Startups Should Stop Obsessing About Perks So Much

July 17, 2016, 5:00 PM UTC
Business people playing table football in office
Photograph by Steven Errico — Compassionate Eye Foundation 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 Stav Vaisman, co-founder and CEO of OurPlan.

Perks certainly represent a heralded role in startups, but they aren’t the key to attracting and retaining talent.

Therefore, while perks appear to be particularly attractive to employees who place a high value on the workplace environment, their value to the firm is difficult to measure.

Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when considering the importance of perks at your startup:

Perks are supplemental, not fundamental
Startup employees must be intrinsically motivated. They will be asked to work long, hard hours for an enterprise whose future is uncertain. Prospective employees who take a job with you because of the perks are less likely to have that fire. You want employees who respond to the challenge that is inherent to a startup because of their innate desire to perform and succeed. If your perks are a major reason for a potential recruit signing on, you’re emphasizing the wrong qualities of your firm. Perks should always be presented as a supplemental—not a fundamental—attribute of the startup to new and existing employees.

See also: The One Thing That Matters More Than Perks to Attract the Best Talent

Not all perks are created equal
Just because a perk might be something an employee enjoys doesn’t mean the perk actually provides value to the employee. Perks should directly improve the employee’s quality of work life. Games to play during work might be fun, but do these frivolous types of perks really provide the mental and physical relief necessary for startup employees to avoid burnout?

Provide perks that actually deliver measurable benefits to employees, and therefore, the firm. Simple perks like allowing employees to bring their pets to work, dress casually, and work outside will add value to their work experience and still be cost-efficient for you.


Let the people decide
Your people know best what they want. The perks you offer should respond directly to the expressed desires of the team. Ask everyone about their workplace and quality of life needs. Certainly, you’ll need to design perks that respond to their desires in ways that are practical and cost-efficient. But the nature of the perk should be driven by explicit requests from employees.

I’m certain that no one actually came to work for my company because of the perks. Startups sustain themselves based on keeping employees motivated by the company’s potential, their future stake, and personal pride. Perks are icing on the cake, but they cannot nourish the individual or the firm.