Here at Fairway Technologies, people are our most important assets. We are a group of software and data engineering consultants. As such, the quality of what we offer is built on the quality of our employees. It is their knowledge, expertise, enthusiasm, and personality that will solve our clients’ challenges. We not only want our people to stay but we want them to want to stay. In fact, Fairway was built on this idea: hire great people who you enjoy working with and success will follow. Nearly two decades later, we haven’t strayed from our initial business model and are constantly evaluating how we can make Fairway a truly great place to work.
Retention of top talent is very important, or should be very important, to all companies. It’s especially so in tight labor markets where replacing people is not only time consuming but also very costly. Recent statistics released by the U.S. Department of Labor indicate that as of January 2019 there are 7.6 million unfilled jobs in the U.S. and only 6.5 million people looking for work.
In the tech space, competition for skilled resources is enormous. There are many opportunities for talented employees to jump ship in the current market. An interview process that does a great job of identifying fantastic candidates isn’t a strong measurement of how long employees will stay with the company. Good benefits, a nice office, free food, and even job security are no longer enough to entice employees to stay. Employers have to understand the values, drivers, and goals of each individual. They also must ensure that the employee understands the values, strategies, and objectives of the company. Both have to unite in working towards aligned goals.
Leading organizational behavior experts and psychologists have written many papers and blogs about factors that contribute to the reasons an employee stays with a company or choose to leave. There is a long list of factors, but, in general, they can be rolled up under the following three key drivers, which if you can get them right, will make the choice to stay an easy one for your top talent:
1. Engagement – Being Part of Something Special
Employees want to be part of something special. They want what they do with the majority of their waking hours to make a difference. They want a sense of satisfaction at the end of the work day. As Steve Jobs, Co-Founder Apple Inc. put it:
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me… Going to bed at night saying I’ve done something wonderful. That’s what matters to me.”
It’s not about saving the world or grand scheme world changes. Employees want to feel that their efforts are valued, that their contribution makes a difference to their team and to the company.
Feeling valued and part of something bigger than themselves strengthens peoples’ bonds with their teammates and strengthens their emotional investment in the company. When you feel your values match those of the company and that everyone is pulling in the same direction, it gives you a sense of purpose and belonging.
So how do you achieve that “something special”? It starts with a collective understanding of the company’s goals. Employees want to believe in what they are doing. Long gone are the days of “do as I say and don’t ask any questions” employment. Transparency is key. Highly educated, highly intelligent employees won’t be fobbed off with “just cuz” answers.
Company-wide open communication is a required ingredient in the recipe for the something-special environment. The ability for anyone to give opinions and feedback and be genuinely acknowledged feeds employees’ sense of belonging. This inclusivity builds trust and respect which leads me to the next reason your great people will choose to stay.
2. Trust and Respect
Employees set a high bar in terms of how they expect to be treated by their employers. They expect stimulating work, recognition of their efforts, a defined career path, and financial reward, if they and the company perform well.
As an employer, you have to have faith and trust in your employees. You’ve hired smart people. You’ve given them the tools. Now, trust that they will do great things. When you treat employees like they are just another cog in a wheel, they may do what they are told but they don’t actively try to come up with ways to better things.
Employees understand that recognition and respect are earned but when they see it being provided fittingly, they will step up, take on more responsibility, and lead the way for others in the organization to do the same. A company’s very best advocate is a happy employee.
Trust, of course, is a two-way street. Your employees also have to trust their leadership. Trust isn’t something that you can assume your team has in you, as a leader, or in the company and its ability to implement its vision. Trust is earned through transparency, consistency, and ongoing communication.
Keep the communication going in good times and bad. Employers are always happy to ring the bell for a big sale or to celebrate the delivery of a project, but often times you’ll find they shy away from sharing the tougher challenges. Give employees the opportunity to contribute ideas on how to tackle problems; a different perspective just might result in a solution. Even if it doesn’t, allowing employees to weigh in contributes to the growth of their emotional investment in the company.
Fairway’s Creative Director Jessica Colton provided a great description of Fairway’s ethos on respect and trust in a recent blog post celebrating a few of the extraordinary women who work at Fairway:
“Fairway is a magical place where smart people are encouraged to play, experiment, and share their ideas. The “No Jerks” culture encourages ego-free collaboration and makes for some incredible synergy between folks.”
3. Culture and Environment
Richard Branson, Founder Virgin Group – “There is no magic formula for great company culture. The key is to treat your staff how you would like to be treated.”
The culture of a company has to be organically grown. It can’t be forced, and any artificiality is an anti-culture indicator. As an employer, you want your employees to feel that your company’s culture could never be replicated elsewhere. They are part of it and it is part of them!
A positive, fun, collaborative atmosphere—especially one that challenges and supports your team—is invaluable. Delivering on contracts and customer promises is a serious business but it’s best done with a positive attitude and laughter. It is so much more enticing to get up in the morning and go to work in an encouraging, happy environment where your teammates and you feel you have been given the best opportunity to succeed. As Theodora Dule, a Principal Developer at Fairway, said:
“The people I get to work with are the best part of working at Fairway. They are among the most brilliant and genuine group of people I’ve had the pleasure of working with!”
Encouraging employees to continue their professional development, expand their skills and expertise, and then share that knowledge with others adds to the overall strength of your company community. Gifted and talented people thrive on the opportunity to work with and learn from other gifted and talented people. Senior team members love to mentor less senior team members and watch them grow and flourish. Mentoring is a double benefit program as it also cultivates the mentor’s sense of doing something that makes a difference. The results of a recent survey of Gen Z’ers showed that a mentorship program was a more important benefit to 33% of them than health care.
Most importantly, when looking at how to retain your people, treat your employees as individuals. Although they are part of a collective, each person has their own set of goals and values. There is no “average” employee on which to base your career development, rewards, and retention programs. We do not live in a one size fits all world. Learn what drives and motivates your people and tailor programs to the individual person. Yes, all of this takes a significant amount of time and effort. But the rewards will far outweigh the cost.
Learn more about being part of the Fairway team!