Many employees are constantly on the lookout for the next great job offer. This is especially true in Silicon Valley where people jump from company to company all the time. So how do company leaders create a culture of loyalty? Maybe the best way to hold onto talented people is by helping them move on. I know, it sounds counterintuitive, but it makes sense in the long run. Encourage employees to advance in their careers, even if that means leaving your organization someday. The goal should be to help people achieve their potential as they move up through the ranks of a growing enterprise--and a thriving industry.
At our company, we encourage everyone to "level up" every two to four years. This advances their skills and enhances their ability to contribute to the industry. We've grown fast over our first four years in business with virtually zero attrition for more than 100 employees. When people are ready to advance, we usually have a position ready for them to move into. I know that situation can't last forever. Eventually we'll hit a ceiling. We'll reach a point where people are ready to progress but there's nowhere else they can go within the company. When those times come, I'll be the first person to help employees make the next step in their careers by recommending them to other employers.
The way I see it, everybody wins in these situations because the workforce is always striving to improve. That not only makes the company better, it makes the entire industry better. And that should be the goal, right? It also lays the foundation for a network of loyalty that transcends corporate domains. That's the bigger picture. People can leave a company and still be loyal to its founders, ideals, and standards--especially if they leave feeling more valuable than when they were hired.
Open Communication Unifies the Team
People ask me why nobody quits or resigns at our company. Maybe nobody quits because nobody's unhappy. Our founders and early employees are longtime friends. As the company grew we worked hard to preserve that feel. The culture is open and honest; it's not a big house of secrets. We took a hard look at some of the negative experiences that we remember from other companies. We said, "Nope, we're not going to do that in our new business."
We don't want people to feel intimidated, isolated, or to dislike coming to work. We emphasize openness, connection, and unity. We want every member of every team to understand how his or her piece of the puzzle fits into the bigger picture of company goals. We avoid office cubicles, walls, and closed doors. Desks are out in the open to encourage collaboration and communication. Sure, it gets a little noisy sometimes. So we have conference rooms and other quiet spots available for people to use when they need quiet.
Twice each month we host an ask-us-anything webinar where employees can pose questions to the executive team--anonymously or named. Twice a year we bring the entire staff together for an offsite, all-hands retreat in which people are urged to share insights, reflect on achievements, and participate in activities that help teams understand their impact. Simply hanging out together is valuable for employees, especially when you have multiple offices and offsite workers. Bringing people together at retreats and after-hours activities puts a friendly face on the emails that people interact with every day.
Cultivating Passion for the Mission
If you want a culture of loyalty, start with who you hire. I participate in the interview process for everyone who joins our company. I'm looking for people who are excited to be onboard and who want to be part of the larger mission.
One of our overriding objectives is to ensure that individual and cultural goals are in sync. If culture is done right, those are never at odds. A business should support the upward career trajectory of all its employees, even if that eventually takes those employees beyond the company. The organizations I most admire are the ones that send employees on their way with a gold star. I hope our departing employees will feel almost as if they have another diploma because they worked here. With that experience on their resumes, they know they can go anywhere.