Author:Staples, Joe

What your employees actually think about your company culture. As told by them.

It's Monday morning and Ashley wakes up early, unable to sleep due to a mix of excitement and anxiety. Today is day one of her new job. When she arrives, someone takes her picture to be used on her security badge. As she is escorted through the halls on the way to the new-employee orientation meeting, she receives lots of smiles from her soon-to-be coworkers. She passes by many of the things she was told about on the brief tour she took when she interviewed: the ping-pong table already occupied at 8:20 AM, the always-stocked snack cabinets, the soda machine, the hoverboards plugged into the charging ports, and the gaming stations.

As she makes her way past the cubicles, desks, and occasional offices on the way to her meeting, it seems like every other person is wearing some kind of company swag: shirts, hats, even jackets. When she enters the conference room, her eye catches a glimpse of the poster on the wall that announces the next company party. She thinks to herself, "Those parties are legendary in the valley! They give away so many cool prizes." Ashley is stoked to be part of this company where culture is so important and so pronounced that you can taste it.

Eighteen months later, Ashley is looking for a new job.

This scenario is all too common and even more prevalent in today's tight labor market. That's why I asked individual contributor employees from all over Utah questions about what motivates them at work. As you read on, you'll see that not one person said anything about company perks. The lesson for managers, founders, and CEOs? Don't let the fancy soda machines and gaming stations make you think you're building a meaningful culture. More importantly, don't let "the perks" provide you with a false sense of security that what you're doing will actually motivate your employees.

Should you consider taking away the perks, parties, and picnics? Only if you want a revolt of the masses pounding on the castle door! Employees definitely enjoy added incentives and they'll never ask you to take them away. They'll even mention in the employee satisfaction surveys that they appreciate them. However, those aren't the things that will keep your employees, or motivate them in the long term.

Who holds the power to best influence the motivation of an employee? Is it company leadership, the direct manager, or the employee's peers? In my interviews, by nearly a three...

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