HR & Management

UK startups need to tap into "perk hacks" to inspire creativity and loyalty among staff

5 min read

16 April 2015

Pinterest has its zen meditation room, Slack has its company socks, but what perks are UK startups offering in order to attract the most talented employees?

There was a time when “unlimited coffee and snacks” and “Friday beers” was enough to tempt a potential employee into joining your company. But now they are a basic expectation of startup working life. 

If you work at Mars Chocolate you get free candy! And if you work for any of their pet divisions, then bringing your furry friend to the office is encouraged.

Tagged, a social discovery website geared at making it easier to connect with people through games and profiles, gives a way a whole lot of freebies. It’s not do with products though. They have a free gym membership, regular massage days, unlimited sick and vacation days, and monthly wine tastings.

Then there’s New York City-based Omnigon, a digital consultant for sports and entertainment brands. When 5pm rolls around it’s the start of the company’s happy hour. There’s a bar, DJ booth, and the employees get to pick their own tunes.

Discovery Communications, which owns the Discovery Channel, try to keep employees thinking creatively by offering free classes and events, such as African dance classes, chocolate-making lessons and fly-fishing.

Internet giant Facebook also has a plethora of perks that will you coming back for more. There’s a candy shop on-site and a vending machine filled with free computer accessories (believe it or not).

Google is probably one of many companies we have to thank for this new trend and it has become a hard act to follow. This often leaves founders and CEOs of startups and small businesses in a tricky position. How do you attract top talent and make your staff feel awesome without increasing your burn rate?

Read more about how to keep your staff happy:

In a Real Business article by Zen Terrelonge, he examined the 50 things workers would love to have in order to make their company considered “cool”.

According to Bought By Many, the answer is “perk hacks” – staff benefits where the value perceived by the employee is “disproportionately high compared to the cost of provision”. To find out what hacks UK startups employed, the company combed through 500 startup job ads to find out.

Due to its location, Biscuit Factory has access to a climbing wall and social listening startup Brandwatch and custom marshmallow trailblazers Boomf are both taking full advantage of a bike scheme which enables employees to buy a new bike at half-price.

Founder of footwear brand mahabis, Ankur Shah, is a long-time advocate of this perk hack: “I’ve been using a four day work week at most of my startups. It sets the right balance between life and work, and emphasises productivity over simply spending time in the office. A perk with both substance and style”.

Apps for Good is one of many companies to have started offering the simple perk of a day off. “Cash-conscious CEOs might consider quietly reducing the annual leave allowance by one day to offset the adverse productivity impact,” Bought By Many suggested.

Another trend in the workplace has been the establishment of a team bucket list. This has proven successful at Global App Testing. The employer crowdsources the list from staff and sponsors the activity for everyone once a month. Skiing lessons, kart racing, and a trip to Shakespeare’s Globe have all ensued.

These perks may seem small, but they go a long way to fostering employee loyalty and creativity. 

Dan Cobley, Google’s UK managing director, once told a conference of business leaders that everything had to have a meaning. He suggested that the tech company’s canteen lines were intentionally kept long, “because we know people will chat while they’re waiting’. Chats become ideas, and ideas become projects, he added.

Forward-thinking firms need to nurture “serendipitous interaction” between their staff, Cobley said. Google has a history of perks and workplace practices that seem “extravagant and juvenile”, yet Cobley insisted they inspire the creativity that every business should strive for in their employees.

If you have any innovative and original perks that you offer your staff, please let us know in the comment box below.