People, Perks, & Puppies – Oh My!

|Catie Maillard

It’s IMG_1180Q4 – the busiest time of year at companies worldwide, and Outbrain is no exception. Our sales and business development teams are typing away at their standing desks, cradling phones in between their cheeks and shoulders. Engineers are slouched in their chairs staring at massive dual monitors. UX designers are white boarding away with product managers beside them.

Folks are capital B busy.

And all of a sudden…PUPPIES.

That’s right, we partnered with our Union Square neighbors Biscuits & Bath to bring puppies into the office, and even got away with marketing “Puppy Fest 2014” as a wellness event. Which wasn’t actually much of a stretch – as you’ll see here, dog companionship does improve your overall mental, social, & physiological health. The event was also a great PR opportunity from a recruiting perspective – who wouldn’t want to work for a company that has a conference room full of puppies?

But that’s not really why we did it. That’s not really why we have any of the perks we have. I recently wrote about looking at people over perks in whether a company is a great place to work. Well, we take that one step further – at Outbrain, our people drive our perks.

GG, drummer and dog lover, recently mentioned that she loves to visit her furry friends downstairs as part of a buddy program with Biscuits & Bath. Why not share the love with the rest of the office? Done. Puppy Fest 2014.

When we launched our self-serve Amplify product back in 2012, a handful of Outbrainers signed up to be beta testers. They uploaded and tested their blogs, content from nonprofits close to their hearts, and RSS feeds that they follow. Outbrainers love good content – we’re consumers of articles, videos, and stories from all over the web. Why don’t we open this up to every employee and new hire that comes through the door? Done. Staff Picks was born – all employees get a monthly stipend to spend in their self-serve accounts.

Sydney, our fashion-loving bookworm, raised the fact that, since we’ve been growing rapidly in the NY office, it’s more difficult to connect with folks outside her team. Her suggestion? Clubs – specifically, a book club. Done. We’re calling it Brainworms, and our first meeting is next month (who’s bringing the cheese platter?).

This isn’t the field of dreams – if we (HR) build it, we’ll get sub-par attendance that will only continue to dwindle and see little to no ROI. However, if we empower employees to come to us with ideas for events, or share what they do outside of work, we’ll end up with perks that are not only huge hits, but continue to reinforce our culture.

We’re Outbrain. We love our people. And little dogs, too!

Disclaimer: some of the perks above are US (and even NYC) specific, but the philosophy is universal. Stay tuned for content from our offices around the globe!

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Catie Maillard

Catie Maillard

Catie is on the Americas HR team at Outbrain, where she focuses on bringing in new folks and helping Outbrainers... Read more

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  • David Coulson-Lowes| December 1, 2014 at 1:13PM

    Can’t understand why more companies don’t do simple but effective things like this. There’s so much talk about valuing employees but working for large organisations can easily lead to a loss of identity and that’s what stifles creativity, which is what companies crave!

    • Catie Maillard
      Catie Maillard| December 1, 2014 at 1:13PM

      Hi David, thanks for the comment! Totally agree – sometimes the best initiatives are the most simple, and the best culture initiatives spring up organically.

      Also, knowing there’s at least a chance of a “yes” when you ask about starting something new keeps the questions and creativity flowing 🙂

  • David Coulson-Lowes| December 1, 2014 at 3:15PM

    Too true.

    Knowing that you really count to an organisation is a massive motivator, saying no all the time or ignoring staff is a sure fire way to doom your company.


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