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Attracting talent when office perks are gone

It didn’t really hit home for me that I worked for a tech company until I saw the mini-fridges full of coconut water.

A fan of the HBO series Silicon Valley, this was my clear skies ‘aha’ moment. Not that I didn’t know what the company did; it just hadn’t hit home yet that we designed software. It seems silly now that this felt like some sort of awakening, but there you have it.

(This may be abundantly obvious at this point, but I don’t actually design the software myself).

With offices shuttered across the world, I’m sad to report that the days of free lunches and endless coconut water are over.

That’s right, today we’re talking about office perks. More specifically, how to attract talent when the office perks are gone because we’re all working from home.

Office perks as a recruiting tool

Who cares about office perks, you say? Au contraire! How I miss my coconut water and standing desk. I also miss having coworkers whom I can pawn off the junk food that accumulates over the holiday season.

Sure, we all have more important issues to worry about. Yet don’t discount the role office perks play in the recruiting process. I’d argue their impact is more than the sum of their coconut-flavored parts.

If we’re honest, office perks aren’t really about the perks. They’re about the feeling they create – a sense of comfort, belonging, importance. They’re designed to make us feel good, to relieve stress, make things easier. And yes, to keep us hydrated.

So without further ado, let’s dive into four ways to attract talent without office perks.

Give them a tour from home

Many of us have been working from home for the better part of a year now. While we expect to see a big rise in remote work in future (compared to pre-pandemic levels), many of us are eager to get back into the office. And while that will mean trading in our sweats and canine coworkers, we’ll all be glad for things to go back to normal.

At least, that’s how it will be for those of us who haven’t changed jobs mid-pandemic. For those who have, or are looking, there is no normal to go back to.

How do you communicate a workplace to someone who has never seen it? How to you explain company culture to someone who hasn’t ever sat next to their coworkers?

You get creative.

Take Hexagon PPM, a leading provider of software for the oil, gas, and construction industries. With offices in more than 60 countries worldwide, Hexagon is no stranger to virtual hiring. One of the ways it gives candidates a sense of what it’s like to work for them is through virtual tours of its HQ in Madison, Alabama.

Able to click through rooms, common areas, conference centers, and hallways, Hexagon’s candidates get acquainted with the company’s physical location (and, by extension, what it values) wherever they are in the world. We all know how intimidating it is to arrive somewhere for a meeting and have no idea where to go or what’s expected of us. Hexagon’s virtual tour creates comfort and familiarity, softens their image, and creates a sense of belonging.

If nothing else, it’s an excellent practice for navigating to and from your desk on the first day back. After working from home for months, having a digital map to practice with might not be such a bad idea.

Offer virtual team building

Complimentary cleaning and catered lunches are welcome conveniences. So is reserved parking. One intangible perk is being a part of a group. To feel the camaraderie of collaboration, of winning deals, and building things together.

Sometimes people are the real reason we want to work – and stay – at a company. Company-sponsored activities where we can spend time with teammates in a relaxed setting, kicking back for a few laughs after a hard day, is an intangible perk many of us miss while working from the kitchen table.

Zoom happy hours have gotten very popular over the last year, but they’re just one way to team build in our remote world. There are virtual cooking classes, movie nights, pet show and tell, and industry conferences, just to name a few.

In fact, I’ve spent many hundreds of words on this very topic already: you can read them here.

Use career sites to highlight your culture

There’s a reason we used to do in-person interviews whenever possible. There’s a depth to the interview experience that candidates feel when they meet you on-site, an X-factor – that’s harder to recreate online.

Maybe they witness teams meeting together for lunch or enjoying a walking meeting and a coffee. The friendly front-desk staff or your mascot in the lobby are all a glimpse of your culture.

Here’s where technology designed specifically to engage candidates at a distance shines. Your career site is an opportunity to create a curated experience and show off your culture. Include employee testimonials, videos from company events, and pictures of milestones and achievements. You can tailor these all by location or department. Be sure to explain compensation and benefits too – and perks, don’t forget about those!

Create at-home perks

It took a while to settle in at home without all the comforts of desks purpose-built for our jobs, balancing laptops on old folding tables and propping monitors up on boxes. Now that we’ve converted spare bedrooms and dens into makeshift offices, it’s not too late for employers to help out.

A few months ago, iCIMS created a program that reimburses employees for specific home office and quality of life expenses, including new office chairs, standing desks, printers, and even some medical bills for our pets.

Sure, it’s no coconut water. But it does communicate caring.

Summing it up

Office perks can come across silly. They’re not needs. They’re wants. With so much going on in the world, it’s easy to write them off as unimportant. All that is true and fair.

But what we shouldn’t write off is culture. That’s the last thing we should be willing to give up. Perks alone aren’t going to define your company or hiring experience. When they are a part of something larger, they communicate value, worth, and caring.

And that alone is worth more than a career’s worth of free coconut water.

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