Three years ago, we had a real issue with employee retention. In 2009, we saw 4 new hires and 11 leave. 2010 faired a bit better, but we had 3-4 individuals who we believed to be long-term staples in our company leave for other jobs. We knew that we were doing something wrong as a company, and it needed to be fixed in order to salvage our employee base.
In early 2011, our company’s leadership team worked to address a number of issues that caused employees to leave: too stringent work-hour rules, a poor employee feedback mechanism, lack of a clear growth path, and a general feeling of unappreciation.
The most significant change was the decision to move our company to be a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), which eliminated work hours, our vacation/sick policy, and even the need to work in our office. The nagging for showing up 10 minutes late disappeared, as did the guilt over needing to run an afternoon errand. Pretending to be sick in order to take a longer vacation was no longer necessary, as we allowed our employees to take the time they needed for vacation.
We moved to a new management structure that capitalized on game mechanics and an agile methodology, where everyone now meets with their supervisor every two weeks to receive feedback for their job performance, provide their own feedback on their job satisfaction, and continually work with their manager toward their long term professional goals. Our employees have been able to flourish with the shorter feedback cycle — previously “big” issues now carry less significance, as the employee knows that in two weeks the slate is clean. Conversely, when an employee has four or five poor reviews in a row without correctional change, they are less surprised when we tell them that the position is not working out for them.
Finally, the leadership team took intentional steps to show appreciation to our team. Our managers and senior leadership are encouraged to write handwritten thank you cards to one member of the team each week. We have “Beer Fridays” at work, and pay for a Happy Hour at a local bar every other month. We reward our team with cash to do company “chores” like blogging, attending tech community events, or teaching lunch ‘n learns. We’ve brought in a masseuse to give free massages, and paid for numerous team lunches. As a thanks for a tremendous first half of the year, we piled everyone on a Grayline bus, brought them to Best Buy, and gave them each a $250 gift card to spend as they desired. The financial impact has been minimal, but the loyalty and devotion from our team has skyrocketed.
As a result of these cultural shifts, our company has flourished. Since these changes were implemented in early 2011, we haven’t had any developers leave on their own accord, and only one designer leave (while growing the production team from seven to seventeen). We have been able to recruit talent from our competitors, as well as those who had previously preferred a freelance lifestyle. Most importantly, we were able to hire back three employees that had previously left. That, for me, is the greatest sign of success.
ps: We’re hiring… ;)