Perks are Passé: Get Talent by being a RABBIT in a Herd of Unicorns

on 12 | 07 | 2016

Everyone offers perks these days. Everyone has unlimited vacation. Everyone has a kitchen full of food. Everyone has a foosball table. These perks have become check-box items for companies. Perks are passé.

The best way to get talent is to be a focused business; not by competing against the likes of everyone from Apple to Google on perks. If your candidate is interviewing with you and is also interviewing at Google or Apple, the candidate is being disingenuous with someone; frankly, it’s usually the startup. However in some cases that person might just be trying to figure out which path is best for them, which brings me to my second point. I challenge you to think about what truly motivates people – a true perk: working at a company that is a viable business and will ultimately make a difference. So if you are an early stage company looking to grow your staff, stop focusing on the unlimited vacation and company cars and go back to focusing on the fundamentals. Be a RABBIT in a herd of Unicorns.

Not Just a Cute, Furry Animal

What exactly is a RABBIT? Defined by CB Insights: Real Actual Business Building Interesting Tech. Are you a RABBIT? If you are then tout this versus the perks. It’s the best way to attract top talent. In a world of billion dollar startups and multi-billion dollar corporations it might be intimidating to think that you don’t have a lot to offer employees if lunch isn’t catered every day, but after years in the recruiting industry I can confidently say those perks can matter much less than you shining a light on the accomplishments of your company.

This is especially true in a time when VC deal activity is down, reductions in valuations and layoffs are all happening. The Unicorn frenzy has had its 15 minutes of fame – research has been pointing to that for some time. Every day I interview candidates and their questions have started to become very focused on the viability of the business itself. So the next time you interview someone, lead with what the company has done, who has noticed, the growth and impact of your offering and the recognition you have received for your work.

Do You Pass the RABBIT Test?

Ask yourself these basic questions and if you can answer yes to all five, I believe you have more to offer than you may realize:

  1. Is the problem your company is solving interesting and viable today?
  2. If you are hiring technical talent, are you using the latest tech?
  3. Is there something about the way the technology is being used that offers a challenging problem to an engineer?
  4. Do you have leadership that can also provide mentorship?
  5. Do you have proof points to share with candidates/those you’d like to join the team?

Your Company’s Vision and the Role Everyone Plays

Study after study shows that being inspired by work is good for your health, and even going a level deeper, reports have determined one of the most important dimensions of job satisfaction is how employees feel about the company’s mission. It’s more important to the team to feel like they are part of something than to have an on-site dry cleaner.

A tip to make sure your vision is valued: show the employees, from the engineers to the front desk staff, how their work contributes directly to that vision. If everyone realizes the importance of the role they play, company culture will be better and people will statistically work harder.

Work and Play: Encourage Creativity

It’s no secret engineers love technology, so if you are looking to fill a key role on your technical team, think about the unique, state-of-the-art tech you use to create your product or service. Do you offer something cutting-edge that engineers are excited to work with? Will you provide creative autonomy in how the work is completed? This doesn’t just apply to engineers – empower people in all areas of your organization to think about how they would like to approach their job and give them the freedom to do so.

Freedom is a consistently high-ranking factor in job satisfaction, and while this can apply to traditional perks like flex schedules or remote-working privileges, an often undervalued aspect of freedom is the way in which employees are encouraged to approach their tasks. This is especially important as the millennial generation enters, and takes over, the workforce.

Lead and Develop  

Being a leader your company believes in is just as critical as having a mission they want to stand behind, but it’s a frequent misconception that leadership only needs to come from the C-suite. Starting from the top down, every manager in the company needs to frequently and clearly communicate the company mission and truly OWN what it stands for.

Companies that provide transparency, trust and communication to their employees frequently rank happier on employee happiness indexes. This could be attributed to the fact that when people are informed they are likely to make better decisions. This is most true when there is a challenge the company is facing, but establishing this culture of transparency around both good and bad news will show employees you are a leader they can trust.

Hand-in-hand with being a good leader is offering mentorship and career development. We have all had someone in our career who took the time to teach, coach, listen and guide. Pay it forward – both you and your company will be better for it.

Create a Truly Perky Culture

While the term “perk” as it relates to work is derived from perquisite, which means an incidental payment, benefit, privilege or advantage over and above regular salary or wages, the verb perk is defined as becoming more cheerful, lively or interesting – if you focus your organization on being a happy, interesting place to work your company will be the true perk: a place that attracts, and keeps, top talent.