How 3 Colorado tech companies go beyond the beer keg to keep employees happy

by Jess Ryan
December 7, 2016

For some people, fun perks like an office beer keg or a dedicated room full of video games, table tennis and board games are the best part of working for a startup. But in order to attract and retain top talent in a competitive market, startups could stand to gain from moving beyond those perks, especially when it comes to offering substantial benefits.

We caught up with three Colorado tech companies who have developed cultures — and, consequently, benefits packages — that go past the realm of stereotypical startup perks.

 

“Tendril’s leadership has always done an exemplary job of trying to take any undue stress off of our employees,” said Jeannette Tucker, head of HR for Tendril.

This value reveals itself when looking at Tendril’s health care benefits alone: The Boulder-based eco-tech company pays 85 percent of employees’ healthcare premiums, including for their families. Employees are eligible for healthcare from their first day at the company, so they don’t have to wait for it to kick in.

“The burden on the employee is relatively low,” said Tucker.

Tendril also offers pre-tax and discounted commuter benefits, corporate discounts through partners on everything from movie tickets to cars and computers, and up to $1,500 in continuing education credit, whether employees are pursuing advanced degrees or have conferences they’d like to attend.

For retirement options, Tendril offers a 401(k) match up to four percent once an employee has been with the company for 90 days, and every full-time employee has stock options.

“As a startup, you don’t necessarily bank on [stock options] for retirement, but it does give everyone a dog in the hunt so you have some sense of ownership,” Tucker said.

They also offer untracked PTO and sick leave and paid parental leave (three months for maternity leave, one month for fathers).

“One of our values is ‘We win because our customers win,’” said Tucker. “Another is ‘Do the right thing.’ Other values that support what we’re up to just scream supporting our employees and our customers. You have to be able to attract and retain good employees, so we look for a way to do that.”

To encourage positive feedback and a little friendly competition, Tendril introduced a weekly feature of their Friday all-hands meetings, where employees give each other kudos for a job well done. This year, their leadership decided to tally up the kudos, and whoever has the most at the end of the year will receive two round-trip plane tickets to anywhere in the world.

“People are getting pretty excited about that, and we’re getting down to the wire,” said Tucker. “Every time you look around this office, you can see evidence of how employees are appreciated and supported. We’re setting the standard pretty high.”

Tucker said she regularly researches trends in HR and benefits, and if there’s something new she thinks employees will appreciate, she’ll add it to a list of items to consider. But employees are encouraged to come up with their own ideas, too.

“If somebody comes up with a great idea, we can put things into motion that are good for our employees and good for our planet,” said Tucker. “It’s all a matter of cost.”

For example, one employee decided to take the company’s eco-friendly mission a step further, implementing a “zero waste” policy, where employees are more mindful about recycling, composting and limiting how much they send to the landfill.

Tucker said the project has “dramatically affected landfill waste,” and the company hopes to be 100 percent compostable and recyclable within the next couple of years.

Tendril is now at about 120 team members, and they’re set to grow even more.

“You build a great place to work, and great work takes place,” said Tucker. “That’s what we’re about here. It’s a constant thing. You have to keep it fresh and authentic and have integrity. Our values drive how we deal with our customers and how we deal with our employees. When your values are clear, decision making is easy. We have the best group of employees I’ve ever worked with and it seems to be working for us — and not one person is responsible. Once you’re hired, you become responsible for adding to our culture, and people do.”

 

Denver fintech company OnDeck sees themselves as more of a “standard” tech company than a startup, especially when it comes to their company culture.  

“From day one at OnDeck, we have taken team member feedback very seriously,” said Danelle DiLibero, OnDeck’s director of talent acquisition. “It’s these opinions and sentiments that help shape the perks, benefits and opportunities we offer.”

Among the company’s perks are career development opportunities including classroom or virtual training, office hours and tuition reimbursement. They have a weekly social hour and annual summer and winter parties for team-building, and the company even pays for employees to join intramural sports teams. Like Tendril, OnDeck also has corporate partnerships where employees receive discounts on gym memberships, tickets to local entertainment and sporting events and even car rentals.

As far as benefits are concerned, OnDeck has an employee stock purchase plan, student loan refinancing and an Employee Assistance Program, or EAP. The company also has health and wellness programs, where employees can participate in weekly yoga classes or attend an onsite health fair.

“We’re particularly proud of our generous baby bonding program, enabling our team members to spend time with their family during a special time in their lives,” said DiLibero.

In addition to offering up to four months paid parental leave for all new parents following birth or adoption of a child, OnDeck team members receive free access to Care.com and up to $5,000 in reimbursement for expenses related to the adoption of a child.

OnDeck uses the YouEarnedIt platform to incentivize and celebrate employees’ hard work.

“The program is built around our four core values; when recognizing a team member, you tag the value that the team member’s action or behavior embodied,” said DiLibero.

The platform connects team members, giving them the opportunity to recognize wins and awarding points that can be redeemed for different prizes, from gift cards to having lunch with the CEO, DiLibero said. 

Just like with the company’s employee recognition program, values play into everything the company does.

“Our values of Openness, Impact, Passion and Ingenuity are inextricably linked to the perks and benefits available to team members,” said DiLibero. “Team member feedback influences our culture and the perks and benefits we offer, which is why it is so important to have numerous opportunities to collect feedback as well as foster and encourage an inclusive culture open to new ideas.

“By being creative, thoughtful and innovative in the types of perks and benefits at OnDeck, we enable our team members to bring their whole selves to work, making an impact at the office, at home and in the community,” DiLibero said.

 

“We haven't necessarily gone out of our way to skip certain perks,” said Will Hewitt, a recruiter at Personal Capital. “Our goal is to always treat our employees well while running a productive and scalable business. We want to attract great employees and keep them here. We do that through offering an impressive culture, career growth, benefits, and educational opportunities.”

The Denver financial advisory tech company’s perks do include a ping-pong table, but they’ve also got a company discount program, fresh fruit and snacks, occasional catered treats and lunches, company outings to Rockies games and other social gatherings.

Benefits-wise, Hewitt said most employees are drawn the the company’s career progression opportunities. Personal Capital sponsors industry licensing, provides an allowance for financial planner certifications and offers an Associate Bridge Program, which internally prepares employees for the next step in their career — resulting in more than 40 promotions this year alone.

Employees also receive equity ownership in the company, along with short and long term disability insurance and the usuals, like health care, PTO and a 401(k).

“Our benefits and perks are designed to put employees first while at the same time having a successful company,” said Hewitt. “Equity ownership ties us together from a financial and cultural standpoint. It’s more than a perk — it’s a company value. We’re here to work together, build a business and celebrate each others' successes.”

 

Photos via featured companies.

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