Proof That Fancy Job Perks Can’t Keep Millennials Happy

July 14, 2016, 1:00 AM UTC
Photograph by via Getty Images

The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question How important are employee perks when first launching your startup?” is written by William Vanderbloemen, founder and CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group.

It’s been exciting to see the recent surge in startups in America over the past several years. This boom, coupled with the emergence of millennials as the largest generation in the workforce, has led to a much-needed reexamination of what building a good team looks like and how to draw in the best available talent. This reexamination is important for everyone, but especially for the hiring entrepreneur in the early stages of a startup. The type of team you surround yourself with will ultimately determine the ceiling and success of your business. It’s something you can’t afford to get wrong.

When it comes to attracting the best candidates, one of the toughest things to figure out is exactly how important it is to have employee perks as a selling point. Watching shows like Silicon Valley or movies like The Social Network gives the impression that perks are a necessary piece for the new startup looking to hire quality people.

This might be true on some level, but there’s a major caveat: If perks don’t tie into cause and culture, they don’t mean anything in the long run.

If you’re looking to attract the best of the best, a Ping-Pong table in the break room won’t do it. At Vanderbloemen, we didn’t receive recognition for top company culture for having an employee of the month award, and we don’t have a sliding board for a staircase or a Pac-Man machine in the break room.

See also: 3 Perks Every Startup Should Be Offering Employees

What we do have is a cause—a “why” behind the “what we do.” And to serve our cause, we have established a clearly articulated set of cultural values that we have baked into every part of our team’s life and work.

In my experience, perks are often doled out in order to keep millennials—who are constantly changing jobs—around longer. But if those millennials aren’t tied to core values, they’ll leave. It doesn’t matter if you have lunch brought in on Fridays. You have to embrace the reality that building a culture that people want to be a part of is the best way to attract and retain quality and effective people.

People, especially millennials, are looking for a blend of behaviors, beliefs, and values that groups of people share. They’re looking for a job that does more than just pay bills. They want a team. They want a company that is contributing something to make the world a better place. They want collaboration. Setting up a big TV that airs SportsCenter can’t offer this. It must come from the type of culture that you, the entrepreneur, set forth to build.

All of that being said, we do have employee perks at Vanderbloemen, but every single one of them is tied back to one of our cultural values. The best perks we have are the cheapest ones.


For instance, we get together once a month on a Friday afternoon to eat, hang out, and discuss theology and things happening in the church world that can make our work more effective. Not only does this help to build our company and its culture, but it instills our trust in one another and encourages the entire team to share ideas.

In the company’s early days, we had a pretty good sense of the type of work environment we wanted. Every decision you make that pertains to hiring or providing employee perks should be through the lens of that culture you originally envisioned. If you get the culture piece right, top-notch candidates will soon follow.

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