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How 3 Companies Use Perks To Build Company Culture and Retain the Right People

Having the right people who fit your company culture, both through natural chemistry and building on what's already there, is an extremely important part of scaling any organization.
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One of the reasons that companies reach out to Exubrancy is to help reduce turnover. I'm candid with them -- best-in-class office wellness programming is not a golden ticket to a turnover-free organization. And, even if it were, that might not necessarily be a good thing.

The schools of thought on turnover follow two main themes: either turnover is crazy expensive, or it clears house in the cheapest, least litigiously exposed way possible. In reality, these ideas about team building aren't mutually exclusive. But the kernel of both are actually the same. Having the right people who fit your company culture, both through natural chemistry and building on what's already there, is an extremely important part of scaling any organization.

The Center of American Progress claims that employees who are compensated between $30,000 and $50,000 a year cost almost a fifth of their salary to replace. While it's nice to know just how much money a business will lose in turnover, there's of course the additional challenge of finding the right replacement and teaching them everything the last employee knew. This is why you see companies like Google and Facebook offer out-of-the-box perks for their employees. Re-training a new engineer on code an old engineer wrote that may not have coherent comments is a lot more costly than making chair massages available to the team. In the tech world, where demand for top notch developers is high and competition is fierce, providing unique benefits is one way companies keep their talent.

When an employee leaves, there are a lot of things to consider in replacing them. Lost knowledge is a harsh inevitability, but if the employee is client-facing, you also have to reckon with lost relationships. In sales and consulting environments, building trust between clients and those providing a service is something that can only happen with time. And in that time, there may be lost revenue from more hesitant buying or budget commitment. Not to mention, while searching for replacements, the rest of the team will have to take over the exiting employee's work, stretching resources thin. This can lead to its own problems as an overworked staff rarely feels good about going to work, which can reduce productivity and sour your office culture.

Reducing turnover is best achieved through a rigorous hiring process and building a company culture where workers feel their contributions are worthwhile. However, conflicting messaging through perks and expectations of productivity can lead to dissatisfied employees. While a beer keg is nice for an employee to have on a Friday afternoon, it doesn't really balance things out if he or she feels forced to work until 10:00 PM each night and can't even think about taking advantage of "unlimited" vacation.

That said, offering certain types of perks to employees can help shape company culture, especially when perks are linked to the overall ethos of a company. Where REI and Burton encourage their employees to get outdoors, Airbnb gives its employees a stipend to go travel. While it seems like a little thing, giving thought to just what kind of unique benefits you want to give your employees can make all the difference when developing unique company culture. Here's how three top companies are solving the problems of building a strong company culture to help attract and retain the right people.


Netflix CEO Reed Hasting's famously takes 6 weeks of vacation every year. And he's trying to encourage his employees to do the same. According to Hastings, we do our best thinking outside of the office. This liberal leave policy extended even further to new parents who were given unlimited parental leave last year. One reason employees leave their jobs is because they're not ready to return to work after having a child. A liberal parental leave policy allows companies to hold onto top talent, even if they're not working in the immediate. A little more expectedly, Netflix also has a 200-person on-site theater for employees to watch upcoming Netflix productions.


The music streaming company has been making sound waves in the music industry since they first launched 8 years ago in Stockholm. In that time, they launched in the United States in 2011 and reach over 50 other countries today. And just like their huge impact on the music industry itself, they make sure their office is impacted by music at all times. Aside from the startup standards (fancy snacks, recreation areas, and amazing workspaces), Spotify offers some cultural perks that are clearly for music-lovers and musicians. Around once or twice a month, the New York office hosts big name musicians to perform for its employees. These then turn into the "Spotify Sessions" their users can listen to on Spotify.

On top of bringing in top musical talent, Spotify also hires the musically inclined. It's not uncommon to see employees plug into an amp and start strumming away while other engineers code on. According to Fast Company, many of the company's employees are musicians on their own time as well. This kind of focus on keeping company culture jamming out makes Spotify a great place for people who love music.


The online shoe retailer probably goes to the greatest lengths of all companies I've seen to ensure that their employees are happy. The consumer-facing Zappos brand is built around exceptional customer experience and service, but that ethos truly stems from how the company treats their own team. In the words of CEO Tony Hsieh, "Our number one priority is company culture. Our whole belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff like delivering great customer service or building a long-term enduring brand will just happen naturally on its own."

Zappos actually pays employees to quit if they started their job and realized its not for them. By encouraging workers who don't want to be there to leave in the most amicable way possible, Zappos ensures that they have employees committed to the long haul. Zappos also offers an array of health and wellness benefits to employees who don't take the mini-severance package and stick with the company. They offer workers perks like onsite health screenings and wellness programs to keep them fit. Zappos' dedication to its employees very much reflects its dedication to its customers. By looking after its workers, Zappos signals just how much conscientious care can affect a business both internally and externally.

In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, there are major returns in ensuring employees are not only happy, but healthy too. When Johnson and Johnson made a commitment to improving the health of their employees, they saw $250 million in savings. From 2002 to 2008, they saw a $2.71 return for every dollar spent on health and wellness. It just goes to show that even if you can't reduce turnover, you can still ensure your bottom line is as low as possible by keeping your employees healthy, happy, and engaged. Ultimately, the only thing to keep turnover low is to hire the right people and then keep them happy. And a thoughtful utilization of perks is a powerful weapon in the fight for talent acquisition and retention.