Beyond Friday beer pong: What perks do employees crave?

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Lots of companies are proud of their culture.

They talk about perks like “beer Fridays” and company events that get everyone together for fun and camaraderie. From the outside, these perks can seem like great ways to keep team members happy and make your company a fun place to work.

In many cases, this does have the desired effect. There are plenty of companies that use food, events and other structured perks to create a great company culture.

Too often, however, I see these things overshadow the perks that team members actually want, and, in some cases, such imposed happenings can damage your company culture.

Structured events and pressure to conform to cultural expectations can undermine the intended effect. Too often organizations take a “top down” cultural approach rather than a “grass roots” approach. I can’t really blame them. After all, how many times have we been told that we have to overtly create a company culture? (Hint: a lot.)

To a lot of employees a top-down cultural approach seems forced. Not everyone loves to go to baseball games or drink beer on Fridays or play pingpong. Some people love those things, of course. However, when they are rammed into the company culture in a way that pressures people into participating it can be detrimental to their happiness.

Too many organizations make employees work long hours and then try to make up for it with mandatory “fun” events and outings or happy hours. That doesn’t make up for the overwork. All it does is keep employees away from their families and friends for that much longer.

So, what do employees actually want? What truly makes them happy with their jobs?

Sincere respect

One hugely important “perk” you can give team members is respect. Respect means conducting regular performance reviews, asking them what they think and listening to their ideas.

It seems super basic, but many CEOs (including me sometimes) fall short in this area. They charge full steam ahead with their ideas and plans, forgetting to involve their team members in decisions.

Though I’m not perfect, I try to think about how every decision I make will affect my team. I ask them for opinions. I listen to what they think. Team members value feeling respected a lot more than they value free beer.

Freedom

This one makes most CEOs’ heads explode. The best perk you can offer your team is freedom. That means opting not to impose a work schedule on them, letting them work wherever they want and throwing PTO limits out the window in favor of letting them use their own judgment about time off.

Most companies require people to work in the office during business hours, and they track time off against a bank of PTO hours.

Just recently I heard that someone had asked his boss whether he could leave at 4:30 p.m. one day a week to attend a church-related function; his boss said “no.”

Unfortunately, that is the norm, and it makes my heart sink.

If your team members are getting their work done and meeting their goals, it doesn’t matter when they work, nor where. If they are keeping your customers happy, it doesn’t matter how much time off they take.

Many people have a hard time wrapping their heads around how this can work, but we’ve been doing it at SpinWeb for years. If you tell your team members when and where to work, you are failing to acknowledge that they are responsible adults with common sense.

Learn the dos and don’ts of reaching millennial employees face to face and via email, video, your intranet and chat/text in this free guide.

If you trust your employees to make good decisions that keep the company’s best interests in mind, you won’t have to worry about schedules and PTO. Your team members will manage themselves. And if you don’t trust them with this kind of responsibility, then they probably should not be working for you.

Employees value freedom, trust and being treated like adults more than just about any other cultural perk you can think of.

Supporting their priorities

Your team members need to know that you understand and share their priorities. Most people want more time with their families.

If your culture relies on happy hours and outside work events, you may be in conflict with what your team members really want. They want to go to their kids’ basketball games. They want to run personal errands during the day (see previous section: “Freedom”). They want to take their kids to the doctor without having to ask permission and feel guilty about it. They want to take a reasonable amount of time off when a baby arrives.

It’s OK to expect that team members are loyal, work hard and make the company’s success a priority, but it’s also important to know where to draw the line.

Your employees have priorities just as you do, and their families come first—as it should be. One primo “perk” you can give them is demonstrating that you support their priorities. Asking them to put the company first (even inadvertently) is unrealistic and disrespectful.

Empowering a grassroots culture

If you focus on the things that team members truly value, you won’t have to worry about “creating” a great culture from the top down. Your team will cultivate your company culture.

When team members feel respected, have complete freedom to work the way they want to work and feel that the company shares their personal priorities, they will flourish in ways you never would have thought possible. They will innovate and produce like never before.

Let go of the top-down culture mentality, and focus instead on creating an environment in which your team feels safe developing their own culture together. That is the path to true employee happiness and loyalty.

Michael Reynolds is president and CEO of SpinWeb. This article originally appeared on the Michael Reynolds blog.
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Mobile Game Roundup: Digit & Dash, Splish Splash Pong and More

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Digit and Dash

Are you looking for a new mobile game to try this weekend? What about Oddwings Escape, the debut title from Small Giant Games, which challenges players to free birds from an evil scientist’s research lab? Are you looking for an RPG instead? Gamevil’s newest title, Dragon Blaze, lets iOS and Android gamers save humanity from a war against dragons and other vile creatures.

Still not what you’re looking for? Here’s a look at some additional mobile games released this week, which should include a little something for everyone.

Digit & Dash ($ 1.99 on iOS) – From Insomniac Games, Digit & Dash is a level-based platformer, challenging players to control the movements of both Digit and Dash, with one on either side of a vertical wall. Characters run automatically, and gamers tap on each character’s side of the screen to make them jump over obstacles. By double-tapping, the character jumps and slams into the ground, propelling the other over larger obstacles. Each level is lengthy, but contains checkpoints for continuing without starting over. Gamers earn up to three stars on each stage, depending on their performance and the number of secondary goals they complete while running.

Sleep Furiously ($ 2.99 on iOS, Android, Amazon) – From Playmation Studios, Sleep Furiously is a sentence building game, challenging players to connect words and form complete sentences to help a linguist sleep. Words are presented on a jumbled grid, and gamers can connect them in any order, so long as each word touches the next, and the final sentence is grammatically correct. The game offers multiple modes, including a move-limited mode for earning the most points in a limited number of sentences, and a timed mode for earning as many points as possible in 90 seconds. A final endless mode offers a more casual experience, and a shuffle button to rearrange the board’s words.

Plancon: Space Conflict ($ 2.99 on Android) – Previously released on iOS devices, this space RPG from HeroCraft sees players defeating enemies with the choice of real-time or turn-based gameplay modes. Users can build their own battleship, hire a crew and live life as a character of their choosing, from a pirate or merchant to a thief or soldier. Both main story quests and side quests are available, offering what HeroCraft calls an “endless journey” for players.

Dead Eyes ($ 3.99 on iOS, Android) – A zombie-themed puzzle game from LoadComplete, Dead Eyes challenges players to help Jack survive the apocalypse and reach his destination at the other end of each level. Players move Jack by swiping on the screen, with Jack moving one tile at a time. As Jack moves, enemies will also move, so players must strategize their swipes to ensure Jack’s safety. Players earn up to three stars on each level, with each star relating to a specific goal (finishing the level in a small number of moves, or in a short amount of time, as examples).

Game of Sniper (Free on Android) – From Beijing Autothink Technology, Game of Sniper is the company’s debut title in major English speaking countries. The game sees players saving the world (and hostages) from terrorists by sniping at enemies. Users have access to ten different kinds of sniper rifles, each with different stats.

Dungeon Crawlers HD ($ 4.99 on Android) – From Drowning Monkeys and Ayopa Games, Dungeon Crawlers HD features a team of heroes described as who the Ghostbusters would have been, had they been in medieval times. The turn-based RPG sees gamers exploring multiple environments while collecting loot and defeating monsters. Each member of the team has different skills to unleash on opponents, with the game including story-based dungeons to clear, as well as extra challenge maps. Dungeon Crawlers HD is already available on iOS, and is coming to Steam June 1, 2015.

Multicross

Multicross (Free on iOS) – A new puzzle game from Tetris creator, Alexey Pajitnov, Multicross is similar to Tetris, in that players work to create complete lines with familiar shapes on a grid. However, where Tetris sees shapes falling from the top of the screen automatically, in Multicross, players drag shapes from a pool, to the board, in the order of their choosing. In addition, lines can be created both horizontally and vertically to earn points.

HeroCraft Z (Free on iOS, Android) – From NGames Interactive, HeroCraft Z is an action RPG, allowing players to create a hero and take it into battle against enemies in real-time combat. Players tap on the ground to move, and tap on skills to activate them during battle. As gamers progress, they’ll collect additional heroes for their team, each with their own skills. While level-based missions are available by default, gamers will eventually unlock guilds, as well as coliseum, arena and expedition modes, among other content.

Nitro Nation Online (Free on iOS) – First released on Android devices in 2014 (where it has surpassed seven million downloads), Nitro Nation Online from Creative Mobile is a racing game featuring multiple gameplay modes and over 40 different cars from major real-world manufacturers. Players can customize their vehicles, compete in team tournaments or single-player races and much more, with the iOS version offering three exclusive vehicles: the Mini Coupé John Cooper Works, the Ford Shelby GT500 and the Pagani Huayra.

Languinis (Free on iOS, Android) – From developer VRTRON, in partnership with Tilting Point, Languinis is a mix of match-three puzzles and word games, challenging gamers to spell words and save the peaceful tribe of the Languinis from certain doom. The game features over 50 levels, which see players making matches with colorful symbols to reveal letter tiles underneath. Gamers then tap letter tiles (even if they’re not touching) to create words, with each level having a different goal, or set of goals, to complete. Languinis is also available to play for free on Facebook.

Splish Splash Pong (Free on iOS) – From Happymagenta, Splish Splash Pong is a challenging survival experience, asking players to earn as many points and coins as possible by guiding a duck between paddles at the top and bottom of the screen. The duck moves automatically, with users tapping to change its direction. The game tests players’ reflexes by asking them to rapidly tap and avoid the many obstacles swimming in the duck’s path. Gamers can spend their coins on additional characters, with some also being available for direct in-app purchase.
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