In 2022, people expect more from their employers than ever before. Not only has demand for better benefits increased, but so has the demand for remote work, which has left many companies scratching their heads over how to foster company-wide culture. This is especially true in the tech industry, which had 21 months of consecutive growth and an estimated 21,000 jobs added in September alone.
Business leaders need to do everything in their power to attract and retain talent. While it’s easy to get lost in growth and attracting the right customers, putting your people first is a key move in the long run.
Isn’t This Old News?
There is nothing new or groundbreaking about the concept of putting people first, but it remains a conversation because so many don’t feel as though they are their employers' most important asset. On top of that, the expectations of the workforce have changed drastically in the last two years, meaning employers need to prioritize this… or risk losing valuable employees.
This is even more palpable in the tech industry, where most jobs can be done remotely. Some key happenings employers need to be aware of are:
The war for talent: Culture doesn’t just happen, whether in tech or anywhere else. If you’re waiting for your employees to curate their own positive culture, it won’t work. With the Great Resignation providing more options for job seekers than ever before, they will be more inclined to listen to offers from companies that provide a healthy company culture.
Work-life balance: Just because your employees may work from home doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for ensuring they have the proper balance. While the future of work has provided employees with unprecedented opportunities to be home, setting proper boundaries for when they are expected to work, or allowing flex work, will let them know they are still the first priority.
Culture equals profit: Culture goes beyond just creating a fun atmosphere. Culture is ultimately empowering your staff to be themselves so they can do their jobs confidently. Nothing makes your customers or clients feel more valued than dealing with people who are genuinely happy to be there. Companies with better cultures have been known to outperform others time and time again, even having 20 percent less turnover than those without.
What Can We Do to Improve Our Workplace Culture?
Let’s start with what to avoid when thinking about culture. It is not just fun after-hours events and happy hours. Expecting your employees to show up after work to be included in activities is not always fair. People could have prior commitments, family time, or they might not be interested in a particular activity. It is completely fine to incorporate this as part of your culture; just don’t let it be the only thing you offer. Instead, try to integrate fun breaks into the workday. Whether you are remote or in-person, you can introduce things like 30-minute ice cream breaks or walking breaks. The idea is to allow people to take their minds off the job—separate from their lunch break—and feel a sense of belonging.
Being Clear About What You Care About
Since culture doesn’t revolve around events, it is important to make it clear what your organization values as soon as possible. Every employee should know your core values and should be able to reference them when making decisions. Here are some things to consider including:
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI): Having solid DEI efforts inevitably creates an environment that is positive, respectful and inclusive. Not only does it free up your employees to be themselves, but beyond that, it allows them to be more creative, productive and innovative than those who refuse to embrace diversity. You can also use this as an opportunity to work with your teams on setting goals and setting up an internal committee that is responsible for communication and initiatives.
Buy-in from leadership: When attempting to influence the culture of your tech company, it is critical that executives at all levels participate. It is not enough for leaders to believe intellectually; they must also believe behaviorally and psychologically in order to drive global change. Leadership must believe in the importance of making a change and comprehend how their actions will help or hinder the overarching goal. Employees will feel ignored and unvalued if upper management only pays lip service to the new culture, and they may reject new methods of doing things.
Perks beyond a lunch break: As discussed earlier, the last two years have completely changed employee expectations. Simply offering a 401k, healthcare and sensible PTO is the bare minimum, and no longer creates excitement. Rather, companies need to show they prioritize the responsibilities, relationships and things that are important to their employees. Not only will this help your employees reduce their own stress, but they will also trust you more since they know you have their best interests at heart. After all, it’s significantly harder to leave a job where you feel genuinely cared for.
People are your most valuable asset, always. Putting them first and understanding that they need to be treated with care, compassion and grace is worth its weight in gold. No, it’s not a new concept. But if you actually take the time to implement it, you’ll improve your bottom line, drive innovation and increase employee retention and morale.
Jen Locklear is Chief People Officer at ConnectWise.