• Mike Cameron

You Can't Walk it Back

Updated: Aug 29, 2019

The competition for talent is raging--maybe the fiercest I've ever seen. Software developers, data scientists, engineers, and other tech skills are in high demand--and in short supply.

I dare you to find someone who doesn't understand this.

This demand for talent has driven some employers to compete on the basis of over-the-top benefits and perks. Most notably free health insurance and unlimited Paid Time Off. On the surface this all sounds great. But there are two things I don't like about this.

First, the escalation goes straight to the end point. There's nothing beyond "unlimited" and "free." So where do they go next?

The second thing that I don't like is that these Ur-benefits simply don't scale. At some point it will simply no longer be possible to offer "free" and "unlimited"--the costs simply add up too fast to be sustainable.

And when a company finally hits the scale at which it's simply no longer possible to offer "free" and "unlimited"--and they all do sooner or later--they have to start walking them back. That's called a broken promise.

So what's the solution? First, don't make promises that you can't keep. Period. Offer benefits and perks that are attractive, affordable, and sustainable. Offer today what you can offer tomorrow.

And unless human nature has changed, people with real talent are most attracted to the kind of work they have access to, the training and career paths that they can pursue, and access to mentors and role models. If you can't offer these things, then over the top benefits are a failed recruiting and retention strategy--be prepared to lose candidates and employees to anyone who can offer slightly more.

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