Human Resources News & Insights

The perils of perks: If you pull one, expect a backlash

You’d probably be hard-pressed to find any Google employees who could complain about the tech juggernaut’s perks and benefits with a straight face. But Google has also found out what happens when you just go and get rid of a seemingly obsolete perk.   

Google’s Head of People Operations Laszlo Bock recently told CNNMoney about an unexpected employee reaction to the news one of the tech firm’s myriad perks was getting the axe. That perk was a $5,000 subsidy paid to employees who bought hybrid cars, which at the time (mid-2000s) were limited to Toyota Priuses. For Googlers, this benefit became known as the Prius subsidy.

‘Got used to it’

Eventually, hybrids became more common and cheaper, and Google decided it wouldn’t be a big deal if it stopped “subsidizing Toyota.”

What it didn’t count on was the backlash. As soon as Google staffers caught wind of the company’s plan to kill the Prius subsidy the following year, they let it be known they were far from happy.

This reaction seemed to have caught Bock off guard. As he told CNNMoney, “We’d only done it [the Prius subsidy] for three years, but they [Google workers] still got used to it.” Bock also said employee weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the perk by adding, “local dealers tell us they had an amazing December that year.”

5 most-coveted perks

It’s not like cutting the Prius perk left the Google benefits cupboard bare. Bock outlined the five most-stellar benefits the company still offers:

  • Free food. Google was one of the pioneers of free (and healthy) employee meal trend that has become commonplace in Silicon Valley.
  • Shuttle service. According to Bock, Google’s free shuttles take 20,000 to 40,000 cars off the road each day.
  • Googlers-to-Googlers (G2G). Here, Google workers can share their knowledge with one another on anything and everything. Last year, more than 3,000 employees took part in these G2G classes.
  • Google talks. The company has landed guest speakers ranging from President Obama to Lady Gaga, and Bock says these Google talks help foster an environment of fresh ideas and constant learning.
  • An unparalleled death benefit. How generous is this? If an employee dies while employed at Google, all of his or her stock immediately vests, the employee’s spouse can collect half of his/her salary for 10 years, and the worker’s kids get $1,000 a month.
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