From the outside looking in, the perks of Silicon Valley companies can resemble the rewards of a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s infamous factory: free made-to-order exotic coffees, acres of sports courts, in-house barber shops, masseuses, mixologists and video arcades. Corporations like Google, Facebook and Apple are known for their unique company cultures, amazing facilities and employees who wouldn’t dream of working anywhere else.
Yet even as some entrepreneurs write off these “Silicon Valley” perks as a needless and misguided attempt to increase employee satisfaction, the bar has clearly been raised in terms of what an employer can do to make itself more attractive.
Not all companies have the financial means to design a state-of-the-art facility or provide three meals a day to employees, but in fact an exorbitant budget isn’t necessary to develop your own unique company culture. These simple steps will help your company build a culture all its own, allowing you to exponentially grow company loyalty and attract top talent:
1. Create a mission statement and recognize employees' accomplishments.
Begin by crafting a mission statement and articulating a set of core values that reflect your organization’s cultural goals. It doesn’t cost a thing, and armed with a vision of how to guide your company, you can begin planning activities and allocating for perks that reflect the direction you wish to take your business.
At Alterra, we asked for input from all levels to identify our core values. After receiving hundreds of employee submissions, the executive team revised them into the ten core values we have today. Managers now provide weekly recognition at employee meetings for team members whose work exemplifies our guiding principles.
We also recognize these employees at the highest levels of the corporation by posting their pictures on our Facebook page along with compliments from their satisfied customers. The high level of engagement these posts receive from being shared by our employees' friends and family often results in additional customers.
2. Be a supportive leader both in and outside of work.
In addition to recognizing great work, take time to recognize weddings, birthdays, graduations and other milestones in the lives of your employees. Encourage and hire leaders in your organization that care about employees’ overall happiness, not just their 9-to-5 accomplishments.
One morning, I received a call from a manager explaining that an employee had woken in the middle of the night to find his home in flames. Fortunately, the employee’s family escaped without injury, but lost everything else in the process and was without home insurance at the time. Recognizing a serious need, we organized “Operation Support Fred.”
The response was overwhelming as employees throughout the company pulled together to raise more than $19,000 in just 48 hours to help Fred’s family get back on their feet. Moments like these present those in management with an opportunity to do more as leaders and create a culture of genuine care that fosters employee loyalty.
3. Facilitate fun.
When employees feel connected to one another and management, they will be more likely to stick around. Finding ways to facilitate workplace friendships can be as simple as scheduling a weekly breakfast or joining a community softball league.
You can also foster collaboration and creativity by having your employees suggest, plan and lead these events, which may inadvertently reveal hidden leaders and go-getters in your ranks. Provide a mix of activities; mandatory events can help employees meet someone from a different part of the company they may never have talked to before; and optional activities show a dedication to work-life balance by offering a low-pressure setting for employees to build camaraderie. My personal favorite: Alterra’s annual Ro Sham Bo contest.
4. Keep your finger on your employees' happiness.
All employees want to feel valued and listened to, even more than they want a break room with a pool table and big-screen TV. Open-door feedback channels and bi-annual employee surveys are a great way to keep a pulse on each office or department, allowing employers to recognize smaller issues before they lead to turnover or job apathy. Oftentimes, the best solutions you receive will come from team members on the front lines who don’t normally have an opportunity to voice their opinion to management.
In Delivering Happiness, CEO Tony Hsieh showed how Zappos made company culture its number-one priority. By applying the research and science of happiness in the workplace, Zappos increased its revenue exponentially while building a committed workforce that bought into the company’s “change the world” vision.
While not fancy or splashy, a happiness-centric approach to running a business tends to be the unspoken perk that keeps employees around for years.
In sum, Silicon Valley doesn’t own a monopoly on culture. Other, successful companies can find ways to empower their employees and create cultures that reflect those employees’ unique wants and needs. Capitalize on moments where you can listen to and connect with your employees.
Using these opportunities will not only help you to attract tomorrow’s best talent, but to create a culture that captivates both employees and customers for the long haul.