The Price of Perks

Dropbox recently announced that they were cutting back on their employee perk program which is currently costing them $25,000.00 per employee per year. While it is normal for Startups to offer employee perks I find the amount being spent to be irresponsible.

Who wouldn’t be attracted to free meals, dry cleaning, transportation, beer fridges, clothing? However like anything the novelty eventually fades away, no longer are these perks awesome and generous, they simply become expected and with expectation comes the want for more. Make the candy bowls smaller in the office and I guarantee that there will be a social media post faster than you can say skittles.

I am not saying perks are not needed, they play an extremely important role in attracting talent in a highly competitive market. However I feel the most valuable thing a company can do for their employees is to provide them with an environment that lets them feel like they have ownership of the company’s mission and empower them to execute it. They understand what their role is and how it aligns to the company objectives, this promotes communication, idea sharing and opportunities to grow their skills. You can’t put a price tag on this but I can guarantee that you won’t need to rely on employee perks to attract and retain employees.

Once these principles are executed then you can begin to introduce perks. Start small, choose meaningful ones, a fully stocked fridge, or meals on certain days of the week, a gym membership and t-shirts. You can always add new perks, but taking them away creates a negative perception and leads to disgruntled employees. Be sure to consider the long term budget not the short term as it is easy to underestimate the cost with just a few employees.

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