When Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google in a garage back in the late 90s, they didn't have a bowling alley attached to their original offices, but they did have a ping-pong table.

The mega tech company has come a long way from that Menlo Park garage. Google undoubtedly offers some of the best perks in Silicon Valley. One Googler said, "the company culture truly makes workers feel they're valued and respected as a human being, not as a cog in a machine."

And it's no wonder, Googlers have access to free personal-fitness classes, health clinics, on-site oil changes and even haircuts.

Without such a deep pool of cash to spend on perks, how does an early-days startup compete? Providing your workforce with free food or an on-site spa is probably out of the question; but you want to attract the right kind of talent and keep them around. It's all about knowing your limits while showing employees they are valued. Sometimes that takes a little creativity.

Due to a weakened VC funding environment, there has been a steady decline in the cash value of perks being offered in Silicon Valley today. Here's a few employee perks you can offer that are virtually free.

1. Great company culture

Unfortunately, you're probably not going to be able to hire the right kind of employee based on job title and responsibilities alone. The right kind of employee wants to feel supported in both their professional and personal lives.

At Xero, we have established a collaborative working environment, not just in the physical sense but in the mental sense. Our open-plan offices feature breakout rooms, couches and outdoor areas. We have a core set of company values that are literally written on the walls.

2. Offer flexibility

When you offer a flexible working schedule, you widen the talent pool during the hiring process. When it comes to your employees, morale is improved if they are given the ability to complete work on their own terms. If the work is being completed, does it really matter where it is being done?

If an employee's work is project-based, their productivity is likely to soar. They are focused on getting the job done rather than watching the clock tick.

3. Casual dress code

Many businesses today have found that implementing a casual dress code has improved the productivity of their employees. When you allow workers to dress the way they want, they tend to feel confident and relaxed.

While coming to work in jeans and sneakers may not be for everyone, having the option there makes employees feel valued.

Startups will generally find that employees value healthcare and PTO more highly over free perks. Integrating more cost-effective perks into your employee packages is a much more reasonable way to keep employees happy. After all, who doesn't want to participate in Hawaiian Shirt Friday?  

Published on: Aug 10, 2016