Last week was Valentine’s Day which, for obvious reasons, is something we celebrate here at
ValentineHR. Traditionally Valentine’s Day is about sweethearts. But we think of it as a day to show appreciation for the people you care about—including your customers and your employees. For some people, showing appreciation means making grand, expensive gestures: a dozen roses delivered in the morning followed by expensive gifts, a fabulous dinner at a chi chi restaurant, maybe a limo ride or an impromptu trip to a fabulous resort. And believe me, I’m not knocking those things. But in case your trust fund is temporarily inaccessible, there’s another way to make a great Valentine’s Day or to create employee perks: Give something that matters.
Many of the most memorable experiences and gifts—be they for Valentine’s or for any occasion—are those that require you to really pay attention to what matters to the other person. For example, I have friends who don’t wear expensive jewelry and would much rather have new experiences than new stuff. So if a significant other gave them a diamond tennis bracelet for Valentine’s Day, the statement would actually be: “I don’t really know you, nor do I care to. I would rather give you something that other people will be impressed with.” Which isn’t really the message you want to send someone on Valentine’s Day. More meaningful would be to remember something that person expressed a desire to do, or have, and give that. It might be an activity that the other person has wanted to do together and you’ve been reluctant—like going Tango dancing, or having an Adam Sandler movie night. It might be helping them muck out the garage they’ve been dreading to attack, or planting a garden, while drinking champagne together. It might be writing them a poem or a song because you know they get a lot from those things. The point is, you don’t have to spend a ton of money if you spend time thinking about who that person really is, and what would be a great gift for them that shows how much you care.
The same is true with perks for your employees. So maybe you can’t afford the giant kitchen with the catered meals and the weekly massages. But if you really know what matters to your employees, you can give them something they value more than that. For example, you can have a really generous policy that allows people who have a sick kid—or spouse or parent—to work from home for a few days, no questions asked. Or you could let people bring their dogs if that’s important to them. Or you designate a room for bike storage so that people who ride to work have a safe place to leave their bikes. I know of a company that installed a climbing wall. Another company gives employees a 48-hour window every few months to work on whatever project they want—even if it’s not in their specific wheelhouse. Another company constantly works to shrink its carbon footprint and encourages employees to help in that endeavor.
A perk that many of the best employees really want is the opportunity to grow, learn new skills and tackle new challenges. Creating an environment that supports that requires work and more time than putting an expert on a task. But it’s a great way to reward good employees.
The question isn’t “What makes me look good?” The question is, “What really matters to the people who work for me?”
Yes, there will always be people who gravitate toward those who have the resources to provide the grand gesture—both in terms of Valentine’s dates and organizations. That’s who they are and that’s what matters to them. But there are a whole lot of other talented, skilled people whose ideas of what’s valuable can cost very little in terms of money. They mostly cost the willingness to pay attention and figure out a way to meet those people’s needs. And if you want help understanding and structuring perks and rewards that will really make employees’ hearts happy, call us.
We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.