The One Critical Thing Start-Ups Need to Know About Perks
Start-ups are renowned for their perks. They lure potential employees with the offer of foosball, beer, takeout, and anything else that’s fun or sexy. Then recruiters talk up the culture to candidates. However, having fun extras on the job isn’t what make a company’s corporate culture great. Those things are just perks.
And the word “perk” has taken on different meanings over the years — one of those meanings refers to a benefit someone receives from doing something. So how can you tell if something is just a perk, or it’s a sign of a healthy corporate culture?
Corporate Culture Building Blocks
Business expert John Coleman has identified six hallmarks of great organizational culture. According to him, the following factors have a huge impact on the company:
Vision: the business’s mission statement
Values: the guidelines which tell employees how to achieve the vision
Practices: values in action
People: employees who are aligned with the firm’s mission, values, and practices
Narrative: the company’s history, which shapes its mission, values, and practices
Place: the firm’s location, which impacts the corporate culture (open architecture makes it easier to communicate with colleagues)
Great Perks Don’t Equal a Great Culture
Unless the company manufactures foosball tables, having one in the office isn’t a component of organizational culture. Taco Tuesdays are tasty, and everyone enjoys them. But what do they really say about the firm’s vision?
Don’t get us wrong. Perks are great, and we enjoy them as much as the next person. However, if you were to take away whatever perks you’re offering, what would you have left? If you’re not sure how to answer that question, you’ve got a problem.
The Perks of a Corporate Culture
Giving perks is easy. Creating a great corporate culture is not. It requires hard work. The people who run start-ups can be so focused on developing their product or service that they focus on the perks and neglect the culture.
They do so at their peril. Harvard Business School Professor Emeritus James L. Heskett wrote in his book The Culture Cycle that an effective corporate culture can account for 20 to 30% of the differential in an organization’s performance when compared to what the author calls its “culturally unremarkable” competitors. Organizational culture matters — it spurs employees to be more productive. And higher productivity is good for a firm’s bottom line.
A culture is what defines the company. It tells the world what your business wants to achieve, and how it’s going to fulfill those goals. So, if your business doesn’t really have much of a culture, is it too late to build one? No. Start by defining the firm’s vision, and what values you’d like to put in place. Be sure to relate your narrative during the process. Ask yourself whether your people and your space align with the other components of the organization’s culture. If they don’t, what can you do to change that? Building a corporate culture might be the difference between a start-up and a starting-to-fail.