A company can’t go far in the world of tech without the able assistance of top-notch talent. If being ground-breaking and disruptive was simple, everyone would be doing it. But winning the affections of you, the talent, can be difficult, so tech companies are getting ever more creative.
While salary will always be a powerful motivator, it’s far from the be-all-and-end-all. Pioneered by Silicon Valley during the Dot-Com Bubble of the late 90s, the modern day focus is less on the amount of zeroes on the paycheque, and more about what a company can offer a potential employee in terms of perks.
But what does the word ‘perk’ even mean anymore? Where once it was all ping pong tables and in-house chefs, (remember the excitement of Google’s first Sydney office) the term has long since developed and evolved. Thus this question has recently become a far more complex one to answer.
In search for said answers, we spoke to people on both sides of the equation.
Kirsten Pollard, Chief People & Culture Officer at OFX, is familiar with what it takes to bring top talent into a company. Sam Shoolman, Head of Midmarket & Corporate ANZ Sales at HubSpot who has experienced both sides of the coin as candidate and employee, and finally, Ellie Shin, an Engineer at Canva. We asked about how the nature of perks has changed over the years, and what companies now offer that top talent truly seems to appreciate.
From superficial to something more
It’s been a while since the first perks packages began to be offered to tech geniuses, and over the years what began as a unique practice from a few innovative tech companies has now been normalised. The aforementioned activity and food/drink elements are still a part of the standard tech company package, it’s just that they’re no longer surprising.
“[The basic perks] are more than important, they’re essential” notes Kirsten. “The competition to retain talent is rife, and perks are expected these days.”
So what are modern day companies doing to rise above the perk package noise? In the case of Kirsten and OFX at least, it’s about continuing to offer the basic perks, but then standing out with extras. In order to become a first choice destination in a competitive market “a company can only try to offer perks that are different or unique” she says.
There’s a trend of moving away from pure freebies to things that represent greater value to talent. So what exactly are these perks? What should you look out for if you’re in the crosshairs of multiple tech companies? Inspired by Canva and OFX, here are four of the best.
1. A job with purpose
Top talent is beginning to forgo the luxuries put forward by certain companies if the position on offer is seen as soulless. Today’s tech workers know that they’ll likely be taken care of financially wherever they go, and thus are looking for meaning in their work.
“Historically, the number on the paycheck has been very much in focus, but there is a bigger understanding today that employment is not just about salary, but also about getting the feeling that what you’re doing matters, whether that’s about making a difference in the world or for a customer”, confirms, Kirsten.
Ellie agrees. “I look for the opportunity to work on products with impact. I enjoy feeling that what I do will positively impact thousands or millions of people around the globe. It’s wonderful feeling and great motivation to do your best every day.”
2. The ability to grow
Whether it be career growth or more skillset and experience growth, talent is also now focussing on developing in their role. This was certainly the case for Ellie, whose career as an Engineer is one of constant education.
“It is important to me that I work with smart engineers whom I can learn from. Like most engineers I want to grow professionally, and working with skilled and experienced people is great for that.”
But Ellie doesn’t stop there — she also looks for employer growth as well. “It’s also important for me to feel that the company I work for is doing well and growing in its business. If the company shows good growth it’s an indication that the management has clear vision and is able to drive the company in right direction.”
3. Convenience and flexibility
OFX has an aim to make their work conditions as compatible as possible with their employees’ lives. “It should be frictionless”, explains Kirsten, “that’s the environment we’ve been trying to create. Our office perks are all about making people’s lives easier.
“Things like our in-office showers and towel service are there to help people live a balanced life and to acknowledge that work is only one part of it. It may seem like a small thing, but these things can really make a difference. Our offices are all centrally located for the very same reason (Sydney CBD, downtown San Francisco and Central London) — to make work as convenient and enjoyable as possible.”
Convenience bleeds into flexibility, which is becoming an ever more prevalent part of a good employment package. Ellie perhaps appreciates the benefits more than most.
“I’m working mum, so having flexible time is essential. At Canva I don’t have to rush to the office early in the morning, nor do I have to be late home after work. I can leave early, head home and spend dinnertime with my family, then do some work later at night if needed. If I need to work from home for family reasons Canva is okay with that too.”
4. Aligning with a company’s values and goals
How comfortable are you with how a company goes about things? How much do you align with their way of working? Sam suggests that this is more of a factor in top talent’s decisions than many might imagine.
“I love the HubSpot product and mission, which is to help SME marketers and salespeople grow their companies in a more inbound way. So spearheading our growth into a new region was really a no-brainer.”
This alignment was, by his own admission, just one piece of the puzzle. “I was also interested in Sydney as a destination to live and work”, he admits. But nonetheless, feeling as though you ‘click’ with a company’s culture can prove to be incredibly important.
5. Some sugar on top
But while the more ‘standard’ perks are now almost universal, that doesn’t make them any less enticing. And what a company offers as freebies can still greatly vary.
OFX offers a sumptuous employment package cake, but certainly, doesn’t skimp on the icing. “We have a number of office perks, such as the token foosball table, our full-time barista, Friday drinks, birthday leave, as well as the aforementioned showers and towel service. We also have our Good Vibes Committee who plans social get-togethers and our Elevate Team who focus on health and well-being”, Kirsten explains.
“These have been introduced to encourage people to socialise outside of their every day teams and foster a culture of trust. One of the key attributes of a startup that we’re trying to hold on to is the friendships and the very social nature of the business. The thought behind having a barista is all about encouraging casual, incidental hallway conversations by creating a social hub that people naturally gravitate to.”
These last points are crucial. Employee perks can at first appear to be bait on the hook — purely there to catch the biggest fish. But the truth is that a well-designed employee perk package can help the employer day-to-day as well.
And with more and more companies realising that fact every day, you can expect those perks to just keep on getting juicier. It’s then up to you as a tech professional to identify the ones that are truly of worth.