We obviously don’t have a lot of salary to offer. We’ll be making generous equity offers and we’re very flexible in terms of working from home and vacation. Additionally, we want to offer some very original, creative perks that will help sweeten the pot. Have you guys read of any creative perks that startups use to entice employees (especially when they can’t offer a high salary)?
My startup is small with an entry level producer and a couple interns. We know that we're not paying top dollar but we do keep everyone happy.
1. We have beer on tap, as well as really great coffee and tea.
2. We have a snack shelf. We also get donuts, cookies, or starbucks brought in about once a week. Sometimes we have Pancake Friday where I'll just cook everyone some pancakes.
3. Since we are a media company, we have creative sessions.
4. Our office hours are offset from rush hour so we get in at 10am and sometimes don't go to work until noon. Fridays are optional work from home days for those that can.
5. We have dogs, and sometimes cats, in the office for snuggle breaks.
6. Every other Monday is laser tag night. We also have a perk for some free movie tickets due to some connections.
7. We have a collection of board games, nerf guns, coloring books, etc because creatives need creative breaks.
8. We work really hard on getting everyone's personal film projects off the ground because support from like minded people is a priority in our company culture.
It's not creative but I've found that simple perks done right go a long way.
Water quality is often overlooked, which is a shame because it's cheap to get right. Good quality water makes for much better tea and coffee. A simple $20 water filter from the market can set a more positive tone for the whole day. Built-in water dispensers (one cold, one 70C-75C for green tea, and one 90C for black tea or coffee) with a built-in filter would be amazing. I've also seen large water dispensers filled with ice and fruit slices.
I've had a manager prepare toast, or grilled cheese sandwiches, or pancakes for the whole team. It's inexpensive, gets face time, and goes a long way to building loyalty and camaraderie.
Healthy snacks are something to consider, too. Fruit and vegetables are often inexpensive.
It feels good to make a grand gesture but little things are more easily sustained and have a sustained impact.
Soft perks go a long, long way. Here are a few I've used in my startups, as well as in larger companies:
1. Create a culture that is you and your team, preach it, live it, and let employees express themselves and play a part in its continual improvement.
2. Team events - before, during lunch, and after hours.
3. Bring your pet to work
4. Ideas from the team on what would help them become more productive, then follow through with those within your budget. Many will be very cheap and some can be implemented by the employees themselves - yoga class, group exercise, express yourself with art, mixing up the mediums, clean up the city blocks around you ...
5. Learning - have a library so people can increase knowledge and skills they can use in their job or in expanding their imagination. Give points for books read.
6. Free time for a special project for the company and time to present it to the team.
7. Use your imagination - there are many things you can do for cheap that the people value.
I saw Jeff Hoffman speak last year at a conference and one of the things he said is that any time he wants to hire someone he asks them what a personal goal of theirs is. This could be anything from visiting New Zealand, to owning a home, to breaking the hopping on one foot record ( 6 minutes, 13.11 seconds). He then tells them that he will work to help them achieve that goal.
The way he spoke, he said it with conviction. The way I remember him telling the story, this really helped bring people on when he couldn't give top salary. People want to know you care about them.
Of course you'll have to follow through on it, too, but that's probably just a bit of organization and volunteer hours on your part.
Tee shirts. Gym bags. Things that make them know you embrace them and they are on a team. Have their email set up. If they have a desk, make sure it is ready. If they get new technology, make sure it is ready. Have it ready the day they arrive so they have it from the first moment. Onboarding is so badly done, make sure you are there to "embrace" them as they walk in the door - as if you have been waiting for them for a month. Water and snacks are immaterial if you make people feel welcome and part of the team.
What I have tried in my software startup, and it seems to be working really well since every team member is really happy with it :
1. We are quite flexible with the working hours and people can even work from home from time to time.
2. We have bio coffee, since that is one of the most important thing for a software engineer :)
3. We have regular socializing events.
4. We attend regular events together and have fun. Few weeks ago we have won the local Nasa Space Apps Challenge and the whole team was really happy.
5. We have 5 minutes one on one meetings occasionally in which I am hearing feedback and ideas of improvement.
In the end is not necessary the money that will motivate and keep people engaged, but how important do they feel in the company. The feeling of being part of something important, goes a long way.
Free membership at a local (fairly high end) health club. On the plus side, it is relatively inexpensive, pay as you go, and promotes a healthy lifestyle. On the negative side, it is hard to terminate if you need to.
I worked at a startup around 2000/2001. They had a monthly social subsidy of around £20/head. This was really well attended and the funding remained the same however many people turned up - so fewer people would sometimes mean a 100% subsidy and carry over to the next month. We went white water rafting, quad biking, gliding, etc etc. Was very good for camaraderie and relatively inexpensive.
I also once read of a place that had a nice (but not ridiculous) sports car as a pool car. Everyone got their turn to have it for a weekend or whatever if they wanted. Not too expensive when the cost was shared across all the people who used it.
Free hour tickets that you can give to well producing employees. Getting 8 of them would qualify for one full paid day off or staff can use those to come later or leave earlier - subject to admin approval. 2) Fooda.com is another idea - paying for lunch $10 per person. Both work great.
I personally kept a "startup diary" for the company, recording the fun conversations and funny things happened while we work - people seem to like it and often post it to their social network whenever they were mentioned lol Our company is very content focused so just for your information.