With the King County unemployment rate at less than 4 percent, and global companies hiring at a brisk pace, perks such as free gourmet lunches, outdoor adventures and onsite massages are becoming the norm.

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Are you able to attract the talent you need? With the King County unemployment rate at less than 4 percent, and global companies hiring at a brisk pace, perks such as free gourmet lunches, annual outdoor adventures and onsite massages are becoming the norm. Some companies are even providing cash for employee vacations — in addition to their paid time off. Are you prepared to compete?

Debbie Oberbillig’s view: Traditionally, especially in an employer’s market, people simply looked for a well-paying job that offered long-term employment. Most benefit packages included basic medical, dental and one week paid vacation. A company was considered progressive if they provided free soda and allowed jeans on Fridays.

Today, the trend is to offer over-the-top perks to snatch up the best, but does this approach make the most business sense long-term and attract the people who will stay?

A great company culture will retain the top talent, and that is especially true for millennials. Generation Y can be a very serious bunch, and surveys have shown they are more motivated by a company’s culture than by free lunch or extra vacation days. Make no mistake — everyone loves fun perks — but mentorship opportunities, ongoing professional development and a transparent leadership team will impact a career more over the long term.

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Ryan Biancofiori’s view: Previously, people put in their hours and called it a day. Today’s technology has created an extreme culture shift. We live in a 24/7 world where our work and personal lives are more deeply intertwined, so it makes sense that going beyond perks to create the right culture is the key to success. A distinctive company culture allows employees to foster a stronger connection with colleagues, managers and the work they do, which is always going to be a valuable retention tool after the courtship phase.

When you’re trying to attract talented new employees in a competitive market, casual Fridays just don’t cut it anymore. In this market, companies are doing whatever they can — as evidenced by the growing trend of onsite microbrew kegs, full-flex work schedules, employee game rooms and paid pet insurance. Facebook even offers to freeze female employees’ eggs. These big and bold perks may have been pioneered by the tech industry, but in this market they are making their way across all sectors, including yours (OK, maybe not the egg freezing… ).

Our advice: A lot of big companies offer these benefits because their employees regularly work 10–15 hours a day. When you’re putting in 50–60 hours a week, it can be difficult to take a lunch, find time to drop off your dry cleaning or pick up your kids. Regardless, these perks are attractive, but for a small- to medium-size business many are likely to be impractical. So, how do you compete?

Do your homework. Start with your current employees. What attracted them to your company in the first place, and more important, why do they stay? Recruiting starts with happy employees who want to share their great work environment and refer their friends. If you can find out what is truly important to your people, you can build a rewarding environment that fosters their interests, career development and overall happiness.

Promote your company. Get your name out there and don’t be shy about applying for awards. Scoring a “Best Place to Work” award is a surefire way to build a great reputation and a solid pipeline of interested people. This creates an environment your employees are proud to be a part of, which is naturally contagious.

Get everyone involved. A great culture is collaborative. Make sure your employee know when you are hiring. Ask for their help and referrals. Have them participate in interviews. Gather information about what makes your company great and emphasize it in your recruiting efforts.

Be creative. Build your culture with something as simple as kicking off each week with a team breakfast, taking an afternoon every quarter for a team building activity or creating an open-door policy with the CEO. If you want to go a bit bigger, consider providing a flexible “perks” budget of time and money that each employee can customize. Everyone has different needs and desires — more family time, commuting flexibility, community involvement availability, time for intramural sports, learning a new skill or earning an advanced degree. This way you can easily customize your perks to meet the needs of your team — and you’re not spending money on fruit baskets only one person eats or providing a gym membership no one uses.

The best way to compete with the local big-name companies is to focus on your core values to develop a rewarding company culture that employees will want to be a part of for a long time.

Debbie Oberbillig is the founder and president, and Ryan Biancofiori is vice president of Allen Partners, which provides recruiting and staffing for corporate, finance and accounting professionals in Seattle and the Northwest.