For companies located outside major tech hubs like San Francisco or New York, attracting and retaining top talent is both a perpetual challenge and one of the most critical aspects of growing a successful business. When you don’t have the brand cache of a Google or a Twitter, however, companies have to work harder to get potential hires excited about joining your team. This is why creating a culture of innovation and creativity that positions your company as a desirable place for talent to advance their careers, is even more important for businesses outside the tech hotbeds.
The good news is that with a little bit of focus, businesses all over the country can create a world-class culture that attracts top talent. When done well, company culture can be a major selling point for prospective hires and the difference between a top recruit choosing you over a competitor.
Here are a few ways for your company to spotlight its unique work environment.
My company ePrize executes digital engagement solutions that live across the web, mobile, and social spaces. Naturally, creativity plays a large part in our company culture. However, creativity can and should be encouraged regardless of industry, but particularly in technology where creative problem solving is a necessary skill. Talented young employees want a professional environment where they are empowered to work collaboratively, with the freedom to offer ideas about the best way to achieve a specific goal.
Cultivate your company’s creative culture throughout the recruitment process and make collaboration a major selling point and key competency you look for in future employees. Millennials thrive when companies take a democratic approach to workflow and problem solving, so stress these characteristics as you bring people in.
Back this up in the workplace with flexible management styles that focus on collaborative leadership among your team. Paying attention to ideas over titles when brainstorming, for instance, will encourage your employees to evangelize your company to their peers.
Balance more than the books.
No matter how much of an achiever they are, all people value their personal lives. And you should too, because employees who have a harmonious work-life balance are more productive overall. In today’s world of always-on connectivity, employees can get the job done from anywhere. For employees with families or young children at home, give them the freedom to be home for dinner, soccer games, and dance recitals. This can be accomplished by making work environments mobile, setting clear deadlines, and holding people accountable without micromanaging their schedules.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg rightly put this issue in the spotlight for women, but your company can take this a step farther by extending these philosophies to male employees to whom family life is important (namely, all of them). In the era of leaning in, Businessweek referred to men who are as serious about their parenting as they are about their career as "Alpha Dads," and it is important that your company recognizes the needs of both family-oriented males and females.
The Businessweek story goes on to reference a group of working fathers created by three executives at Deloitte’s consulting group in Toronto called "Deloitte Dads." Encouraging these types of groups at your company—for both males and females—is a great way to foster a deep sense of camaraderie between employees.
Go beyond a 401(k).
While standard benefits like quality health coverage and a 401(k) plans are expected by employees, you can separate your company from the pack by offering unique benefits above and beyond the norm.
Evernote is a great example of a company that has placed a premium on sustaining employee happiness through unique benefits. They offer things like an unlimited vacation policy, so employees can take as much time off as they want, provided they get their job done, and they even give employees $1,000 in spending money when they take a week-long trip! CEO Phil Libin has also instituted professional house-cleaning twice a month for all Evernote employees. His reasoning is that it was a great way to get spouses and significant others on their side, putting pressure on their loved one to stay at Evernote rather than look for other opportunities.
Embrace an entrepreneurial spirit.
While it may seem counterintuitive, you should also look for ways to further your employees’ entrepreneurial focus by embracing their extracurricular business opportunities and nonprofit organizations. As long as their pursuits are not competitive to the work your company does and their work is done outside business hours, providing this level of freedom to employees has clear benefits.
The people who are constantly thinking of new ideas and business opportunities possess the same problem solving and "find a way to get the job done" attitude that you should value in all employees. Outside pursuits also serve as a creative outlet that allow people to develop new skill sets—like sales and marketing or fundraising—that they may not have exposure to during their normal day to day role. It is also a great way to ensure that the days employees spend at your company are kept fresh, as they will have a broader exposure to new challenges and a balance to different types of work across their varying roles.
We encourage these types of entrepreneurial pursuits at ePrize where many employees have outside business interests ranging from teaching classes to T-shirt printing companies and even developing and selling a line of gourmet flavored salts.
Have (a lot of) fun.
The reality is that full-time employees will see their coworkers as much or even more than their family. While the creative work and great clients we have is the largest draw, it’s crucial to make a concerted effort to do things that make your team look forward to coming to the office each day. Summer picnics, team lunches and dinners, genuine recognition and rewards (we have the our annual "Academy Awards" awarding ePrizer of the year, top rookie, best project, customer service and more), and common creative work spaces create a communal atmosphere in the office and make your company a desirable place for people to grow their career. You can take this to the next level by looking for creative ways to make job offers or recognize employees.
Business is all about productivity and efficiency, and companies with a fun, collaborative work environment that is responsive to employee needs will have an easier time consistently meeting and exceeding their goals.
[Image: Flickr user Brendan Adkins]