Google is famous for the perks it offers its employees. Staff at the Googleplex in California get free onsite haircuts, can take a dip in one of the swimming pools (complete with lifeguard), play ping pong, billiards, foosball, or have their dry cleaning done for free.
But you don’t have to be one of the world’s biggest tech companies to show your employees how much you value them and motivate them to achieve bigger and better things.
At Xero, we believe a happy workplace is a motivated and productive workplace. As a disruptive business which is rewriting the rules of accounting and giving small business owners control over their finances, we need our team to be creative and empowered.
Even small businesses with only a handful of staff can do some of the things we do to foster a positive workplace culture.
We make a point of recognising achievements. Sometimes we do it in a small and informal way, with a pat on the back from a supervisor or by sharing praise from a customer across the company.
Other times it’s more structured. We have a quarterly awards ceremony where I reward employees for exemplary work with a fine dining voucher for two, and once a year those who really overachieve are rewarded with a trip to Hawaii with the senior executive team.
Try the same approach in your business. If someone’s done a good job on a project or solved a difficult problem, gather the team around, outline the good job they’ve done and lead a round of applause. You might think it’s just a round of applause, but people thrive on recognition.
For bigger achievements like winning new business or working overtime to meet a tough deadline, buy them a gift. Luckily as a small business owner, you’ll know your staff well enough to know if they’d prefer a voucher for a manicure or a nice bottle of wine. Then gather the staff around and celebrate their achievement.
At Xero, we also like to create a team culture and celebrate achievements of the whole business. Earlier this year we threw a party in the Melbourne office to celebrate reaching 100,000 customers in Australia, and had dinner and drinks catered by food trucks, and music delivered by employees forming the Xero in-house band, known as ‘Xero Talent’. In fact, we’re lucky to have an over-representation of musical talent at Xero. I store my own PA system and guitar amps in the office, so we’re ready for the occasional spontaneous Friday night jam session.
For a small business, a food truck obviously wouldn’t be an economical way of feeding your staff, but you can still celebrate achievements. Take the staff out for lunch on a Friday when they’ve been working really hard or have lunch delivered to their desks from time to time.
Employees who spend time together work better together, so you can do things like organise an occasional trip to the movies or a football match. Our social club, the Xero Good Times Crew, is run by the staff, who come up with their own ideas for outings, everything from yoga and gym sessions, to lunches and ski weekends.
We also have a pool table and café-standard coffee machine in the break room. And to help staff get the best possible coffee they can we put them all through barista training. That means that instead of everyone wandering off to a café to buy their coffee, there are lots of impromptu social gatherings around the coffee machine.
Here are a few other perks for your staff, which won’t break the bank:
If your workplace can accommodate it, let people bring their dog to work or have a weekly Bring your Dog to Work Day. Pet owners see this as a major workplace perk.
If you can, let valued employees work flexibly so they can pick up their children or meet other commitments. This is a major benefit that employees value highly. Likewise, can employees work from home for one or two days a week? Anyone with a long commute will jump at the opportunity.
Another free way of providing perks is to negotiate deals for your staff with local businesses. Maybe you could arrange discount gym membership or cheaper lunches from a nearby takeaway. At Xero, we arranged to get a masseuse in for our Customer Care team when they were working flat out at the end of the last financial year. The 15 minute neck massages went down a treat.
Give your staff the opportunity to expand their skills and experience. Strictly speaking this isn’t a perk, but the feeling that their career is advancing is a key motivator for employees.
Finally, try giving a younger staff member increased responsibility. Put them in charge of their own project or make them responsible for some customer accounts. Likewise, consider sending promising staff on a course to improve their skills. Not only will you have more motivated staff, you’ll also end up with more skilled and capable staff, who will ultimately add more value for your business.
Ultimately, the key is to think creatively. You want to find a match between what your employees will value and what you can give them (within a reasonable budget). You’ll have happier, more motivated and more creative staff. What other creative ways have you found to offer great workplace perks on a budget?
Chris Ridd is Xero Australia’s managing director
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.