One of FOTs must read this week was Marissa Mayer Just Gave Every Yahoo Employee An iPhone 5. Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer is giving everyone at Yahoo, FT and PT, a free smart phone and Yahoo will pay for the plan.
I’m not a Marissa hater. I like a lot that she is doing with Yahoo. And she’s a chick. I like that too (sorry guys). But the free phone plan? Something is off the mark with this. And it is not because it is a free benefit.
It’s about mixed messaging.
Articles have been written in the past weeks explaining Marissa’s intense focus on (and big investment in) new product development, changed expectations around quicker turnaround times, finding new executives to make magic happen and creating a new culture comprised of people who want to work. Work A LOT. This includes new benefit offerings that a) are more in line with what her competition is offering (free lunches) and practical changes including having lights turned on longer at the offices (OK…what up with people not being able to control the lights? But anyway…).
But then enter “Yahoo! Smart Phones, Smart Fun!” - the free smart phone benefit program for employees. The memo to employees indicated the reason for this new benefit is “we'd like our employees to have devices similar to our users”.
Hmmmm. OK, I’ll go with that. But what seems to be missing is:
- A message linking how this phone investment is essential to productivity.
- Transparency on why the company is investing so many dollars in their talent and what is expected in return.
- An explanation on how giving employees the freedom to choose (in this case their own phone) helps create a workforce that also feels the freedom to make bold work choices.
The “we’d like our employees to have devices similar to our users” spin is crap and is pandering to the lowest common denominator. I mean the title of the program has “Fun” with and exclamation point. What the hell is “fun!” about this? Is it supposed to be? This is a productivity move and needs to be said plainly.
Offering a cool benefit is great… not linking the change back to the holistic picture including overall goals and objectives misses the mark. Cool benefits like lunches and phones will not motivate people to work outside of their comfort zone for long without context. I mean, Blackberry may be losing its bite, but last I knew people could still do respond to work emails on a blackberry and work late. At Yahoo, they just didn’t want to.
This benefit could be a big hit, and I am not against the practice, just don’t forget to add context to the messaging.