Twitter makes size matter less in competition for talent

Twitter's San Francisco headquarters. Photo: Softpedia.com Twitter's San Francisco headquarters. Photo: Softpedia.com

LAS VEGAS – The tantalizing prospect of becoming an instant millionaire thanks to an initial public offering helped Twitter recruit its fair share of top-notch talent. But now that the IPO is behind it, how does it ensure it can compete against the likes of Google and other tech giants for the best employees?

That’s the challenge James Sumortin, Twitter’s benefits program manager, faces every day.

Sumortin, speaking Wednesday at the Health and Benefits Leadership Conference and Expo, said Twitter has made strides in the array of benefits it offers but, in some ways, remains behind some of its rivals.

The San Francisco social media company, he said, ranked third among Bay Area tech companies in terms of perks it offers.

Sumortin’s remarks came in a presentation on how smaller employers can use more modest benefits budgets to attract and motivate employees.

Hired as the first benefits person for Twitter, Sumortin said people were interested in working for the company because it had won plenty of attention and there was the potential of an IPO.

As it grew and became more sophisticated about benefits, the company decided it wanted to make Twitter a place where former employees would always recall it as the best place they had ever worked.

To achieve that ambitious goal, Twitter today offers programs that are fairly common. For example, it has onsite yoga, CrossFit, Pilates and Kung Fu classes. It gives employees $100 in monthly gym reimbursements and it offers onsite massages, for which employees pay.

Less conventionally, it has an unlimited time-off policy, offers female employees 20 weeks of paid maternity leave and 10 weeks of paid leave to new dads.

Even rarer, it allows single employees to add a parent or sibling to its health plan. It opted to do so, Sumortin said, because Twitter has a good number of Asian employees with parents who might have recently immigrated and so are ineligible for Medicare.

It also loosened up its domestic partner policy, so partners only need to “share” a residence, rather than live together full time.

And it signed on with One Medical, a concierge primary care provider that allows Twitter employees to arrange same-day appointments.

Despite offering so many benefits, Twitter still hopes to do more, Sumortin said.

It’s thinking about adoption and tuition assistance, discounts at retailers and bringing on an onsite mental health “swami.”

Google and some of the other big names in technology occupy sprawling campus settings that allow them to bring in barber shops, banks and florists. Because Twitter is located in the city, it doesn’t have that kind of space.

But Sumortin is doing his best to make sure size doesn’t matter.

Photo: James Sumortin.

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