The Fight for Talent - Why Companies Should Invest in Making People Stay

November 1, 2019

The time of you spending your entire life in one company is (mostly) over. Now people are changing their place of work every five years or so. This leads to increased competition on finding the top talent for the company. Companies try to find the best talent and the talent wants to find the place that will make them happy. I’m going to write multiple blog posts taking a deep dive into the research and concepts that a company should keep in mind to keep their current employees happy and to attract new talent.

Companies want to be interesting to the best talent out there. And employees want to find a place that will make them happy in the long run. Happiness is a difficult concept to measure, but there are a couple of things that should be taken into consideration when looking at a current or new workplace. The three big concepts that employees want and are looking for are:

Autonomy

People want to be in control. They want to take charge of their workdays (and life).

Mastery

The talented people are always looking to learn more.

Purpose

The work has to mean something. You are not going to enjoy your work and be motivated to do it knowing that the plan that you worked so hard to write is put straight through the shredder.

Employees want a workplace that allows them all three. The corporations have the resources and tools to facilitate this and make it a part of their company culture, as it should be. This great quote which I’ve read multiple times, but don’t know who originally said it, captures the essence of how some companies think about developing the skills of their employees:

“What happens if we train them and they leave?”

“What happens if we don’t and they stay?”

Another solution for employees is to start your own company or work as a freelancer, but this obviously brings a lot of new challenges.

How can employers facilitate the wants and needs of the current and potential employees?

There are well proven practices that have helped companies like Google to keep their employees as productive as possible. By fulfilling the needs for autonomy, mastery and purpose, the company can not only retain their employees and keep them productive, but also grow their talents and make new innovations in the process. Google has their famous “20% time” philosophy, which basically empowers employees to use 20% of their time at work to develop themselves and work on whatever they feel like will be most beneficial to Google. This has allowed Google to develop some of their most popular products, like Google News, Gmail and Adsense. It’s not implemented as a policy which makes it a wonderful idea that some lucky ones have a chance to use. “In some ways, the idea of 20 percent time is more important than the reality of it,” Laszlo Bock writes in his book, “Work Rules!”. This philosophy touches in all of the three main concepts: autonomy, mastery and purpose depending on how it is implemented and how employees use the time allocated.

Other things to keep in mind:

Environmental and ethical questions

Customers are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly and ethically produced products and employees are more comfortable in working in an environmentally friendly and ethical company. An atheist doesn’t want to work for a religious organization, like a pacifist doesn’t want to work for the military or a weapon manufacturer. If the company gets a project that challenges the beliefs and values of the employees, it might be a huge issue for some to work in that project. For some it might even be hard to work in that company.

Physical and mental health

Every company should have proper healthcare systems in place, but they should cover more. More specifically they should cover mental health issues and take steps to prevent any mental health issues. Companies can’t for example prevent preexisting mental health issues, but they can take steps to make sure the work environment is psychologically safe. Crunch and working overtime is a huge problem in the tech field. Companies should actively try to eliminate crunch and compensate any overtime that employees are putting in. Constantly working overtime leads to chronic stress and when the stress gets overwhelming, burn-out. Everyone can make themselves more resilient to stress, but it is still an issue that companies need to tackle. Other ways to take care of the health of employees: massages, paying for gym memberships, having clubs for employees with same interests, having meetings while walking etc.

Company culture

These concepts are all part of company culture. As a term company culture is used too much. It’s broad and phrases like: “we have great company culture” don’t actually mean anything. I would suggest companies stop talking about company culture as a whole and start talking about specific ways they are building the company culture.

I’m going to write additional blog posts and go deeper in to different aspects of employee well-being, how companies can facilitate well-being and growth, leadership, employee retention, trust, employee narrative and health aspects. There will be tips to be implemented in a company level and tips for individuals who don’t have the company support in the subject. I will add links to the other posts when they come out. If you have any questions or thought, please comment or send me a message, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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