Employees are the most important part of a business. Anyone who says otherwise hasn’t built and scaled a growth business from scratch. With the economy slightly improving and demand for talented team members continually increasing, it’s just as important to focus on employee retention as it is on the recruiting and hiring proces.
Here are seven ways to increase employee retention:
- Build an environment of autonomy, mastery, and purpose (see Drive by Dan Pink)
- Be the best place to work and the best place to be a customer
- Have all managers read Patrick Lencioni’s book Three Signs of a Miserable Job
- Define the culture and religiously enforce it (everyone has a culture but it’s rarely defined and consciously strengthened)
- Implement a consistent meeting rhythm and over communicate
- Regularly celebrate the small and large wins as a team, regardless of other challenges
- Anonymously survey the team members every quarter looking for ways to improve and asking the ultimate question to get a net promoter score
Here’s my prediction: as the unemployment rate drops, employee retention will become a more popular topic. My recommendation is to create the best place to work and make employee retention a non-issue.
What else? What are some other ideas to increase employee retention?
Getting good at interviewing and recruiting process is something that took us a long time and many iterations to develop. By no means were we perfect, but our annual employee retention was 98% and our net promoter score was in the 70s. Early on we struggled to make the process systematic and then once we hit high growth mode we had to work on make the process faster and more scalable.
Here are seven ideas for a strong hiring process:
- Remember that culture fit is more important than domain expertise
- Find the people on your team that most embody your culture and have them as the final step in the interview process (a culture check team)
- Make hiring a top priority such that everything is dropped when it’s time to move fast on a candidate
- Require unanimous consent on any new hire so that everyone has a powerful say in the process
- Include a writing assessment to determine ability to communicate and interest-level in the company
- Incorporate a chronological in depth survey as part of the interview and use Topgrading for manager and other senior positions
- Communicate frequently with the candidates and let them know their status on a regular basis
A strong hiring process is critical for companies of all sizes and only becomes even more important as a startup hits high growth mode.
What else? What are some other ideas for a strong hiring process?
In the past, whenever evaluating a business opportunity, I’d focus on the one that was the lowest price or provided the highest return on investment, regardless of relationship. Over time, I came to realize that that wasn’t the best way to approach things. Life’s too short to work with people that don’t have the same values and don’t enjoy what they do. Now, I look for the right balance of business value and personal value.
In looking for a combination of business value and personal value, I’ve found that the best business relationships and deals are the easiest ones. Easy, in this case, means that they feel effortless. Both sides are working toward similar goals, have good chemistry, and trust each other. Whenever a relationship or deal feels forced, that’s often a sign that it should be further evaluated.
The best business relationships are the easiest ones.
What else? What are your thoughts on the best business relationships being the easiest ones?
Corporate culture is the only controllable competitive advantage for entrepreneurs. All the focus for corporate culture is on recruiting to bring the right people in as well as things to do internally to institutionalize whatever it is that makes the culture successful. There’s another rarely discussed item that can become an issue: when someone blatantly violates the culture’s standards in a non-work setting.
In the sports world you see it frequently when a player gets in trouble with the law. There’s clearly been a violation of team standards but it didn’t happen on the job. In the corporate world, it isn’t usually related to the law, but more so when people treat others in a way that’s clearly against the core values, and it comes back to the entrepreneur or team member via a friend of a friend.
The immediate response is that what someone does on their own time is their own business, and that’s true, but if they act in an egregious manner, that reflects on their employer, as people expect them to act the same whether on company time or not. I don’t have a good solution for it other than confirming to the source of the news that it’s not inline with the company’s core values. I’ve only had it happen a couple times and haven’t ever brought it up with the employee.
Sometimes culture fit challenges are revealed in a non-work setting and there isn’t much that can be done.
What else? What would you do if culture fit challenges were revealed to you in a non-work setting via a third-party?
One of the first comments people make when coming in our office is about the 70″ LED TV with an Xbox and Kinect hooked up to it. Laying on the sofa is four Xbox controllers with Madden 13 prominently displayed below the TV. Video games, hanging out, and enjoying each other’s company are a regular part of our startup experience.
After seeing and commenting on the TV with video games, followed by the ping pong table down the hall and the razor scooters strewn about, a common jest is “how does any work get done around here?” The answer, of course, is that work gets done whenever and wherever each person chooses to do it — the office is merely a cool spot to collaborate. Work isn’t defined as sitting at a desk from nine to five and putting in the hours.
Video games in the office provide a great outlet for unwinding, building relationships with colleagues, and having fun. In fact, we have actually have two 70″ TVs with Xboxes in the office — go figure.
What else? What are your thoughts on video games in the office?
A couple weeks ago I was asked by some great Atlantans if I wanted to write a piece on corporate culture for the Wall Street Journal’s series The Accelerators. The Accelerators is all about strategies and challenges of creating a new business. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity and wrote Perks Keep Turnover Low, Morale High. Now, the title makes it sound like perks are the story, which they aren’t, but that’s easier for people to grasp compared to the real message: corporate culture wins.
Here are a few takeaways from the article:
- Corporate culture is the most important thing
- Big exits do occur outside Silicon Valley
- Perks like four hours of housecleaning per month, a full-time masseuse, and health+dental make a difference
- Vacation policies are best when they are two simple words: be reasonable
Please read Perks Keep Turnover Low, Morale High. Thanks!
Core values and a strong corporate culture are some of the most important things for building a sustainable competitive advantage over the long run for any company. With a strong corporate culture it becomes more readily apparent when team members do and don’t fit. Inevitably, as hard as you try, some people will be hired that don’t fit the culture.
One thing I’ve noticed is that the more well defined and institutionalized the core values, the easier it is to see when a person doesn’t fit and the higher the likelihood it is for them to self select out. By self select out I mean that the person feels out of place and finds another job as quickly as possible. Yes, the best method is “slow to hire, quick to fire” but the reality is that too often firing someone takes longer and is more disruptive than desired. The best case with a new hire that isn’t a good fit is that they realize it quickly and leave as soon as possible.
What else? What are some other reasons strong core values help those that don’t fit self select out?
One area I enjoy obsessing over is the physical office environment and office space. The people component of any business is much more important than the actual office that people work out of but the physical environment is often a manifestation of the company’s culture. So, if you had unlimited budget to outfit the ultimate office, what would you include?
Here are some ideas for outfitting a great creative tech office:
- iPads outside each conference room
- 80″ LED TVs inside each conference room
- High quality chairs (e.g. Herman Miller Aeron chairs)
- Mixture of open workspaces with many ad hoc meeting rooms and phone booth rooms for calls
- Tons of glass and natural light
- Great lighting
- Exposed duct work with high ceilings throughout
- Rooftop patio
- Coffee shop with indoor and outdoor seating
- Pool table and ping pong table
- Sleeping pods
- Fireman’s pole or slide to go between floors
- Zen garden
- Climbing wall
- Massage room
Most of these are practical items with a few out there. A great office, like a great company, has its own identity and sets the tone for everyone.
What else? What other things would you do to outfit a great creative tech office?
Knowing that startups are all about people, people, people, it’s important to address team building in the early days of a new startup. Getting the right people on the bus is the first and foremost priority followed by building rapport and trust amongst the team members — the better the team works together, the better the results.
Here are some team building ideas for the early days of a new startup:
- Use daily check-ins to align focus and develop transparency
- Simple things like breaking bread and grabbing lunch together on a regular basis goes a long ways
- Get team members involved in the hiring decisions whenever possible and always focus on corporate culture fit
- Work to understand each other’s personality styles and be open about how best to communicate internally
People are what make a startup work, or not work, and should be taken very seriously. With the right people in place, the next step is getting the team operating at a high level — this takes time and is critically important.
What else? What are some other ideas for team building in the early days of a new startup?
At Pardot, one of my favorite things to do is to show guests the office and talk about many of our quirky and unusual ways. As you might expect, most of the ideas were generated via R&D (ripoff and duplicate) from others. We continually look for new ideas, try out the ones we like best, and keep the ones that feel right.
Here are ideas we like and their source:
One of the reasons I enjoy reading and talking to other entrepreneurs so much is that there are always new ideas. Most ideas I encounter are ignored but many are tried out and a few stick — you never know when you’ll come across a new idea.
What else? What are some ideas you like and their source?