Since an article I wrote in June of 2009 called “How a foosball table can kill your startup” is still sparking attention and conversation, I think the time is ripe for me to expand on the topic. Yes, I still believe that tchotchke “benefits” do nothing but waste money. Instead, use your resources to attract new, retain your best talent, and improve your team’s happiness.
Here are additional issues for us to consider:
- If we tracked the usage of Guitar Hero setups, foosball tables, pinball machines, etc., we would see that their utilization is not really worth their cost and the rent we pay for the space they take up.
- Often the toy/activity choice we make is driven by what we personally like. I highly doubt anyone actually thinks about how employees from other demographic groups perceive them. Therefore, we unconsciously create an environment of discrimination.
- Innovation happens outside of the walls of our offices. Encourage your employees to get outside and network with their customers and spend more time with their families.
- Employees are not stupid! We may attract them with these “benefits,” but the novelty wears off quickly. The deeper we can tap into satisfying our employees’ needs, the more likely they will stay with us. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is often ignored at our own peril.
So what do I suggest?
- There is a MUCH higher ROI on well-being-focused benefits. E.g., stock your office with free healthy snacks and drinks. Motivate staff to engage in group sports. Spend the budget on group company outings organized by the staff themselves. As an operations person, I always focus on keeping my team healthy, happy, motivated, and engaged.
- Spontaneous rewards have tremendous ROI! Focus on rewarding exceptional performance the moment it happens (not months away during performance reviews). I have personally seen it do wonders to morale.
- Enable your staff to work in other locations from time to time and empower them to spend more time with customers (existing ones or prospects). This takes a lot of planning and thinking to execute well, but it has fantastic ROI and increases innovation and employee loyalty.
NOTE: the dynamics are a lot different in creative industries like industrial design, advertising agencies, marketing, communications companies, etc. Talent employed in these types of companies has different needs and motivations.