It seems every week there are new companies entering the tech space. We hear of software engineers with a new idea for an app leaving their company with a gaggle of other employees, leaving teams with unfulfilled roles. The tech industry has one of the highest turnovers in the corporate world. It might be a part of its nature, but it still creates a headache to continually hire and onboard new team members - let alone retain their talent.
There is a lot of noise out there on what works best to keep employees. Some say it's high pay and unlimited vacation. Others say it's free snacks and remote work. There are proper ways to employ any of these tactics, but it's essential to remain true to your company values and not try to force something out of character.
Covid-19 has made this almost the norm, especially as more companies allow permanent work-from-home situations, but it's not an all or nothing proposition. The office won't go away, and some processes will work better as in-person meetings, but remote work should be an option. Many situations make remote work appropriate—doctor's appointments, ill children, or needing a bit more rest.
Good employees will still get their work done, even if working from home. The setting of the office doesn't mean more productivity. The office is often more distracting than a person's home. If you believe an employee is abusing your work-from-home policy, it might not be a result of remote work, but rather, the employee’s character.
Remote work might allow employees to capitalise on the time they save due to lack of commuting to learn a new coding language by attending a self-paced coding bootcamp, such as General Assembly, with their newly found time.
This might seem a bit vague, but there is no silver bullet for creating a positive culture. Each team is going to be different too. A cybersecurity team is going to differ from the HR team. One might prefer monthly outings and the other a catered vegan meal at work. Positive incentives don't have to be earned either. A simple, 'Hey, we appreciate you' goes a long way to making employees feel appreciated and can do wonders for retaining your top team members.
It would be remiss to repeat the same thing over again. Don't assume that everyone will enjoy every effort you make. Most people love donuts, it's a fact, but people with gluten intolerance won't be as appreciative.
Don't overlook fairness either. Employees can grow sour quickly if favouritism or other unfair treatment is suspected, intentional or not. People won't be happy if their team gets coupons while another gets new Fitbits.
Meetings often suck up too much time. Even when meetings feel important, employees often allocate productive hours to meetings where they could be spending that time working on their current projects. People feel guilted into saying yes to meetings, especially if managers or VPs are involved. Only invite the necessary parties and keep sessions brief.
It always feels meetings aren't long enough to cover the full agenda or before someone has to run to another meeting. You can amend this by having explicit meeting norms throughout your department. Having standards is one thing, but it is also important to call out people who break them. Don't create a “gotcha” culture, but let people know the norms are to put everyone on the same playing field.
There are a few ways to limit the number of meetings. One is to pick a week for no meetings; this might seem like a week of no progress, but think of the relief you would feel if you had a full week to work. It would be relieving. Data Scientists and mobile developers alike would rejoice in the chance to focus on their work without having to bend to a peer's schedule.
No one act will transform a company's culture, but little tweaks can improve culture and employee retention. Keeping employees happy is an ongoing investment. Changes don't have to be dramatic but should include input from employees.
Constantly onboarding new employees can be exhausting, start by making sure you hire the right employee for your company. The right candidate isn't always the one with the most degrees or longest working experience. A new hire should fit in with the current culture or be a leader who moves that culture in the right direction.