The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “How do you keep your best employees?” is by Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow Group.
We have a lot of perks at Zillow Group. A few weeks ago I ran a Tough Mudder with nearly 150 employees in Seattle (the company paid for everyone to participate), and over the next few weeks employees from almost all of our offices will have a chance to participate. We also have free snacks and drinks, a very sought-after frozen yogurt machine in our Seattle headquarters, frequent speakers from outside the company, and a host of fun parties and events. These types of perks (especially the snacks) aren’t necessarily unheard of, especially in Silicon Valley, where recruiting and retaining engineers is a constant battle.
But here we diverge. From concierge service at Google (GOOG) to medical clinics at Cisco (CSCO) and Yahoo (YHOO), to the high-profile egg freezing benefit at Facebook , “perk wars” have taken on a life of their own as companies vie for employees. And it’s not just in Silicon Valley anymore, as competition for a talented workforce heats up in many markets across the country. But Zillow Group doesn’t have any of these. While many of these perks definitely make life easier for employees, and sometimes are a lot of fun, the question remains: Are they really the best way to attract and retain the best employees? What does it signal to potential employees about work-life balance at a company?
Perks should be an authentic representation of a company’s culture. As a CEO, I know that these perks aren’t chosen at random. They are a way to attract employees, but they also say a lot about a company’s values. Take, for example, the rise in popularity of nap pods or free dry cleaning. What do such perks signal? Likely, that employees are expected to work very long hours and not leave the office too often. Don’t get me wrong. Many people thrive in environments where work is life (I did it myself when I worked at my first startup). And I truly believe in creating a fun, collaborative and open workspace. At Zillow Group, we work incredibly hard, but we also believe in balance, so our perks reflect that.
For example, wellness and vitality is a core part of our culture and a personal focus for many of our employees and we reflect that with a variety of benefits including fully paid health insurance, gym reimbursement and Fitbits for all employees. We’ve also brought these perks into the office with stand-up and treadmill desks, yoga classes during work hours and Mind Body & Spirit days.
Our product development culture emphasizes autonomy and innovation, so we have frequent “HackWeeks” and “Innovation Weeks” during which employees are free to experiment with new product ideas. Part of retaining our talented employees also depends on supporting their families, so we offer adoption assistance and benefits for parents when they return from parental leave. These and our other benefits reflect our culture, encourage work-life balance, and help us retain great employees so they aren’t easily tempted to leave for another company’s hot new perks.
It’s important that job seekers understand and are able to decode the benefits being offered as an indicator of the company’s culture. Candidates today want to understand the entirety of their role and how they will fit in to an organization. To employees scouring the perk landscape — think about what the company is offering. Look deeply at the benefits. Are these perks designed to make your work lives better — or to tether you to the company 24/7?
People love to talk about perks, but what really attracts the best people is the company’s core values: what is the long-term mission of the organization? What does success/innovation look like and how do employees play a part in making it a reality? By offering employees the right perks, companies can increase their worker’s productivity and, ultimately, win the war for talent.
Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: How do you keep your best employees?
How naysayers could boost your business by Peter Vanderheyden, president of Article One Partners.
What every employee can teach their boss by Carmencita Bua, COO of Continuum.
The secret to keeping your best employees by John Ambrose, senior vice president of strategy and corporate development at Skillsoft.
5 things ‘Office Space’ can teach you about employee retention by Steve Sims, chief digital officer at Badgeville.
Free food is a poor excuse for company culture by Ryan Smith, CEO and founder of Qualtrics.
What Steve Jobs taught executives about hiring by Shahrzad Rafati, founder and CEO of BroadbandTV.
How this ex-Apple executive keeps his employees happy by Bob Borchers, senior vice president and CMO at Dolby Laboratories.
9 ways to recruit extraordinary employees by Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow Group.
Why this CEO encourages failure in the workplace by Amy Errett, CEO and co-founder of Madison Reed.
Sarah Kauss: Why a pay bump isn’t the answer to employee happiness by Sarah Kauss, CEO and founder of S’well.
The one perk that will guarantee employee happiness by Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow.
The secret to holding on to your best employees by Amit Srivastav, president of Infinite.
3 ways to prevent your employees from quitting by Niraj Shah, CEO of Wayfair.