Empowering each employee is the key to building an amazing culture.
Employee Experience Consultant | PR Strategist | Author | Speaker
July 26, 2018 6 min read
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Talent is still king and tech is Teflon. Despite a host of scandals in the industry, including #MeToo, diversity, data privacy and even fraud, the Googles, Facebooks and Salesforces of the world still draw the best and brightest to their door.
Job and recruiting site Glassdoor, as well as many others, have consistently ranked these three companies as Best Places to Work, with each of the three at or near no. 1 for the last few years. Granted, the respective data mining scandals plaguing both Facebook and Google have not played out entirely, and talent is often a lagging indicator, but none of this has hurt profitability or massive reach for either. In fact, their prowess in attracting talent has gone undiminished despite record low unemployment and a job market that strongly favors talent and giving it the terms it demands.
Since our three companies are seen as standard-bearers in their own right for how to build a great employee-centric workplace culture, it bears to understand how they actually do this -- prestige, hype and Kool-Aid notwithstanding.
At first blush, it would seem logical to expect the best places to work to have the highest employee loyalty. Yet, with tech having the highest employee turnover rate of all industries (13.2 percent), it’s clear employee loyalty is neither expected nor rewarded highly in Best Places to Work rankings.
Imagine an engineer or two on your team giving notice in the middle of a coding sprint, a seeming nightmare for project timelines and strategic planning. Yet, the relatively short average tenures (2.5 at Facebook, 3.1 at Google and 3.5 at Salesforce) seem to have had little to no impact to date on profitability, prestige or the ability to consistently attract top talent.
Culture is still the key to attracting top talent. So what are these companies doing to build and maintain such an amazing culture? There are five main pillars that underpin their success.
In the spirit of moving quickly and breaking things, all three companies have found it critical to maintain transparency about where the company is going, what it’s doing and how through regular town halls and office hours by the CEO. All are big believers in open communication and regular two-way feedback between employees and managers. All three are at least nominally committed to work/life balance, which includes letting employees work remotely at least part of the time, although they remain campus-centered companies.
2. Impact and vision.
There are few things as strong as the outsized impact of working on a product or service that impacts hundreds of billions of users around the world, that bring young, bright-eyed talent to work for the three companies.
What’s more, all three company CEOs -- two of whom are charismatic cofounders (Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Mark Benioff of Salesforce) and one is a company lifer with an inspiring life story (Sundar Pichai of Alphabet/Google) -- have a big vision of connecting the world, not being evil and improving the state of the world by empowering business. As such, everyone working for these three companies is connected to a mission much greater than himself.
3. Mission and innovation.
Never underestimate the power of the mission statement. When people are sacrificing their best year to work crazy hours for you, your mission better be crystal clear and constantly repeated, lest you lose people to the minutiae of their code or job. At all three companies, the mission statement is repeated and espoused as often as possible throughout the company, both internally and out to the world, from the top on down, starting with their leaders.
The mission of Facebook, although recently changed, is still clear in its focus and thrust. As Zuckerberg has said, this is “to develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us.” Google’s is “to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Salesforce’s is to enable “everyone who wants to change the world … [with] the technology to do so.”
And the fact that all three hire incredibly intelligent and motivated people to work on big world problems results in all of them having a great feeling to work together on products with massive impact, which in turn makes these three firms top innovators in their fields.
After all, as Steve Jobs once famously said, “It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
4. Financial growth.
A rising tide lifts all boats; we learn early on in life. This couldn’t be more true for companies whose breakneck growth can fuel innovation, a great culture, a big vision and personal and professional development for all employees, to say nothing of a large range of perks by now standard in tech companies.
It all starts with paying all employees a highly competitive salary and offering a basket of health and financial benefits, as well as adding short-term perks like free food, gym, transportation and dry cleaning to keep employees from having to worry much about errands. Google and Facebook are even working on building and running employee housing to take away the anxiety of high real estate prices in Silicon Valley.
5. Leadership’s focus on maximizing human potential.
Brilliant CEOs often get sidetracked by crises or the launch of cool products. But at Facebook, Google and Salesforce, leadership isn’t just focused on product launches and crisis management, but since the beginning, on maintaining trust and making their company employee-centric. They also make sure to listen regularly and with sincerity, show that they actually care by facilitating necessary changes to keep employees happy and act quickly and decisively to control crises.
In practice, taking great care of their people means ample opportunities for professional and personal development, clear expectations around promotion and pay increases, constant feedback to stimulate regular on-the job improvement, as well as mentorship, guidance and coaching. All of this starts with facilitating open communication in both directions between management and employees.
And in the end, despite tech’s late troubles, the track record these three companies have built will continue attracting top talent, unless and until their actions no longer match their stated values. The companies will sink or swim with the quality of their leaders.