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Overdoing the perks in IT

July 16, 2014 2 Comments

perksRachel Feintzeig at the New York Times has an interesting piece on how the perk-rich environment of Silicon Valley is causing problems for non-SV companies:

Years ago, it was just Silicon Valley firms that vied to outdo one other on perks, but as more companies go on the hunt for skilled workers to power their technology, a vast array of employers are competing with Facebook Inc. and Google Inc., he notes. And employees are getting used to it.

Recently, an employee asked whether Redfin would subsidize gym membership fees or reward staff for exercising.

“My reaction was, ‘Oh brother,” Kelman said. “I just think there can be a culture of entitlement.”

“It’s really a privilege to be able to work at a company where we try to treat each other well,” Kelman said. “Sometimes you can forget that and just say, ‘Well, when’s the next perk coming?”

Short piece, but worth reading.

I have always been a staunch advocate for providing basic perks that will allow engineers to focus on their primary task of getting quality products out the door. But I fear the “arms race” of perks in Silicon Valley — and firms that have to compete with Valley firms — ultimately leads to high expectations with no visible return.

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About the Author:

Webster is Principal and Founder at at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor for the BYU Computer Science Department. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at 303.502.4141 or at bwebster@bfwa.com.

Comments (2)

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  1. David Andersen says:

    Perks can be nice, but not when they’re given as a substitute for a competitive salary or a good work environment. I’ve had recruiters make a big deal over things like free snacks and soda to try to sell me on jobs that paid 10k less than average and where 50 hour work weeks were the norm. That may do it for some people, but it doesn’t work for me. The best “perks” I have right now are my top of the line laptop with docking station, dual widescreen monitors, and software licenses for the tools that help me do my job. Those shouldn’t even count as perks, but sadly at a lot of companies they are seen that way and they don’t provide them. I’ve worked for companies where it took months to get more RAM for my computer, and software licenses for anything beyond the standard Microsoft developer environment were out of the question. At times I have spent my own money to buy software that the company refused to purchase, despite the fact that it would have paid for itself in less than a week.

    Good tools are more important than free soda, lunches or gym memberships. When an employer gives me the best tools money can buy it makes me feel appreciated as an employee and it shows me that the company values my time enough to use it in the most efficient way possible.

  2. bfwebster says:

    David:

    You are exactly right that great tools should not be considered “perks” but rather essential expenditures. Decades ago, I had a successful software entrepreneur/CEO explain me that he basically set up an ‘unlimited’ budget for systems and tools for his software development team. He said that he had come to the realization that whatever he spent on such items was far less than what he would lose each month the product under development/revision was late in shipping. Sadly, as you noted, this simple realization is lacking in much of the industry.

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