This is a flawed premise that has thrown startups off course in people management right from the beginning. Let me break down the thinking.
You know how in marketing we have customer acquisition programs and then loyalty programs and these two are distinct? Well, works the same way when acquiring employees.
Sexy perks have only served as table stakes to get good candidates to even consider interviewing with you. Rightly or wrongly, company/brand name recognition and marketplace perception is often enough to get candidates to apply to work with you. I worked for Warner Bros. Can you imagine how many applicants I got when I posted a job, even a relatively crappy one? Yup. Tons.
If you are a startup not named Uber or Hubspot and have little cache (most startups), you likely have little to offer since no one knows if your company will be a going concern and you probably pay below market rates as you work through your primary rounds of funding. So how do you get people’s attention? Foosball and free snacks.
So, I never criticize these perks. They serve a vital role — to get your startup in the consideration set of a good candidate until your company develops a solid rep.
Now we move over to loyalty. I’m a bit floored by anyone who ever thought foosball and snacks would retain employees. If you stopped and thought about your own self in this context (assuming you have had ANY job experience) you would instantly realize how little of a factor this is.
Your company culture and DNA is what keeps people. It’s who you are, and how you work every day. And that encompasses a lot of things that I have to add founders don’t think about as they are distracted by focusing on making their product or service go. Deliberately building your culture is as important of an activity in the early stages as is building your product. Don’t put it off until you think you have time for it…or else the culture will build itself, ripe with dysfunction and everything. And you’ll be hard pressed to change it once it’s set.
And how do you build culture? This post hinted at some things that matter. If you study a ton of successful cultures, you’ll see some common themes. I have identified them and outlined them in my post of The Five Pillars of Job Satisfaction. These are the five core elements that you have to customize for your own company to drive engagement, loyalty and productivity.
Net net, don’t abandon your business sensibilities when you’re looking at recruiting and retention. The principles are the same. Acquisition and loyalty. Need to do both well.