There has been much talk of the ‘Great Resignation’ in the last few months, and we know there is evidence of skills shortages in some European countries, as people move on from jobs where they don’t feel appropriately valued and want a better work-life-balance.
With this in mind, it’s worth asking, what makes people want to stay with their current employer?
People want more than a fancy office and a decent salary (although those may be important) – they want meaning from their work. Working somewhere where you can make a real difference, where you can push boundaries, and learn new skills, really matters.
People also want to work with people they respect and trust, and where they are trusted and respected in return.
That means investing in company culture, so people can thrive. It means living your values, doing great work, and encouraging people to have interests beyond work.
There’s a brilliant piece of research by Donald Sull, Charles Sull and Ben Zweig for MIT Sloan (published in January in MIT Sloan Management Review) that looks in detail at why people resign, and the difference in different industries. Companies with a strong culture have lower-than-average turnover of people, which isn’t surprising. What is interesting is this research backs up the theory that simply increasing pay doesn’t have the impact you would think. People want a strong culture, job security, life-work balance (something that innovative companies have to consider carefully), recognition for good performance, career opportunities, and support from their employer.
Over the years, I’ve learned some important things about building cultures where people can thrive and help deliver great results for the business.
1. Open communication is key
Great ideas come from cultures where everyone can contribute their ideas – regardless of their place in the hierarchy (even if these ideas challenge the accepted line of thought – or maybe especially if they do!). Without this, you can quickly end up in a groupthink situation where people are afraid to voice creative ideas and differing opinions.
2. Always make time for your team
No matter how busy you are, always make time to check in with people individually and the team as a whole. Hold regular catch-ups.
3. Show trust by respecting autonomy
The most effective teams trust each other to deliver what they say they’ll deliver, when they say they’ll deliver it. Leaders who are there to clear roadblocks for their team but not micro-manage them, develop strong, confident team members who are more likely to respect each other’s expertise.
4. Developing a community feel
Encourage people to build communities both in and outside of work. If colleagues want to come together to explore an interest they share, encourage it and facilitate it. For example, at Zenitech, we have communities for gamers, hikers and music-lovers, to name a few.
5. Continue to invest in your employee’s growth and development
If you want to hold on to smart and talented people, you need to invest in their growth. Give people projects that are challenging but not impossible. Encourage them to develop their skills. Consider moving team members between projects if they’re not thriving.
6. Make everyone’s lives easier by simplifying processes
Overly-complicated processes stifle creativity, so do what you can to streamline them. Make sure your team has what they need to do their best work – maybe they need a specific type of working environment or better hardware to get the best results. Tailor your approach to the individual.
7. Commit to making a difference
For most businesses, there’s a way they can help make a positive impact on the world. What can your business do that will make employees proud to say they work there? You might have innovative technology and services, but it’s when these things are applied to important projects or problems that people begin to see real meaning to their work.
These are all critical to our culture at Zenitech. They’re not always easy to get right. But they are always important, particularly as we grow.