Did you know the average Google and Facebook employee's day begins with a comfy, Wi-Fi-enabled shuttle bus whisking him or her to work? Once there, dozens of free breakfast options await. Free buffet lunches break the monotony of the day. There are free snacks for those peckish between meals. There are on-campus gyms. Day care. Dry cleaning. Car rentals. A sunbathing site equipped with 30-inch TV monitors. And, yes Virginia, even toilets with heated seats.
According to a Nick Bilton column in The New York Times, such coddling has produced two results:
- A workforce that is willing to work 24x7 in exchange for such extravagant perks
- A sense of complacency.
Bilton believes the outrageous sense of entitlement that goes along with such pampering is a primary reason why both Silicon Valley superstars risk “...being left behind as technology shifts from PCs and Web browsers to mobile devices.”
He says Google Plus completely ignores a smartphone app and mobile site while Facebook's recent purchase of Instagram underscores their struggles, as does their mobile app which, Bilton warns “is sometimes painfully slow.” In other words, while the technology sector is charging ahead in fast forward mode, Google and Facebook remain perfectly content to stay in neutral.
I think Bilton's analysis is spot on. I believe too many companies go too far in making their employees happy and content. In fact, I engaged in a rather heated discussion with my Peppercom colleague Deb Brown in one of last week's blogs.
I also believe too many bosses try to play the nice card instead of being tough and direct.
It's my contention that Bilton's peers in the media are partly to blame for the heated toilet seat syndrome. Publications ranging from Fortune to The Holmes Report heap glowing praise on employers who provide the coolest, neatest, trendiest perks, handing out ‘best workplace’ accolades and rankings (which is suspect, considering these rankings are based solely on anonymous employee surveys and not the journalist's qualitative experience in the actual workplace).
Please don't misunderstand my POV, though. I'm all for periodic massages, telecommuting, fun, offsite activities and the like. But, NOT at the expense of productivity or innovation.
Peppercom is first, and foremost, a meritocracy. We reward employees for achieving the best results, not the deepest tan. And, that mentality has stood us in good stead. Our best employees have stayed. Those who didn't perform (or who didn't buy into our culture) left. And, the end result is a business that's grown to $15 million in 16 years (while those aren't Google or Facebook numbers, you won't find ANY public relations reporter opining that Peppercom risks being left behind. We excel at introducing new products and services to the market).
But, enough of the paid political announcement. What's your take on employee perks? Should employers continue to pamper their workers with meditation rooms replete with faux waterfalls and music by Yanni? Or, should such rewards be distributed individually and only to those who merit them? It's an interesting question because, as I've said, the Fortune's and Holmes Reports of the world don't track productivity when they rank workplaces. And, I think that's a mistake.
Spare the rod. Spoil the employee.