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November 2019

Balance culture and cost

Everyone loves those morning news segments about some company’s incredibly lavish workplace culture.. You’ve seen them—usually highly-capitalized startups and tech firms—sporting basketball hoops in the break room, on-premises puppy daycare, full-time masseuses and foosball tables

where conference tables usually are.

These extreme examples show how far some companies will go to retain employees and attract top talent. They’re spectacular to behold, until you remember that those companies—and their culture—are your competition for good people.

It becomes a classic David vs. Goliath battle for talent. Matching a better-funded company’s salary may not be enough. Can you successfully market your more intimate, more personalized company culture against on-demand frozen yogurt and a personal concierge


The fact is that, outrageous or not, employee perks and benefits—in short, what a lot of employees consider your company culture—should be a line item in your business plan. And like any other item,it has to be planned and managed in order to keep its costs and benefits in line with each other. It’s a tough addition to an already over-extended CEO’s to-do list, but doing it right can be critical to your long-term success.

I know from personal experience that the first impulse is to offer as much love as you can, as often as you can—Friday cocktail hours, after-work get-togethers, and so forth. But I found that the law of diminishing returns kicks in pretty quickly. I eventually found the right balance between frequency, cost and impact—I actively manage our culture to yield the best return.


For small and mid-sized businesses, the market advantage lies in your ability to do more with less.And yes, that means more focus on the work and less on the play. But even so, addressing, top cultural factors that employees care about most only incurs minimal time and cost. Managing culture in this way offers the best return on your investment, because it mostly requires only your time and thought.

For many entrepreneurs, outsourcing everyday HR workload to emphas!sHR can make a real difference. When you escape the tactical day-to-day and pop up to the strategic level, you can balance culture and cost in a way that makes sense for you—and makes a difference for your employees.