How Social Impact Can Drive Employee Engagement

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I recently had the opportunity to moderate a MassTLC panel featuring four leaders in the Boston tech industry who are effectively leveraging social impact programming to drive employee engagement, recruitment, and retention.  Before introducing the panel, I asked the audience to raise their hands if they had a ping-pong table in their offices (or any other tabletop game) or if they ever serve alcohol to employees (via a beer cart, for example).  Quickly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the room was filled with raised hands. 

So yes, the tech scene is fun… but this trend exposes two concerning realities for recruiters.

First, it is clear that perks like free beer and ping-pong tables have become the norm for Boston-area tech companies.  The “fun office” pitch is simply the price of admission in the war on talent.  Take five minutes to browse the recruiting page of any Boston-area tech company, and you are almost guaranteed to see photo collages of pub games, beer, and happy employees in sunglasses.  If everyone has these perks, they are quite obviously no longer differentiators nor unique in their ability to recruit the very best talent. 

A second, perhaps more fundamental concern about this trend, is that many of these companies are conflating “ping pong” with “culture,” seemingly checking the culture box by showing that they have classic arcade games or piles of snacks.  The reality, as we all know, is that culture runs much deeper than these superficial perks and comes in many forms that can be built from the ground-up with enough organizational buy-in and commitment to the company’s mission....

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