These days it’s common practice for tech employers to tout lavish perks in their recruiting efforts. A top spec Mac, huge displays, free drinks, snacks, laundry services, in-house barista, etc. You name it. It’s all been done.
As supplementary support for people doing extraordinary work, these things can be very helpful. But when perks become the primary focus of recruiting and retention discussions, that may be a sign you’re lacking the environment great talent is actually seeking out.
Great talent isn’t looking for free snacks. They’re looking for meaningful work, clearly defined (and matching) values, brilliant peers, and an environment where they can do the best work of their lives. They want to be operating at their highest level of performance possible, free from distraction and friction.
The right environment reduces friction.
While perks can alleviate the very top level of friction, the deeper sources of friction are much more debilitating. Things like fuzzy goals, conflicting values and directives, picking up the slack for poor performing peers, and distracting office politics. No amount of perks can make these tolerable. Furthermore, if you do manage to land a great candidate, you’re not likely to retain them for long in this sort of environment.
Finding great talent is hard. And while many great companies offer impressive perks, the causation must not be confused. Offering perks isn’t a shortcut to attracting great talent, it’s merely the tip of the iceberg.