‘We are a family’ or ‘we give you free fruit and coffee’: What new job announcements say about a company

A flexible and relaxed environment, foosball and reduced working hours on Fridays. In some cases, these benefits are intended to make workers happier in order to increase their productivity; in others, they are ways of compensating for low salaries. Experts explain what is behind these cryptic advertisements

Anuncios de empresas con beneficios para el trabajador
As with greenwashing — marketing techniques used by companies to present their products as more environmentally friendly than they are — a similar approach is starting to be used in the workplace: healthwashing.Maskot (Getty Images/Maskot)

“Fresh fruit is always available.” “Recharge your batteries in our coffee corner.” “Pool and foosball area to relax.” “Gym pass included.” Some young companies (and other not-so-young companies operating in creative sectors) include such incentives in their job announcements on LinkedIn. They do not indicate financial rewards, but they do provide an attractive or superfluous package (depending on how you look at it) that can be taken in several ways. The first interpretation has to do with projecting a different work environment as compared to that of large corporations. “To attract young and creative talent, incentives such as coffee corners or fruit trays may sometimes seem superficial, but they are part of a broader offer aimed at creating a pleasant and stimulating work environment. And that means that companies, especially start-ups, are paying more attention to employee well-being by offering amenities,” says Israel Carrasco, a professor in the Human Resources Management master’s degree program at the International University of La Rioja (UNIR) and a Happyforce associate.

A second interpretation can be associated with the low budgets that companies have when their business is just starting. Borja Ussía, the CEO of RightHand, a digital talent recruitment and development company, explains: “Companies that are just starting out have to compete beyond salaries. More and more, things that used to remain in the personal sphere are being incorporated into the work environment: free coffee or fruit are details that show you how you’re valued to make you feel at ease. Do you feel more cared for and valued by these actions? Generally no, but when you feel at ease, your performance is better, and small details sometimes achieve great things. Another question is whether it’s necessary to add such perks in a job description. A lot of fruit can be indigestible sometimes and other times it makes your day.”

As with greenwashing — marketing techniques used by companies to present their products as more environmentally friendly than they are — a similar approach is starting to be used in the workplace: healthwashing. Amid the mental health debate, companies are becoming more aware of their employees’ needs and well-being. The problem arises when, to use Ussía’s metaphor, the fruit stops being enjoyable and becomes indigestible. That’s when those job offers, no matter how good they may look, are not consistent with the substance of their actions. “Once they sell you on the job, when you are at the company you see that it is a completely different reality, hiding not very ethical practices. Ultimately, from my perspective, it has to do with whether these are authentic, sustainable and consistent with the organizational culture,” says Carrasco. Companies no longer stake their reputation only with their customers, but also with their employees: “On Glassdoor, for example, you see a lot of opinions for or against, even assessments of what your company and your wellness policies are like. And everything you say you are, you really are, with opinions based on feedback from people who have already worked there,” he adds.

Colloquialisms and emojis

Another tactic new recruiters employ is the use of colloquial language and sometimes even emojis. “We throw you out of the office on Fridays at 2 p.m.,″ reads a LinkedIn job posting with a picture of running sneakers. In a work environment, throwing someone out is, perhaps, the most frightening phrase, but some companies now dare to use it to make it clear that they respect the schedule at the office. “Emojis are nice extras, but we cannot forget that the important thing is making the description of the job and the company clear. Don’t let the form distract from the substance. In general, start-ups use informal and authentic language to attract employees, emphasizing innovation, transparency and collaborative culture,” Ussía explains. “When you see an offer with emojis and a more informal tone, it is because they want to convey a closeness to the candidate, to say that we are authentic here and that you can be yourself from the beginning. But often that is not the most appropriate language, which is why it is good to contact specialized companies that can propose and attract diverse talent that can really help the company add value.

Stylish young waitress preparing coffee for customers in a busy business cafe
Some young companies (and some not-so-young companies operating in creative sectors) include incentives in the jobs they offer. Willie B. Thomas (Getty Images)

Language matters. Products are no longer the best on the market, but the ones that “rock” the most. And hierarchies disappear to form one big family. “A nuclear family is made up of between 3 and 20 people, for example. The metaphor here could be that we are small and therefore horizontal. You can access everyone, and we are going to have a super-close relationship,” says Carrasco, who sees more in transferring the concept of family to the workplace. “But if we are a family, what wouldn’t you do for your family?” That would lead us to see the hired person’s availability as far beyond working hours and the office.

Carrasco also believes that this small nucleus that may exist at the beginning will end up being lost with an increase in business: “This is lost with the growth of the start-up itself. At the beginning there were five of us, but then there are 50 of us and I no longer talk to everyone. Then we are no longer a family, and we start to be a company. And that is something that start-ups have to be careful of because there is a change between the expectations and idealism at the beginning and what it becomes in the end, with departments, structure, bureaucracy, hierarchy .... And there can also be a lack of commitment and the possible departure of founders or people who were there at the beginning.” And then come the new hires.

Company seeks superheroes

In addition to the job insecurity that young people experience, there is also the frustration caused by impossible job announcements. Some companies are looking for recent graduates with extensive work experience, a vast network of contacts, several specializations and native fluency in several languages, as if you can be born in several places at the same time. “The gurus say that talent is scarce. I don’t think it’s scarce, but rather that we’re asking [the impossible]. We want a junior person to come in with 10 years of experience, five degrees, three languages, and to be paid 600 euros for an internship. That’s not talent, and it’s illegal. Companies have to start describing and specifying more: what is the talent they need to fill a certain job or a certain function. And I will be able to compare the ideal talent with the people who are applying for the position and start determining and evaluating. Sometimes I think that they shoot for the moon, and we real people fall far short of that ideal profile, which is almost impossible to meet,” says Carrasco.

HR manager and businesswoman conducting a job interview of a vacancy at startup office
The new offices also have different environments for relaxing or a change of scenery. Portra (Getty Images)

For his part, Ussía recognizes that these cases can occur due to a lack of organization: “Sometimes you come across offers that seem to ask for superheroes. That can be a sign that we need to adjust our expectations or that there is a lack of organization. We want to find the ideal candidate, but without making it seem like an impossible mission.” He adds that, to achieve this, “the offer should be clear and sincere, as if we were chatting with you over coffee. We want you to know exactly what to expect, from the job responsibilities to what you can expect from us in terms of salary and benefits. We want you to be excited about joining our team, and that starts with being honest with you up front.”

The RightHand CEO further emphasizes that a job search should never be one-way: “The company is looking for a certain profile, but the candidate should also be able to decide if the position is the right fit for his or her career.” Carrasco adds: “There is more balance between supply and demand, and that’s very good because there is a negotiation. It’s no longer, ‘Hey, this is what’s available,’ but rather we enter into a negotiation of what I’m offering you, how you value it and whether I feel comfortable working with you.” In other words, the win-win mentality of which the new job listings speak.

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