In a talent scarce and innovation critical world companies inspired by the likes of Google are stretching far and wide to out-perk one another in an attempt to attract and retain the best talent. Whilst the Michelin-Star chefs and nap pods are great, creating an awesome employee experience relies on a lot more than surface level ‘nice-to-haves’. The problem that most companies run into whilst trying to emulate this is the budget. They simply don’t have it. They also don’t need it, and that is what this article is going to illustrate.

First off, it is crucial to understand that employee experience is about much more than surface level perks. Google’s fundamental ways of working create a great employee experience. The perks are nice to have but they will not help you to create a place where the best talent wants to come to, does come to, chooses to stay at, and shoots the lights out while they are there. If you don’t trust your colleagues, don’t have the tools and equipment that you need to do your job, and/or you have a terrible relationship with your manager no amount of free popcorn is going to improve your experience. The question then becomes – how can any business of any size create an awesome employee experience, one that doesn’t require a big budget and that is much more meaningful than surface level perks?

Let’s bust a myth: The kind of employee experience that you are able to create is in no way dependant on the size of your budget, it is dependant on the amount of effort you are prepared to invest.

In her book Powerful Patty McCord draws a distinction between the employee experience philosophies of Google and Netflix. Not only is the perspective refreshing but it is a fantastic departure point for asking – ‘what is the kind of employee experience that I need to create in order for my organisation to thrive?’

Netflix and Google, like you and everyone else, are constantly competing for the same talent. However, if you look at the two companies they are chasing fundamentally different goals. Google’s mission is to make all of the world’s information searchable and they are building lots of great products. Netflix are focused on one thing which is serving their customer’s happiness by entertaining everyone and making the world smile. For Google, it is strategic for them to look for the best people, give them loads of freedom, plenty of perks and resources and let them come up with hundreds of great ideas and concepts. They can then choose to develop the best of those. Netflix’s focus is on building one thing and building it damn well. For them, it is mission critical to have “exactly the right people with the right skills and experience to do their part of that one thing”.

Most of us are in Camp Netflix here. What can you do to ensure that you have the right people with the right skills wanting to join and choosing to stay in your organisation? Here are three key focus areas with excerpts from Powerful to guide you in creating awesome employee experiences without having to rely on a personal chef.

1. Be Uncompromising About Great Colleagues

“A company’s job isn’t to empower people; it’s to remind people that they walk in the door with power and to create the conditions for them to exercise it. Do that, and you will be astonished by the great work they do for you”

The greatest perk that you can give is to surround people with great colleagues and a great environment in which to do the best work of their lives. A team full of driven, ambitious people who consistently deliver great outputs is the most motivating environment that you can put someone into. It is a place where the best people want to come to.

The people in your organisation today, the people you are busy recruiting and the people that your employer brand is attracting, are they the best people? Who are the best people in your organisation and are they surrounded by other great people who can challenge them to push themselves further than they ever thought possible? How often are you compromising on hiring great talent because you can’t find them (fix your pipeline) or you can’t afford them (a bad hire will cost you 27x more than a great but more expensive hire)? All of these seemingly small sacrifices have deep and long reaching effects. Surrounding great people with more great people is the single biggest long-term investment you can make in your business long term.

“People’s happiness in their work comes from being deeply engaged in solving a problem with talented people you know are also deeply engaged in solving it, and from knowing that the customer loves the product or service you all have worked so hard to make”.

2. Teach People to Read a P&L not How to Tap a Beer Keg.

Treat people like adults, not college kids.

“I also fell in love with explaining very clearly and fully to everyone in the company why we were making the decisions we were, how they could best participate in achieving our goals, and what the obstacles could be”

Too often we hold people at arms length from information, choosing not to share what is happening in the company on the assumption that ‘they won’t understand’. Firstly stop assuming that your people are dumb, try them – or teach them. Secondly, don’t hire dumb people. Hoard knowledge at your own expense. You can’t expect people wearing blinkers to think or act on the periphery. Think about it this way – the more information you give people the more you are helping them help you better.

If your people aren’t informed by you, there is a good chance they’ll be misinformed by others’

Don’t hire people you don’t trust and trust the people that you do hire. Netflix never really had a formal vacation policy and instead of formalising one as they grew they got rid of their already informal policy. They did the same for their expense and travel policy. Instead of having strict processes that everyone has to adhere to Netflix chose to treat their people like adults and ask them to ‘Use Good Judgement and Act in Netflix’ best interest’. Guess what happened… people did. They took a week or two vacation here and there and a day or two in between. The same thing happened with travel and expenses. Where there were minor or rare transgressions those were dealt with, but instead of treating their employees like untrustworthy kids they chose to treat them like adults and it paid off massively in time saved, money saved and experience created.

3. Consistency is Crucial. Model it, then Again, and Again.

Finally, one of the biggest things that you can do to create awesome employee experience is to be consistent. Define what you want your employee experience to look and feel like and then model the behaviours and actions that will create it. Then do it again and again. Recognise and reward behaviours that align with what you are trying to achieve and put a stop to behaviours that are in conflict with it.

Once you have clarity re the type of experience you are creating you can use that as a lens for all of your people practices. Before implementing or changing anything ask yourself how this aligns with, helps or hinders you and others in your organisation in creating an awesome employee experience.

Pay close attention to these 3 key themes when designing employee experience and creating a place where the best talent wants to come to and chooses to stay. Be uncompromising about the people you surround your people with. Treat people like adults and help them see the bigger picture so that they can contribute to it, and finally be consistent, model ideal behaviour and put a stop to anything that undermines your efforts to create an awesome employee experience.

Today’s Tuesday Tip is written by Andy Golding from the Still Human team who show us how to build relevant businesses and exceptional work experiences for human beings in a world that has gone digital crazy.

We’re excited to be hosting a public workshop with the team from Still Human.

Understand what the 4th Industrial Revolution is, and what it means for you and your organisation.

There are certain skills that are going to be critical for individual and business success in the future, very human skills that we may not have paid as much attention to in the past as we will need to moving forward.

We’ll engage with the new set of skills individuals need and then move to our organisations, looking at how they will need to be and need to show up in terms of these critical human skills.

Join us as we consider how we will construct these organisations, lead them, and ensure that they retain the humanness that will be required to thrive in a world gone digital crazy?

Date: 1st August
Time: 08h30 – 12h00
Venue: Sandton (TBC)
Cost: R250
Book your ticket:

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