In today’s business world, it is important as an employer to attract a wide-ranging, diverse group of talent. The right perks and employee incentives are often your most valuable assets for attracting and retaining your top talent — but there’s another major consideration to keep in mind.

I spoke with Lissa Minkin, vice president of people at Addepar, a wealth-management software company in Silicon Valley, to find out how organizations, especially startups, can engage their employees as individuals, and create a work environment that goes beyond one-size-fits-all.

How to create a 'people first' work cultureClick To Tweet

Why is it especially important for startups to engage their employees on a personal level?

It is especially important for startups to engage their employees on a personal level. #startupsClick To Tweet

The “perks war” is making headlines every day — from student loan repayment to egg freezing, companies are raising the bar, and in turn, employees expect more compelling offers than ever before.

As it seems almost every company is becoming a tech company, there’s a huge demand for critical skills like engineering and in many cases a limited talent pool to meet that demand. This talent shortage has meant today’s workers can be a bit more discerning, and look to more from their employers when they agree to commit for the long haul.

Respecting and considering the lives our employees have outside of work in a meaningful manner makes a significant difference. So many companies are trying to make sweeping changes to their industry, which takes dedicated effort and time.

When you ask your employees to put in the time and commit to something, you need to keep in mind that you’re essentially asking their families to share them with you. With that in mind, even small gestures make a huge difference, like inviting significant others to office events, extending perks to kids and aging parents, and supporting flexible schedules so an employer can pick up a child from school or take an elderly parent to an appointment.

Employees are much more likely to commit to your long-term vision if they’re assured that they won’t be sacrificing their life outside of the office.

Should the focus be on attracting experienced or younger fresh talent? How can employers effectively balance their generational demographic?

It doesn’t have to be an either/or scenario, says Minkin. “At Addepar we have perks that appeal to recently- graduated millennials as well as Gen X and boomer employees with families. When you attract multiple generations of people to your company, it results in more diversity of thought and ideas, which is vital for success. A one-size-fits-all philosophy doesn’t work if you genuinely care about the individual interests of your employees.”

It’s wise to incorporate a healthy mix of perks into your organization. New parents may find things like a work-from-home option and a top-notch health care package most appealing. A recent graduate might appreciate a gym stipend because they’re still working to pay off college loans and anything they can save helps.

What can companies offer to show they’re going beyond the norm for their employees?

Aside from things like a 401K and a healthcare package, think about where your employees are in their lives. New parents may appreciate a support group for people who are going through a similar experience.

“We’ve partnered with a company called Instacare to help our female employees and female spouses of male employees through the maternity process and balance the process of returning to work,” says Minkin. “By going above and beyond just general parental leave, a perk like this reinforces that we genuinely respect where our employees are in their lives, and by including employees’ significant others, we hope to really help them feel like part of our family.”

Who at the company can be tasked with pushing a “people-first” culture?

People-first starts with the executive team. If your company leaders aren’t exemplifying your corporate values, there is a serious disconnect. Minkin: “Our CEO will even go out of his way to block off family time on his shared calendar and encourages the rest of the company to do the same. Leaders must model the culture they want to build their business around.”

Steps beyond

It may sound like a cliché, but but it comes down to this: respect your employees. Respect the talent they bring, ensure they use it to drive impact for the company, and show that you consider what they do outside of work as they develop new initiatives and goals.

Transparency: a key characteristic of a successful workplace. Communicate your expectations to employees and ensure their individual needs are met on the path to success. That might mean encouraging them to bring significant others to company events or making the office welcoming for their children. The end result: they grow their career while you grow your business, and everyone wins.

Transparency: a key characteristic of a successful workplace. Click To Tweet

Perks are a significant part of attracting talent, but they have to align with your company norms and values. Promoting the importance of employee work-life integration, without offering flexible schedules and supporting time off, rings hollow and inconsistent. Support an environment where everyone is working to their strengths and using them to drive the most impact for the company.

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