Don’t mistake company perks for a winning company culture
Money, bonuses and financial incentives are short-term fixes for retaining your
employees. If all that you are offering is cash, it won’t be long until the talented
employees within your organisation start looking elsewhere to have their needs met.
Additional perks like free lunches, subsidised travel or gym memberships have an initial
impact, but to drive long-term benefits to your business you need to deliver something
different. Employee research suggests that effective leadership, a collaborative culture
and a clear and well-articulated business strategy are all vital to attract and retain good
people, as well as a strong focus on employee development and appreciation. These less
tangible assets create a company culture people want to be part of and are a major
contributor for the continued success and growth of an organisation.
The London School of Economics ran a study a few years ago which tested this theory,
and the finding was conclusive: “Performance-related pay often does not encourage
people to work harder and sometimes has the opposite effect”. It discovered that
financial incentives often reduced intrinsic motivation, or the internal desire to
complete a task and the satisfaction that one gets from completing such a task. The
study also suggested that monetary incentives could diminish ethical or social reasons
for complying with workplace norms, such as fairness.
So what can you do about it? After all, it’s a relatively simple process to offer more
money, but it takes a lot more effort to create a winning company culture. But it cannot
be overlooked. Employee engagement is a competitive advantage, and a great
motivator for retaining talent, so the sooner companies put greater focus on company
culture, the better.
Goals and Objectives
A company with a lack of focus will not be able to develop a winning culture. If there’s
no business plan in place to articulate company goals, how can employees have a clear
idea of what they’re working towards? They need purpose over and above “affect the
bottom line”, and if one isn’t provided it will lead to a disenchanted workforce. “What’s
the use” and “Why bother” will quickly become mantras around the water cooler.
Provide your employees with goals and objectives that support and are in tune with
your short and long term business goals. Articulating their role in achieving your long-
term success will create a strong feeling of belonging and a sense of significance within
the larger team.
Lead by Example
Leadership emanates from the top, and needs to exemplify the company culture and
values. If it appears that there is a lack of accountability or leadership, the effects will be
felt throughout the rest of the organisation. Employees will quickly become disaffected
with their management team and eventually the entire business.
Companies need to have a leadership team that breeds trust. Of course they can have
disagreements behind closed doors, but any interaction with the rest of the organisation
needs to be on a united front.
Creating that behaviour in the leadership team sets the tone for the rest of the
organisation. A critical part of this is defining your company’s vision and values. These
shouldn’t just be fluffy phrases that are printed at the bottom of your company website.
Everyone needs to live and breathe them. They need to be ingrained in the culture of
the company, from the bottom to the top. This will help your employees develop a
sense of pride in their work environment and enable the organisation to work as one
If the departments within an organisation work in silos, it won’t be long before each of
them is pulling the company in different directions. These efforts, no matter how well
intentioned, will dilute the overall result and will end up making your employees feel
disillusioned that their efforts don’t seem to be getting them, or the company,
A strong culture fosters a collaborative environment. Department barriers should
constantly be challenged, and employees need to feel empowered to break these
barriers down. The level of autonomy a person has is reflected in the culture within the
Another barrier to dissolve is the “Us vs. Them” mentality between senior management
and the rest of the organisation. Employees need to feel empowered to challenge long-
standing sacred cows and bring their creative thinking and solutions to the table.
There has to be a culture of “no idea is a bad idea”. There’s a level of risk in this
approach, but the management team has to support a culture where it’s all right to fail,
as long as the reasoning behind the decision was well intentioned.
Weak company cultures are stuck in the past. They do things the same way they’ve
always done things and are slow to change. If they’re not adapting to the constant
external ebb and flow within their industry, it has a negative impact on their growth
potential. It also leaves employees feeling frustrated when their ideas don’t get
When employees are encouraged to always think of new ways of doing things, when
innovation is a daily occurrence and not just an afterthought, that’s when you build a
culture that is engaged and accountable. Organisations need to be fast, fluid and flexible
to constantly overcome their industry challenges, and stay one step ahead of
Employees expect to be paid, but companies who think this is the end of their employee
commitment won’t get the best out of their teams. It’s naive to think that just because
an employee is getting paid, they’re 100% committed and always delivering their best
work. You shouldn’t expect a fully engaged culture to develop it you’re not investing in
the personal development of all your employees.
If you want a team that’s committed to the success of your business, you need to
understand their personal goals and help achieve them. Companies with an engaged
culture invest time and resource in identifying their employees training and
development needs and make an ongoing commitment to their individual success.
Monetary rewards are good, but recognition for a job well done is a critical element to
maintaining employee engagement. Appreciation is a fundamental human need, and
people want to be valued and respected for their contribution. Companies that think a
paycheck is recognition enough are being disrespectful to their employee’s efforts.
Your team needs to have pride in what they’re doing each day and have confidence that
what they’re doing is making a difference. Recognising a team member’s effort with a
verbal acknowledgement has a longer lasting effect that a low profile monetary reward.
It sends a powerful message throughout the organisation that efforts are recognised
There was a time when any talk of a CSR strategy would have been the domain of the
marketing department. Now it is just as much about recruiting and retaining the best
talent, as it is about building relationships with customers.
The non-profit Net Impact carried out a survey of people, in which 53 per cent of
workers stated that “a job where I can make an impact” was important to their
happiness. Even more fascinating was the 72 per cent of students about to enter the
workforce who agreed. Many of these also said that they would even take a pay cut to
achieve that goal.
People no longer want to work for companies only interested in making profits for
shareholders. Now they are looking for organisations that contribute to society in
multiple ways, and who demonstrate values and principles that match their own.
Building a company with a culture that cultivates success is about providing an
environment that helps your employees feel productive and motivated to deliver their
best. So what do you think? Does your organisation do everything it can to develop a
culture of success, or could more be done?