Perks vs. Culture: Why Employee Perks Are Not Enough for a High-Performance Culture

How to Motivate Your Employees without Perks

Haircuts, video games, personal concierge service. What do all of these have in common? They are all real examples of employee perks provided by big and small companies alike.

Employee perks are fun “extras” offered in addition to standard benefits. Don’t let the title of this post confuse you. Perks are not bad. In fact, they can make the workplace a lot more fun, comfortable, and interesting. Or, as in the example of offering healthy snacks or onsite fitness opportunities, it can make the office a healthier place.

Perks don’t always save the day

However, perks can not be used as a substitution for a high-performance culture. That is, you can’t just sit back and let ping pong tables fix all your problems.

Studies show that employees are looking for respect, recognition, and the ability to add value, among other aspects of organizational culture. The problem with perks is that they can be a distraction from what really matters. For example, perks are often presented as a recruitment technique. It’s true that free lunches and complimentary laundry service are hard to pass up, but what does that mean if low employee satisfaction or high turnover is lurking in the background?

These fun extras can definitely add some excitement to the offer letter, but just make sure you’re not confusing one for the other.

Perks as an enhancement of a high-performance culture

That said, perks can be a great enhancement of culture. In addition to improving loyalty among employees, perks can be a fun tool to promote your company’s values or mission. Does your company have “innovation” as a value? Then consider offering an entrepreneurial lecture series. By doing this, you demonstrate your commitment to your values and show employees how they can incorporate them in their everyday lives. Besides, perks usually cost money, so make sure there is value and meaning behind them.

There are countless examples of employee perks, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. I’ll finish with some ideas of culture-enhancing perks to ensure your perks adding to and not distracting from your culture:

  • Professional development credit that allows employees to explore and develop new skills.
    • Regular meals or outings together. This opens up new channels for communication and gives employees the opportunity to chat with people they might not usually encounter. This is an example of a “culture collision,” a concept we covered in our post about Zappos culture.
  • Gym stipend to promote wellness.
  • Onsite massages for stress reduction.