Every worthwhile business owner, no matter their background, wants to be capable of attracting the best and brightest employees in their field. After all, while stuff like brand identity and a strong USP are important in attracting customers, it’s the people who work within an organization’s walls that really make or break things. In short, the better your employees, the better your business.
Makes sense, right?
As you may already know, the key to attracting great employees is to have a great culture. It’s making your business an attractive, enjoyable, and positive place to work. Here’s the thing, though…positivity? It’s not necessarily enough. (Also see: 55 Questions to Ask During a Job Interview)
See, there’s a lot that goes into creating a positive culture – valuing your employees, treating everyone as part of a team, giving people freedom, and hiring the right people. But in order for your business to really shine, you also need to make things interesting. And that…well, that’s a little more complicated, I’m afraid.
“Just as brand differentiation helps attract consumers, cultural differentiation helps attract the right employees,” writes Harvard Business Review’s Denise Lee Yohn. “But while it’s popular to focus on corporate culture, not many companies have a truly distinctive culture. This is the equivalent to a marketing department saying, “We need to have a strong brand”—without articulating what that strength will rest on.”
So how exactly do you make your culture a distinctive one?
Simple: you need to get creative. You need to start thinking of unique, interesting ways you can make the office a better place for your employees. Much like your business needs a unique selling point for customers, it needs a unique hiring point for staff.
Let’s talk about how you can do that. We’re going to go beyond stuff like flexible hours, team-building, and respect – those should be your baseline. Instead, we’re going to focus on how you can go above and beyond, and make your business a place where your employees are the envy of their peers.
Focus On Happiness
Plenty of organizations are offering health perks to their employees these days – it’s pretty unusual to see a business that doesn’t at least have an onsite gym, and plenty more provide some pretty fantastic healthcare benefits. What a lot of businesses don’t take into account, however, is the emotional and psychological health of the people working for them.
See, it’s no good being physically fit if you can’t even motivate yourself to get out of bed in the morning, right?
Thankfully, as their employer, you’re in a unique position to help your staff. You might consider going the route of businesses such as Zynga, which has a completely dog-friendly office space with a dog park on the roof. It’s far from the only company with a pet-friendly policy, either – more and more businesses are realizing the impact pets have on their owners, and allowing people to bring them along to work.
If you’re feeling particularly generous, you might even offer to adopt a pet for every new employee, which they can then bring to work whenever they like.
Of course, pets aren’t the only way you can care for the emotional health of your staff. Providing them with a workplace tailored to their unique preferences helps a lot too. Consider Asana, for example, which offers every employee $10,000 to customize their office as they see fit.
You could also consider using an app like Never Eat Alone, which lets employees plan out their lunch hour in such a way that they don’t have to be by themselves on their break.
Takeaway: Give your employees a reason to look forward to their time in the office.
Foster Feelings of Family
You want your workplace to feel like a community, sure, but why not take things a step further? Why not look to cultivate a workplace where everyone is friends with one another? It’s easier than you might think.
Eventbrite is a great example of this, and has been voted one of the best places to work in the San Francisco bay Area on several occasions. Employees are encouraged to go out with one another, to breakfasts, sporting events, and team outings to a trampoline park. The result is an environment where everyone’s used not just to working with one another, but to spending time together outside the office.
Warby Parker takes a similar approach, regularly sending random employees out to lunch with one another and hosting occasional culture crushes where creative professionals are invited to a sort of “Show and Tell” event where everyone offers input on their latest up-and-coming project. Again, the result is a workplace where people are comfortable with one another.
Finally, Dropbox equips its office with a music studio and game rooms, allow their employees to drink their own Kool Aid, and hosts something known as Whiskey Fridays. Because what better way to get to know someone than to drink with them?
Takeaway: Don’t just encourage teamwork and promote cooperation – look to help employees form lasting friendships with one another.
Don’t Tie People Down
You may at some point have heard that it’s important for a business to have its departments completely organized; that one can only be successful when their employees each have a strictly-defined role. And while there’s certainly something to be said for that mode of operation, it’s also worth considering that some of the most successful organizations in the world have done exactly the opposite. I’m speaking, of course, about Valve and Facebook.
The social media giant is all about innovation. It encourages employees to pursue their own projects, and to act on their own. Decision-makers place trust in the people they hire, and it’s paid off for the company in a very big way – Facebook is one of the largest, most successful businesses in the world, and the social network is without a doubt central to pretty much everything we do.
Valve, one of the most popular video game developers in the industry, is in much the same boat. Released a few years back, its employee handbook demonstrates a culture where everyone is encouraged to form their own teams, work on their own projects, and pursue their own ideas. That might sound like a recipe for disaster, but it works – Valve consistently releases smash-hit games, while its digital distribution platform, Steam, is the dominant force in the sales market for the gaming industry.
There’s also Ask.com, which doesn’t have a vacation policy – employees can take as much time off as they need.
Takeaway: Consider setting your employees loose rather than tethering them to a hierarchy. You might be surprised at what they come up with.
Offer Something Unique To Your Brand
Here’s the thing – if someone works at a company that designs and develops cars, they’re probably a lover of automobiles. If someone seeks employment at a pet store, they’re probably a fan of animals. See where I’m going with this?
Dream up a list of perks that an organization not in your industry – or a competitor, for that matter – couldn’t possibly offer. Snowboard company Burton, for example, closes down the office whenever there’s more than two feet of snow, and all its employees go snowboarding. Healthy fast food organization Sweetgreen provides its employees with a free salad every shift. Clif Bar provides employees with fitness facilities that rival some universities, including a dance room, shower and locker room facilities, access to certified trainers and nutritionists, a climbing wall, and bike parking – it also uses repurposed bikes, kayaks, and surfboards as artwork.
Takeaway: What makes your brand distinct? Incorporate that into the workplace.
People Like Free Food
Our last perk is one that’s offered by quite a few companies, both great and small – free food. Whether Eventbrite’s limitless snack supplies, Airbnb’s home-cooked organic lunches, or Dropbox’s three square meals a day, a surprisingly large number of highly-successful organizations keep their employees well-fed. And while it might sound like something of a generic perk, it’s also a surprisingly effective one. Just make sure you offer something healthy (and something that tastes good). No one ever gained anything by stuffing their face with fast food, after all.
Takeaway: Really, free anything is pretty awesome.
Let’s tie things off with a summary of our takeaways:
- Give people a reason to look forward to coming to work, and demonstrate that you genuinely care about them.
- Foster more than cooperation – foster friendship.
- Challenge employees and trust them to operate outside of a traditional business hierarchy.
- Offer perks that only your brand can offer – little touches based on what makes your business distinct.
- Free anything is good, especially where food’s concerned.
And there you have it. A primer on how you can create a company culture that rivals some of the best businesses out there. Of course, you’ll need to do a bit of legwork yourself, here. We’ve simply provided you with the starting point.