May
25

Don’t Confuse Perks With Company Culture

by  Sarah Landrum  |  Workplace Issues
Don’t Confuse Perks With Company Culture

There’s a company out there — in every corner of every town — that prides itself on being a great place to work. Customers are greeted with vigor and felicitous wishes. The lights are bright and appealing in the space, lending a favorable glow to the interactions and products within the room. This company has it all together – or so it seems on the outside.

Inside, it’s falling apart. Though a celebratory drink makes its way into the hands of staff after each great sales day, the empty glass means little to the rotating faces consuming it. New face after new face appears to greet guests and down this first drink of success. After a few weeks in the rotating collection, an employee starts to guess that not all is as it seems.

Where has everyone gone? How long has that person been here, again? I’ve only been here six months… am I the longest tenured employee? I don’t even really like this drink.

These are the thoughts of a new hire who’s about to become inactive on payroll. It’s all because that initial swag bag of perks that included a free drink after success looked like company culture, when in reality it was an empty habit, a deceptive perk masked as culture.

If your company looks or feels anything like this, it’s time to change.

Company Temperature Check

Think for a minute about your company and the current temperature of your employee pool. If it’s too icy to jump all in, why stick around? Your company needs a warm-up if it’s experiencing high turnover, communication issues and excessive gossip, but these are just a few of the many signs of an unhealthy workplace.

Even if a company offers some really great perks, employee retention percentages may indicate that they just aren’t enough.

Defining Company Culture

What does it mean when someone says, “That company has great culture?” Culture is much more than a list of cool perks. You may be able to wear slippers to work on a regular basis but if the boss still ignores your phone calls, what difference does it make what you’ve got on your toes?

Analogies aside, culture is habitual. This is what sets it apart. Culture is an ingrained philosophy that is emphasized and enforced in company policies and interactions with its staff members.

Unlike perks, which can be taken advantage of sometimes or infrequently, culture defines the company, becomes the company. Culture is a process on a never-ending continuum that pushes a company to be better at customer happiness — externally and internally.

Defining Perks

Job “perks” should be defined differently from workplace culture. Though perhaps used interchangeably, the two refer to separate things. As culture has been defined above, perks should be defined, as well.

A “perk” is a “plus” to a job. This may mean that the company allows you to work from home one day a week or bring your pet to work with you on a designated day. Perks are the “nice-to-haves.” Individually, they sound great, may actually be great and are enhancements to the company culture.

However, perks should be implemented cautiously, as they aren’t the fix-all to company culture issues. Leaders who believe that perks make company culture fall victim to a deceptive school of thought.

If your aim is to simply add a few more perks to the job ad in hopes of recruiting and retaining someone worthwhile, that goal may be worth reevaluating.

Making Great Company Culture

There’s no scientific formula that can create a great company culture. Clicking the heels of ruby red slippers probably won’t work either. Still, leaders of a company can work to develop some habits in order to build a long-lasting culture:

1.    Know Who’s Working for You

This is such a simple idea and yet it’s revolutionary. Get to know the people in your company. Know their birthdays, find out what activities they enjoy doing and talk to them about their lives. They spend an average of 8.9 hours per day at work, so make it personal and enjoyable. By doing so, you establish their value.

2.   Acknowledge and Reward Success

Let employees know when you notice their success. Yes, it’s part of their jobs to do well, but recognition — even a “thank you” — can go far.

Have you ever had a moment where you pulled off something that was next to impossible? Maybe you hit a deadline that was far from feasible. Didn’t you just want someone to acknowledge that you rose to the challenge? Be the one who acknowledges accomplishments for your staff and encourage the leadership to do the same.

3.   Create Opportunities to Give Back

Many job candidates are looking for ways to reach out to the community around them. Marketing company WebpageFX notes just how important this particular trait is to millennial workers. As the number one “Best Place to Work in Pennsylvania,” they’ve realized the importance of giving back and have put together a program that allows their staff to do so at work. #FXBuilds has had the opportunity to use monies raised from performance achievements to build schools in both Guatemala and Ghana.

This model can be adapted and modified to fit any company, whether it’s through company-organized volunteering or flexible schedules to volunteer on their own.

4.   Communicate

No matter the size of an organization, communication is a challenge. Even the best companies struggle with this area. Communication should be a top priority, as it creates a culture that is open, honest and full of integrity.

Culture isn’t just defined by the perks within a company. A company culture is long-lasting and habitual and addresses employees’ areas of concern quickly. A good culture is a sign of leadership strength. Leaders who prioritize their employees’ happiness will produce better results in the long run, which makes a company stand out to job applicants as a great place to work.

Be the company with great culture, and you’ll be the company that retains its staff.

Have you been part of an organization that confused perks with culture? Tell me about it in the comments!

About The Author

Articles By sarah-landrum
Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and the founder of Punched Clocks.

What People Are Saying

Mary C. Schaefer  |  25 May 2016  |  Reply

Sarah, what a great message. Thank you for pointing out this misconception. This is why I don’t necessarily find “best place to work” lists credible. A culture that empowers, engages and inspires employees requires more than perks and programs (not that there’s anything wrong with perks and programs :)

I was with an organization that talked about, and patted itself on the back for, its superior culture, all the time. In this case, they focused more on values than perks. For me, whatever values or culture you espouse, the #1 key is walking the talk.

If we are not going to talk the talk, take that attribute or value off the list so no one expects to see it. Claiming a culture that does not exist does more damage than if we are clear and honest about the culture. The worst part was when leaders didn’t follow the values, but would call employees out on them. Retention numbers told the story in this organization. When I left six others left within 4-5 months. Of course all exits were explained away.

No matter what – be vigilant and walk the talk. Culture is just as much about everyday interactions than anything. Thanks again Sarah for bringing this up.

Page Cole  |  25 May 2016  |  Reply

“What does it mean when someone says, “That company has great culture?” Culture is much more than a list of cool perks. “… “Analogies aside, culture is habitual. This is what sets it apart. Culture is an ingrained philosophy that is emphasized and enforced in company policies and interactions with its staff members.”

WOW. JUST WOW. Great insight Sarah! Perks are the table settings, the floral centerpiece… Culture is the wood grain in the hand carved oak table and chairs… built with purpose and care, and the thing the holds everything else up!

Thanks for sharing!

John E. Smith  |  30 May 2016  |  Reply

Hi, Sarah:)

This is an excellent post with some very useful points.

I enjoyed your observations about the differences between “perks” and organizational culture.

I remember one large organization I worked at for about seven years, collecting logo t-shirts every quarter and lining up an array of logo glassware and coffee mugs. They were strong in terms of providing visual branding to make us all feel part of the team.

Where the ball was dropped was in the company policy manual, which revealed a culture of mistrust, over-control, and a deep paranoia about anything not created within the walls.

Interestingly enough, as they piled more t-shirts and coffee mugs on us, they were very consistently reinforcing that negative and restrictive company culture at the same time.

John

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