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These startups are putting your company culture to shame

Perks are about more than fussball tables and free lunches. They’re about making team members feel valued, and offering them ways to increase their engagement with the work they do.

Free lunches and game rooms can be nice, but they don’t create a startup company culture. They merely set the tone for it. Ultimately culture is made by the people of the company, and the way they approach their work.

But there is a lot to learn from teams that approached culture the right way, and did some really clever things to guide and define what makes them who they are. Below are just five of these things. Some of them are so easy to implement and inexpensive that you’ll wonder why you haven’t thought of them yourself!

Vacation tax - Quora

The team over at Quora has something called a “vacation tax”. After each vacation, employees bring in exotic food items for everyone in the office to try. This is such a simple tradition, but it can have a big impact on the company culture. For one, it increases the feeling of camaraderie among team members. It also gets them to experience new things together (I guess depending on how exotic those exotic food items are) and maybe share their own travel adventures – and who doesn’t feel good telling others about their travels? 

Music lessons - Softwire

Softwire provides free onsite drumming and singing lessons for its team members. Not only is music therapeutical and can help manage stress, but learning music at work can help team members feel good about stepping outside their comfort zone. And for those who aren’t that much into music, Softwire has a morale budget that can be used toward other onsite classes, like sushi-making. 

Paid workation – Fresh Tilled Soil 

This is probably one of the best perks ever. In 2012, Fresh Tilled Soil began sending its team members on workations – work vacations. This is in addition to their regular vacation time, which people can take whenever they want. For the workation, Fresh Tilled Soil sends its top performers to a cool place like Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic, all expenses covered (plane ticket, accommodation, food and even some classes like surfing or yoga). All the employees have to do is the same work they would have done at home, just do it in a new and different place – then have as much fun as possible after work. 

This is amazing on so many levels. First, it shows that Fresh Tilled Soil has understood that in order to get trust, you have to give trust. Second, this practice builds a strong connection between the employees and the work they do. It probably also increases performance over at Fresh Tilled Soil, as this is an incentive based program – so only the top performers get to go.

New team member starter kit - Commerce Sciences  

At Commerce Sciences, the last person to join the team prepares a welcome starter kit for the next new employee. Each starter kit is fully personalized, and can include things from funny jokes and interesting books to coffee pills.

It’s an awesome thing to engage team members in the onboarding experience of new employees. It strengthens existing team members’ identity as part of the team. The fact that someone took the time to prepare something just for them that goes beyond the usual also gives new employees the feeling that they’re already welcome into the team. It shows them that you were waiting for them, and it strengthens that human connection that you definitely want to have among your team members. It’s a win-win situation! 

Random desk shuffle – HubSpot 

Every quarter, the product team over at HubSpot goes through a random desk shuffle. Each team member randomly draws her/his new desk from a hat. Trades are allowed, and most of the team has fun doing this little rearrangement. 

Yoav Shapira, former VP Platform Strategy over at HubSpot, pointed out in a 2011 blog post that there are several benefits for the team. As team members get to sit next to new people every three months, they get to know each other, and get to know team members they otherwise probably wouldn’t. It also encourages people to clean out their desks and to keep them junk-free. It’s also very likely that the change of scenery improves creativity to some degree and can offer team members new perspectives. 

Have you heard of any other awesome, quirky, interesting startup company culture hacks? Share them with us and other readers in the comment section below! 

Source: What are the coolest startup culture hacks you’ve heard of? on Quora

Photo Credit:  John Vasko, cc

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