Why Culture is the Hot New Perk

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Forget free snacks, cube snoozing and bringing pets to work. If you really want to keep tech pros from jumping ship, give them intangible perks like autonomy, a connection with the company’s mission and a sense of purpose.

While compensation matters, wages alone are generally not sufficient to prevent attrition, according to the ADP Research Institute’s Workforce Vitality Report. Rather, it’s the organization, its work practices, and how tech pros perceive their job satisfaction that usually determines whether they stay or go.

Up-and-coming organizations are creating strong, unique cultures that attract and retain tech pros. Here are some of their creative retention strategies and tips for nurturing a magnetic culture:

Here’s to Your Health

MINDBODY, a firm that builds online business-management software, believes that tech pros will remain loyal to employers who give them the opportunity and flexibility to be healthy and successful in both their work and personal lives.

There’s evidence to support the company’s theory about the growing importance of work-life balance. According to a survey by Eagle Hill Consulting, employees cited poor work-life balance as the number-one reason why they would leave their current company—above compensation (66.8 percent) and job security (55.3 percent).

To limit stress and burnout, MINDBODY gives new hires 20 days’ vacation in their first year, according to Chad Meek, director of Talent Acquisition.

And tech pros aren’t chained to their desks all day. They are free to attend any of the 20 onsite classes offered throughout the work week, where they can learn how to manage their personal finances, or stretch and flex during yoga or Pilates workouts. Employees are also encouraged to interact with their children who attend the company’s onsite daycare facility.

“Our approach to wellness is holistic,” Meek said. “When people are healthy and happy they are more engaged and more likely to stay with the company.”

Bottoms Up

Tech pros crave autonomy more than any other perk. That’s why The Muse embraces a bottom-up management style and decision-making process that affords its technical contributors a great deal of leeway in designing the firm’s B2B products. Developers also have the freedom to select a programming language for each project from a list of approved open-source languages.

“As we’ve grown we’ve created different product groups,” explained CTO Yusuf Simonson, “our engineers have the discretion to join a new group every quarter and to select the sprints they want to work on, within the prioritization schedule.”

Listening to customer success stories during the company’s monthly all-hands meetings gives tech pros the opportunity to learn about the personal connection between users and their technology. The practice also creates line-of-sight with the overall company mission.

“We don’t sell ourselves as a sexy company,” added Kathryn Minshew, founder and CEO. “In fact, if you’re an engineer who likes working on gnarly, theoretical problems, you’d probably be happier in another organization. What draws people to our company and keeps them here is latitude and space.”

Blaze Your Own Trail

From a tech pro’s perspective, having the opportunity to learn new skills and grow professionally is not only an absolute priority, it’s a career necessity. Unfortunately, only 36 percent of tech employees feel that their promotion and career paths are clear, according to a study of 5,000 tech employees conducted by TinyPulse.

But that’s not the case at Concur. The company provides international transfers, programming classes, and a mapping tool for plotting a personal career course. Nurturing a culture of professional learning and career growth has escalated lateral moves and promotional cycles, with internal employees filling 35 percent of the company’s open positions last year.

“Benefits may attract tech pros, but they won’t retain them,” noted Nic Hepton, global head of Talent Acquisition. “A strong culture of professional growth endures over time.”

Listen Up

Don’t rely on annual surveys. Create formal and informal opportunities to solicit positive and negative feedback about the culture, tech stack and work environment from tech pros. Catch up with them in the break-room, host round-table discussions or follow Concur’s lead by appointing engagement ambassadors to gather feedback.

Talking about culture is easy, Hepton admitted. Making it live and breathe is hard. To stem attrition, you need to know whether the everyday reality of organizational life actually matches your cultural vision.

Train Your Managers

An organization’s culture is often shaped by line managers who may be woefully underequipped and undertrained in facilitating a healthy workplace, gathering feedback or empowering employees. Managers must be trained ambassadors to support the values and execute the fundamentals that drive the company’s culture.

“Understanding what your strengths and weaknesses are as an organization will help define your brand and hire people who will be comfortable in your environment,” Minshew advised. “Hiring for cultural fit is table stakes for retention.”

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