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PERQ and a Culture of Perks


Robby

I dropped in to visit the newly finished headquarters of PERQ last week. This is an Indianapolis marketing technology company that has recently rebranded. Over 500 people attended their launch party, which was held in conjunction with the monthly VERGE startup event.

So what is PERQ? According to their website, “PERQ is a marketing technology and promotions company that helps businesses attract consumers with incentives.” But that’s not really what the company was trying to point out at this big event. They were trying to show off their new office space and culture.

It’s really hard to capture the essence of what it’s like to work at a company without actually being there. You can talk to employees, you can take the tour, you can check out the game room, (I did all three) but it’s tough to know what it’s really like to be there day in and day out.

As an example, here’s a picture I took:

PERQ Game Rules

PERQ Game Rules

It’s worth clicking through and reading that image. But let’s just read the first thing it says in bold letters at the top: Rules for Game Room/Gym.

Organizational culture is about collective behavior. It’s not just what people do and don’t do, it’s the reasons behind their choices.

For example, one company might have a dress code because the company president is a stickler for business formal. But another company might have had a series of meetings in which they agreed collectively what would send the best messages to their customers, and decided together what they would all wear to the office.

You can’t tell the difference between these two hypothetical companies by looking at their attire. But you can tell a little bit by looking at how they write their rules.

In the case of PERQ, part of their culture–according to this sign–is in part about management having control. Here’s what it says:

Make sure you…have a manager’s blessing for having a quick game or squeezing in a quick workout.

It’s hard to know how much that rule is enforced, but it serious enough at PERQ to warrant a sign. Employees aren’t simply trusted to manage their own time and use the game room responsibly. They are required (if the sign is followed) to comply with specific rules. These may be defined by the company owners or by the employees themselves via a roundtable. There’s no way to tell from looking at the sign. But it certainly isn’t just a case of a culture of absolute trust that employees know what’s best for themselves.

Compare that with the employee handbook of Nordstrom’s, which has exactly seventy five words. It contains their only rule:

Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.

Every culture at every company is different. You can never truly know what it is like until you work there.

But no matter where you are, you are part of the conversation that creates the culture for that business.

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About the Blogger: Robby Slaughter is a productivity speaker and expert. He is a principal with a AccelaWork, an Indianapolis consulting firm.

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Tue, November 26 2013 » Uncategorized

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