by Sharon Florentine

Family-friendly benefits key to attracting top tech talent

Jun 01, 2016
CareersIT LeadershipIT Skills

Forget flashy perks. IT companies in Silicon Valley and beyond find that family-friendly benefits are key to attracting and retaining elite talent.

family friendly
Credit: Thinkstock

Don’t disturb Eric Poirier between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. — he’s spending time with his family. Poirier, the CEO of Addepar, a Silicon Valley investment management software startup, makes it a point to block out “family time” on the firm’s publicly accessible calendar, and encourages the rest of the company to do the same.

It’s one example of a growing trend in Silicon Valley; using family-friendly and work-life balance-focused benefits and perks to attract, retain, engage and motivate the workforce, says Lissa Minkin, Addepar’s vice president of people. As IT talent becomes more difficult to find and even harder to retain, many IT companies are focusing on what’s truly important to their employees, and that means offering more family-friendly benefits instead of flashy perks like free lunch, dry cleaning, massage, ping-pong tables or yoga, according to Minkin.

We are family

“It sounds cheesy, I know, but we really care about every person who works here, and we care about the people they care about. We are committed to creating a community, a ‘work family,’ and that means allowing people to bring their whole selves to work, including their hobbies, their interests, their challenges. It’s that focus that allows us to attract the best people, and when they’re here, they want to stay,” Minkin says.

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At its core, the idea is to get back to basics, and really get to the heart of your employment brand by focusing on the values that differentiate your company from others competing for talent, says Laura Kerekes, chief knowledge officer at ThinkHR, an HR solutions and education company.

“For CIOs, especially in tech, it can be confusing to figure out what your talent really needs, considering the sheer volume of crazy perks thrown around in Silicon Valley. But what we’re seeing with our clients is that, more often than not, the most important thing employers can do to attract and retain talent, regardless of their generation, is an overarching value proposition that meshes well with their personal needs and values,” Kerekes says.

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For Addepar, their focus on community and family means less of a focus on ping-pong tables and dry-cleaning (though they do offer three catered meals a day to their employees) and greater emphasis on physical and mental health and well-being. The company recently sponsored BRACA gene testing for all female employees, as well as female significant others, “Because work takes people away from their families, and Addepar wants to make sure families feel taken care of by the company, as well,” Minkin says.

IT grows up

That’s even more important as the IT workforce matures. A recent survey from StackOverflow, an independent, collaboratively edited question-and-answer site for software developers, revealed that 41 percent of the 56,000 developers who responded to the demographic survey in January 2016 were age 30 and older. That means many of them are getting married, settling down and starting families, and their priorities have changed to include family, financial security and even retirement, says Kerekes.

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Organizations who don’t shift their benefits strategy to account for these new priorities will risk losing talent to companies that are more accommodating of the need for work-life balance, or failing to attract that talent in the first place, she says.

What works for you

“You really have to look at the unique needs of your workforce, and also at your brand. What do you really stand for, and what do you value? What do you want to reward? If you develop benefits packages that support that mission and culture and those values, that’s your baseline. Then, you can hire with that cultural fit in mind; the people you hire will share your values, and you won’t have as much of a worry about retention,” she says.

Whether that means helping employees start or grow their families, providing specialized health testing, offering extensive paid leave or care for aging parents is up to your individual organization and your workforce’s needs, Kerekes says, but that’s a good place to start.

“Anecdotally, I can say that taking this approach has really helped with our ability to recruit elite talent, and our retention rates have gone up, too. We also have a thriving referral program from our existing employees, because we have always broadcast that we have a great mission, offer meaningful work, and the opportunity to be part of a culture where people know they are cared about, and we back that up,” Minkin says.