When it comes to retaining employees, it helps if your company is cool to work for. That’s certainly the case with FlowPlay, a Seattle-based video game developer. Even still, they’ve achieved a 0% turnover rate since 2018. The number is remarkable compared to 2020’s overall turnover rate of 57.3%. The company’s current roster of 62 employees have been with the company an average of nearly seven years.
FlowPlay CEO Derrick Morton says his company offers pay that’s “barely above average for the industry,” as well as standard tech-industry benefits like a 401(k) match, paid transportation to and from the office, and catered meals. However, he credits his company’s zero turnover to a flat org chart, flexibility, and an infusion of fun.
Get Rid of Bosses
“The biggest thing we do is offer work autonomy,” says Morton. “We’re convinced employees don’t need bosses. What they need is control over their work. We trust they will get their work done and do a great job without someone standing over them.”
FlowPlay employees work on teams, but no one is considered the leader. A coordinator collects information about what is happening within the team and provides it to Morton and his partner, Doug Pearson, who provide feedback. However, there is no hierarchical structure of reporting to a boss who has a boss who has another boss. As a result, people feel control and ownership, says Morton.
This structure was intentional. “When startups are acquired, often things get worse, with layers of org structure, management, bureaucracy, and paperwork,” says Morton. “This can crush the spirit of employees. When we started FlowPlay, we thought about what we could do differently. No matter how big we get, we will keep the independence, ownership of work, and knowledge contribution. As we’ve grown, we’ve expanded teams rather than adding management.”
Having a team structure also helps keep employees accountable, says Morton. “You don’t want to let down your team members,” he says. “It feels different than feeling pressure because you have someone looking over your shoulder.”
The company also offers flex time. Core hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and everyone is expected to be available during that time. Employees have autonomy to work outside of those hours, such as working from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
FlowPlay has also been using a hybrid arrangement since it was launched in 2006. Employees work in the office three days a week and from home on Tuesday and Thursday.
“This gives a better work-life balance in terms of being with their families,” says Morton. “We don’t schedule meetings on Tuesday and Thursday. If you wanted to completely work at night or take the kids to school on those two days, it’s up to you. You don’t need to keep set hours on those days.”
Morton says his employees like to have fun, and the company holds parties over Zoom and awards prizes.
“Team members nominate someone every two weeks that they think is doing an outstanding job,” says Morton. “Those names go into a pool, and every week someone is pulled from the pool and is given an opportunity to play Deal or No Deal, just like the TV game show.”
Envelopes hold dollar amounts that range from $5 to $5,000. Employees choose an envelope to eliminate, one at a time. At certain intervals, the company’s CFO will make them an offer they can take or leave.
“We have software built for this purpose, so everybody can see the current offer and share whether they think the employee should accept it or turn it down,” says Morton. “Yesterday someone won $1,850.”
Morton says the prize process has evolved over time. “We started out with a roulette wheel that determined the prizing,” says Morton. “We’re game makers, so we like to try different games to keep it fun and interesting.”
Hire the Right People
Having zero turnover also comes from an intentional method of hiring. Morton looks for people who are team players, and he’s the last person to interview every employee who is hired.
“They need to be willing to take feedback and work with group and not try and be a prima donna,” he says. “I look at what their ego is like. How humble are they? They may be super talented, but if I don’t get a sense of humbleness, they don’t pass the test.”
Morton admits that it doesn’t hurt that his is a game company. “By definition, not all places are as fun to be,” he says. “We know we have an advantage, but we’re constantly evolving to create a company where people want to stay. It takes as much work as running a hierarchical organization.”