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Have All These Fun Perks Become Entitlements?

Let's face it: If you offer fun perks long enough, employees start to see those perks as just something they've earned.

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Chances are if you've got a business and a team, you've had to pony up some extra perks and benefits in order to try to keep up in today's ultra-competitive hiring market. Running my e-mail marketing company VerticalResponse, in the midst of all the high-tech big names from Facebook, Google, Twitter, Salesforce, (insert any large tech company name here) in the San Francisco Bay Area, has meant not only being competitive from a salary perspective, but getting creative when it comes to perks and benefits.

With goodies like a beverage center stocked with soda, Bagel Mondays, Fruit & Veggie Tuesdays, ping pong tables, dart boards, a room dedicated to a massage chair while you're playing Wii, happy hour Fridays and employee appreciation days complete with catered lunches and chair massages; we try to keep life good at VR. And, I bet you're doing some of these same things and maybe a few others.

So how do you deal when those perks make your team feel less perky and they start to feel entitled? Or what happens when you've gotta make some cuts and start charging for the soda?

How Perks Change Over Time

In a recent blog post, Rand Fishkin from Moz wrote about how as Moz became more successful they were able to offer compelling benefits to their employees like many that I cited, but also offered paid vacation (which according to the Moz site, "each year, each employee gets up to $3,000 of vacation-related expenses reimbursed"). But what I found really interesting in Fishkin's article was his admission that in the early days these perks were met with celebration and joy, but over time, these benefits came to be expected. He says, "Once we're used to them, they're no longer special. They aren't perks we can do without, as we once did...those benefits are owed to us; heck they're part of why we joined the company. If they leave, why shouldn't we leave, too?"

Fishkin even admits, "I know that I want paid vacation, mini candy in the office, mimosas to celebrate a launch and 401K contributions to always feel special...I've found myself feeling entitled to my very particular kinds of sodas being stocked in our fridges and thinking about how to use next year's vacation cash."

The Struggle & The Choice

As leaders we all struggle with this. How to keep perks exciting and motivating and compete when the company down the street offers even sweeter rewards. And how do we battle the law of diminishing appreciation?

My advice is to not let it get to you. If you've made the choice to make perks part of your culture, don't let a few folks who seem not to appreciate it ruin it for everyone. I guarantee you that you are making someone's day with those free bagels. Hell, I even get excited when I arrive at work on a Monday and there's still an everything bagel for me. Things that may seem small to you, can and do have a big impact on your teams; maybe it's having that ice cold Izze soda when they've had a rough day, or being able to play a round of ping pong with a co-worker they needed to work with on an upcoming project and now they've bonded. You can't really measure the impact that doing good for your team has on them. It's just part of the deal.

So I say, you have an obligation to do good by your employees and the ones that appreciate it will do good by you and your customers. Now I'm off to have a cold glass of whatever's left in the beverage center to go with my bagel...

How do you keep perks fresh? I'd love to hear your perspective in the comments.

Did you enjoy this post? If so, sign up for the free VR Buzz weekly newsletter and check out the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog.

IMAGE: Michael Koukoullis/Flickr
Last updated: Aug 19, 2013

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JANINE POPICK is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse (a Deluxe company), a leading provider of self-service email and event marketing, online surveys, social media, and direct mail solutions. The company was ranked No. 2,802 on the 2012 Inc. 5000.
@janinepopick




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