The other day I found myself reeling as I was reading through some of Silicon Valley’s best jobs perks – see them here on Forbes.
As you know, this is an employee’s market. If you are skilled, you are in demand. Creating a competitive employee experience is one thing companies do to lure the most skilled talent among us.
Creating employee experience usually involves perks. The central question behind all of these perks is, “how can I make this company the most attractive to the best talent?”
Reading through the list, these companies were firing on all cylinders when it comes to the quality of the perks offered as a benefit of employment.
Consider the following examples. These are the top five that I considered to be the best.
Sabbatical option after five years (Adobe) – Absolutely great! What I miss most about going to college was the schedule. Though I attended summer classes mostly through college, having a month or two off was vital for my sanity. Once you enter the working world, it’s just a grind year after year for decades with little respite. Sabbaticals are a great alternative to a life of work, and they are a great perk.
Free artisanal coffee bar (Zynga) – I tend to make the Starbucks trip about 2:00 p.m or so on most weekdays. The walk is nice and the coffee (even though it’s decaf) helps me reset for the home stretch. Free artisanal coffee, though, would be really nice – especially when the rain in Seattle makes walking less fun. I vote yes for artisanal coffee!
Healthcare on-site (Facebook) – Love it! The whole hassle of setting up the doctor appointment, driving to the facility, and going through the motions is such a pain. Imagine just zipping into a neighboring office for a doctor’s visit. Get your prescription and be on your way. Super nice.
Organic home-cooked meals twice a day (Asana) – Are you kidding me? This is fantastic! It’s one thing to get free meals, it’s quite another thing to get organic, home-cooked meals. I usually bring my lunch to the office, but I would be all over this perk if it were offered.
Unlimited time off within reason (Twitter) – Thank you, Twitter. Finally a company that understands that employees are adults who know how to act like adults. I have always found that “earning” vacation feels like such a throwback to the sensibilities of my father’s generation. Just let the people vacation, man! They won’t take advantage of you.
But something about this article also caught my attention. Actually, what caught my attention wasn’t mentioned at all.
There was no mention of purpose anywhere in this article.
Of all of the places I have worked, none of them clearly communicated the vision or mission of the organization. In every case it was either a mass assumption that we got it, or it was a mass assumption that we didn’t care.
Even scarier, it could be that there really was no real vision or mission in the first place.
Sure, these organizations had mission statements. But a mission and a mission statement aren’t the same thing. Plus, mission statements are typically full of impenetrable, nobody-criticize-me language.
Some had vision statements, but those were equally as bad.
Nobody I have ever worked for was mission focused and I have been working full time for over 20 years. They were work focused – task focused – but not mission focused.
No organization I have ever worked for ever did the mental work to establish a clear and compelling mission, or a real vision, or a real “why.”
There was no answer as to why on earth does this place even exists!
We all had our jobs. We all knew what the product was or what the service was. We knew what we should be doing. Most of us had an inkling of why the product or service mattered. Some of us knew some strategies. But I don’t think many of my coworkers could tell you why any of it mattered.
The best job perk out there is when a company takes the time and energy to develop and communicate a clear and compelling vision and mission, and then directs the work of the organization in such a way to fulfill that vision and mission.
In this scenario, the organization is basing decisions on its mission, not only on the ROI of a potential product or service.
In this scenario, the organization is focused on the red meat of why it’s in existence, not on ancillary “good ideas” that come from unfocused thinking.
In this scenario, the people of the organization know why the organization is important, they know why their jobs are important, and they know why the work is important.
You know, the fundamental stuff many places overlook.
But all of this only sounds good here on this page, and I understand that.
You aren’t going to find this perk topping the headlines as one of the best perks of Silicon Valley or anywhere for that matter. This perk won’t necessarily drive people in the door because it’s not sexy. It doesn’t have the immediate appeal of a free organic lunch.
But if you offered such a perk, you would be at the top of my list.
I don’t want unlimited vacation as much as I want to work for a place that has a mission aligned with my values.
I will bring my own lunch if it means I can be a part of something that is more than just a vacuous money-making machine.
I will give up most every perk to be a part of something that really matters.
If you are still unconvinced, let me offer you this.
A new car only feels new for a few weeks and then it just becomes your car.
A new gadget only feels cool for a while before it looses its luster.
Every perk suffers the same fate. After the initial coolness, most every perk just becomes a part of our life. It’s specialness wears off.
Mission driven organizations, though, inspire something else inside of us. They inspire our sense of frontier – our sense of adventure – and they inspire our purpose.
And purpose tends to hang around for a while.