By Dan Clifford, an EO San Francisco member and the co-founder of AnswerLab
Seven years ago, when I took the leap to leave behind a steady paycheck and start my own company, creating a strong, long-lasting culture was one of my biggest motivators. Every day my staff serves as ambassadors of my business, so keeping them happy, challenged and engaged is a high priority. Having experienced the trial and error involved with establishing a workplace culture, here are three low-cost, high-impact initiatives that my cofounder and I found to be the most successful.
Reinforce Your Core Values
Establishing and integrating our core values into our business processes has turned out to be our strongest recruiting and retention tool. We won’t make a hire unless we see examples of the candidate consistently exhibiting all six of our core values. What’s more, we won’t retain an employee—even a high performer—if they disregard just one of the values, such as “Jump in to help others.”
To reiterate the importance of our values, we share employee core values stories in every company meeting, and we post them prominently in our offices. We’ve discovered that our employees are most engaged when they work with people who have diverse backgrounds and talents, but who share the same values such as “Build trust” and “Figure it out and get it done.”
Leverage What Makes You Unique
We try to create benefits and systems that are unique to us. Our firm helps companies understand what users like and don’t like about their digital products, such as mobile and tablet applications. As such, we aim to attract and retain employees who “Embrace new technology” (another one of our core values). To reinforce this value, we established a tech benefit, where every year each employee can purchase up to US$400 in technology so that they can keep up to date with the latest gadgets, phones, tablets and apps. Our employees are researchers who love to learn, so we also established monthly learning lunches, where internal and external speakers share their knowledge. Finally, our office location is unique—it’s a block from the San Francisco Bay—so why stay locked up in the office? We established “walk and talks” to replace many of our one-on-one meetings.
Look for the Triple Impact
We found that our most successful programs had a triple impact— they benefited the company, employees and clients. For example, we started scheduling internal, quarterly “premier client meetings” to discuss how we can better serve our key clients and expand our business with them. Everyone who touches the client attends, from the hires right out of school to an executive sponsor. Employees like the chance to get to know each other in a different setting and enjoy taking part in the strategic-planning process. Conversely, clients appreciate the extra thought we put into how to serve them, and the end result is expanded revenues from repeat business. This creates a cycle of more employee engagement— happy clients equal happy employees, and vice versa.
People generally spend the majority of their waking hours at work. I’ve found that creating an engaging workplace is highly satisfying, it doesn’t necessarily require huge financial investments and it can have a profound impact on people’s lives.