On a pretty consistent basis, we see these news articles about something radical that a company did to underline its culture or increase productivity in a major way. A few months ago, Microsoft experimented with a four-day work week and saw a gigantic jump in productivity. Meanwhile, places like Google, Ben & Jerry’s, and Zappos have made headlines by allowing employees to take a nap while on the clock.

The latest story making its rounds is about SteelHouse, an advertising company located in California, and its CEO, Mark Douglas, who does his best to force employees into taking a vacation. How is this attempted? By literally paying for it.

Employees at SteelHouse are given a $2,000 bonus every year that must be spent on a vacation. Douglas even lets them use their company credit card to pay for airfare if the employee can’t come up with the cash upfront. That’s how committed he is to this theory. And the results? Douglas claims that SteelHouse has “virtually zero turnover.” 

But can these tactics work for your company?

Before you rush over to re-write your company’s handbook to include something like unlimited vacation, or a four-day workweek, or nap pods, or even a bonus to pay for an employee’s vacation, you need to take a step back and ask yourself why you are wanting to implement these new policies. 

Because let me tell you–there’s no quick fix for a toxic workplace culture.

If your employees are stressed out to the point of medical issues occurring, allowing them to nap during the work day isn’t going to help much. If your employees fear speaking their mind or giving opinions due to an authoritative leadership, having them only come in four days instead of five every week isn’t going to get rid of that fear.

Trying to mask your company’s culture problems with new employee-centric perks is like putting a BandAid on a bullet wound. Like that classic Bart Simpson cake GIF says, at least you tried, Before it all goes in the trash.

Company culture is something that needs to be examined from a fundamental and honest point of view. And for real change to occur, the leaders of the company need to determine what kind of culture they currently (and actually) have, and what kind of culture they want to have. Proclaiming to outsiders that you have an amazing company culture doesn’t mean you actually have one, especially while, internally, your current employees suffer and hate their lives–and are probably leaving at a rapid pace.

The reason the aforementioned tactics end up working for companies like Microsoft, Google, and SteelHouse is because they have built a solid foundation of culture and are simply adding to it, stabilizing it more in the process. You don’t build a house by starting with the roof, you start with the foundation–and the same concept applies to company culture.

So take a step back and ask yourself why you’re implementing your new employee perk to the handbook. Is it because you actually want to enrich the culture you have built, or are you simply reacting to a larger problem by trying to put in a quick fix, hoping it gets you by for the next six months? Just like an old clunker car that you keep putting $100 here and $100 there in to, eventually it’s going to stop running. 


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