It's becoming incredibly common for people to mistake perks for company culture.
Ask any variety of people about their culture strategy and they will tell you about their party planning committee or the new ping pong table they ordered for the office. And it makes sense! Perks are tangible things that you can easily wrap your head around, while culture is this intangible presence that's much harder to describe.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm all about perks! They are a great way to show employee appreciation. However, to mistake them with culture is doing your company a huge disservice.
So what IS the difference?
Perks are privileges granted to employees in addition to their salaries and benefits.
In contrast, company culture is defined as the values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization.
While dictionary definitions are great, nothing rings clearer than a few real life examples. Let's start with the most common offenders - games and parties.
Having a ping pong table for your employees is a perk.
Whether or not your employees feel comfortable using the ping pong table
is a reflection of your company's culture.
Is taking a break to play ping pong seen as a positive way to refresh and clear your brain before heading back to your desk? Or does no one dare take a break to play, because they fear they'll be seen as an unproductive member of the team for doing so? These mindsets are reflections of the beliefs that are held in your office - reflections of your culture.
Hosting happy hours for your employees is a perk.
How employees behave at those happy hours is a reflection of your company's culture.
Does everyone on your team feel comfortable attending or do certain people feel unwelcome? Are crude jokes thrown around once people are a few drinks in or does the conversation stay respectful? Do people order as many drinks as possible on the company card or are they thoughtful of how much they're spending? These are all reflections of a company's culture.
Kind of cool to see the differences, yeah? What's most exciting to me is that understanding the differences makes culture something more tangible and actionable.
Want to encourage a culture of play and trust? Take time to lead by example and schedule three 20-minute blocks during your workweek to challenge someone in the office to ping pong or another activity away from the computer.
Want to foster a culture of inclusivity and safety? Plan a team bonding activity that doesn't revolve around drinking. Or speak up when someone says something inappropriate after having a few to many drinks.
When it comes to culture, actions speak louder than words.
And in my experience, culture speaks louder than perks every single time.
To happier employees,
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