the point where if you don’t offer perks, you’re not relevant. But what if I told you it’s all a facade?

I love to eat. What makes food taste even better is when it’s free. But unlimited snacks and catered lunches are a nice bonus, but far from the mission of the company.

Now I’m not knocking perks as an enhancement to the employee experience, but what I am saying is how much does it affect your decision to stay?

Look at it from a financial standpoint: free food for the entire company is cheaper than giving a raise to one (of course you have to factor in size of staff though, but you get the drift).

My point is if perks are one of the highest ranking factors in retaining your services it’s putting your faith in fool’s gold. Perks are like purchasing the newest toy. After a while it gets old, you get bored and want more.

For example when I first started working for my current company the idea of catered lunches twice a week blew my mind. Now I still appreciate it, but I found myself getting pickier with selection of choices. If it happens to be a meal I love, free lunch is great! If not, I wish I didn’t have to sit through the company meeting during lunch.

Culture is a huge factor in retention, but perks shouldn’t be too high on your list of reasons to apply/stay. Times have changed where “what you get” is as important as “what you give,” yet ultimately what your company strives for and what role you play will always outshine any perk offered.

Work wisely.

A Manager’s Secret Weapon (Yet Rarely Used)

Most bosses don’t get it.

Middle management’s main job is to manage people, not tasks.

Tasks need to be completed, but it’s how you manage your people that makes all the difference.

If your workers aren’t getting things done, the first finger pointed should be at you (the manager).

Have you clearly communicated your expectations? 

Are your people properly trained?

Are you putting them in a place to succeed?

Most managers don’t understand when the role changes, your responsibilities do too. If you don’t want to spend the majority of your time and energy dealing with interpersonal issues, don’t take the job!

I truly believe leadership skills can be taught to anyone, but that doesn’t make an effective leader. There are many traits that make a great leader, but the simplest one with the greatest ROI is:

Positive feedback.

Did you know it takes 5 positive comments to cancel out 1 negative one?

I wouldn’t worry too much about the ratio, except by saying your workers evaluate you. Performance reviews are held for employees all the time, but what about managers? Is your boss held to the same standards as the people they lead?  

If not, that’s a culture problem. Hypocrisy is the most visible sin in a business. It’s the one fault that causes morale to plummet and turnover to skyrocket.

If you work for someone else, you’re supporting another person’s dream. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that since not everyone can run a successful business. But when people don’t feel heard or treated unfairly it can signal the beginning of the end.

Managers who rarely dish out positive feedback are both insecure and focused on the wrong things. They haven’t bought into the fact their impact is determined by the team’s output, not theirs.

Being positive is similar to active listening. It can be taught, but usually if you don’t have it, you don’t have it.

The best leaders know metrics and data can only measure so much. Just like companies create a brand experience, managers create employee experiences. With power comes great responsibility; a willingness to model service to your team so it’s passed down to customers.

A positive comment can go a long way, but only if you actually say it.

Are Great Managers Truly Unicorns?

The number one reason why people leave their jobs is because they feel unappreciated or under-valued. Translation: lousy boss.

One of the main reasons I’ve left all my past jobs is a terrible boss (best boss I had was as an entrepreneur – he was great, but the pay was inconsistent).

At the core is a skill problem. Let’s start at the bottom:

As a technical worker you are paid to produce results quickly. Once you prove yourself you move up to leadership. The issue here is what made you a great technical worker won’t help you be a good leader.

At the leadership (management) level your job is to bring out the best in your team. It doesn’t matter how well you performed at your previous role because the job description is completely different.

This is rampant in Corporate America because seniority normally equates to promotion. But most managers don’t know the first thing about motivating/treating people. Managers talk to their employees as if they’re stupid or incompetent. The disrespect is tolerated at first, but over time disengagement and morale drops.

Productivity keeps a business running, but poor leadership can halt growth. Companies with high turnover are similar to below par rated restaurants on Yelp. Even if you have a great product, customer service is what you’re ultimately judged on.

Most businesses believe treating the customer with the utmost respect is good enough, but when employees feel the cold shoulder of management internal strife starts to build. When the work environment becomes sheerly political the internal trust deteriorates and your best talent already has one foot out of the door.

I understand the argument from the company’s perspective that hard, objective decisions need to be made in order to scale, but you can still treat people well and get great results. People filter their perception of leadership through interactions. Once you feel unsafe as a worker, it’s time to start applying for jobs elsewhere.

That’s why when you do find a manager who cares about you, brings out the best in you and ultimately looks at his position as service treasure him/her. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience it once in my career and during that tenure I felt I could do anything.

For some complete autonomy may feel like macro-management, so it’s important to understand what type of boss you thrive under. Culture is viewed as the thermometer, but core behaviors are the true temperature.

These days companies can pay you lip service about their environment, but only the employee experience truly defines what the culture is.

So if you have a great manager think twice about the grass being greener on the other side. Like grass most of the time if you turn it over it’s actually brown.

The Forgotten Part Of Networking

friends-at-work

Your network is your net worth.

The assumption is networking is done “externally,” but what if you actually like your job and don’t want to leave, yet desire to expand your network?

Do it internally.

Similar to sales: return customers have a greater value than new customers.

That means co-workers you connect with and strengthen bonds over time can be more instrumental to your career success than grabbing coffee with a new contact on LinkedIn.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m that guy who connects with people locally on LinkedIn and grabs coffee, but those relationships take time to blossom.

Meanwhile your work relationships have the potential to grow much faster because of the frequency and ease of scheduling.

Too often job satisfaction is determined by what happens to you, not what you initiate. Some opportunities are all about timing, but others are about choice.

Once you understand the company culture figure out how you can connect with people at work: grab lunch, go for a walk, chat on Slack, etc.

Most likely there are too many people at your company to talk with consistently, but that only makes the challenge fun.

  • Be the person who asks others how they are doing.
  • Instead of going on break alone take a friend.
  • Make it a goal to grab lunch with someone weekly.

At my company we’re fortunate to have catered lunches twice a week so that leaves three open days for me.

Some days I make phone calls and other times I need to decompress alone, but imagine how fulfilling your day is with a stimulating conversation!

As an introvert/situational extrovert I prefer quality over quantity…

Making networking part of your lifestyle versus a goal starts by doing it consistently.

The trick isn’t to keep “score” on how many people are in your network, but how often you network with others.

Make it a habit and watch your work fulfillment level skyrocket!

Why Culture Is King & Position Is Queen

king-and-queen

When’s the last time you thought about applying for a new job?

Truth is, much like the cliche “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” it may not be your job that’s actually frustrating you.

The reason culture is king and position is queen is because the former rules over the latter.

Let’s say you land your dream job, but the culture is so toxic you end up quitting?

On the other hand, step into a company culture where you feel valued and working your way up doesn’t seem so bad anymore.

As a career coach, here are the implications: don’t just apply for positions, apply to companies you want to work for. If you get into the right cultural fit, it’s fairly easy to move up as an internal candidate.

That means as a job seeker (passive or active) you should be targeting companies you want to work for as much as positions you qualify for. The corporate world is evolving and what forward-thinking companies realize is: if you take care of your employees, they will in-turn take care of your customers.

In this day and age you and I have a plethora of choices.

A.D.D. isn’t a disorder, it’s the norm.

That means as workers, you have options.

Purpose and passion have been replaced by lifestyle as the driver…and culture supports that.

How Lifestyle Has Changed The Job Market Forever

lifestyle

Lifestyle matters.

Not only that, but it’s a driver. Let me explain.

Work-life balance isn’t achievable unless you start viewing your professional and personal life as one. If you’re unhappy at work, you’re going to be unhappy at home (same goes for vice-versa). Therefore the biggest “perk” you can receive is flexibility, also known as control of the way you spend your time.

Use Millennials as an example. One of their most treasured entities is travel. There’s not one particular destination that is preferred, instead work “book-ends” vacations.

Having kids may limit the frequency of trips, but the focus of time-off shifts to family. Ideally school and work schedules coincide to maximize time spent together. On the other hand, if you’re married to your career, you’re better off being single these days.

In both examples above there is one constant: lifestyle. As so beautifully stated in Flexibility: The New Definition of Success,  the meaning of work now is to: support your desired lifestyle.

Smart companies get this. You can give people all the perks in the world, but if they don’t have autonomy (otherwise known as trust), they’ll eventually leave to find it.

Lifestyle has even caused a seismic shift in entrepreneurship. Scaling, growth and more profit aren’t assumed goals anymore. More families are starting businesses simply to provide a means to survive together. The term lifestyle entrepreneur shouldn’t be looked down upon anymore because the rules of being an entrepreneur have changed.

In previous articles I cover remote working quite a bit because it supports the shift to lifestyle as a motivator. Just like company culture can be more important than landing your dream job, lifestyle is no longer a means to an end, but an end in itself.