What It Takes to Be a “Best”
Being named by Built In Austin as one of the best small companies to work in Austin is a huge honor and one we weren’t striving for – it’s just how we roll. We value our employees above all and know that if we take care of them, our clients will reap the benefits as well. These annual lists got us thinking, though. What distinguishes a company as being a “best place” to work?
Small businesses are the heart and soul of a local economy, creating two out of every three new jobs each year. While the failure rate of small businesses is quite high, JPMorgan Chase Institute reported that Austin ranks 7th for small business life expectancy in a study of 1.3 million small businesses’ performance over the last five years in 25 major U.S. metros. Austin is clearly the place to be if you want to increase the odds of your small business succeeding. It’s why so many startups originate in Austin. But it also heats up the competition when it comes to attracting and retaining employees.
Being named the best place to work in any town should be celebrated, but in a town like Austin, where small businesses flourish (Austin is repeatedly cited as the best market in the United States for small businesses), this is really saying something. According to Built In Austin, companies are ranked based on their employer benefits and employee-submitted compensation data. But what does that mean? What kind of benefits and salary are we talking about here?
For Zilker Partners, we do more than just host an annual crawfish boil. These events are a blast, but as one of the most respected and experienced IT and Digital staffing agencies in Austin and Denver, we of all people know it takes more than a party to attract and retain talent.
When we consult with our clients about their benefits package and salaries, we tell them to stick to the simple Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. Think about what kind of company you would want to work for and the types of benefits that are important to you. Then, do the same for your employees. Here are some of the most valued job attributes across the board, including here at Zilker Partners.
Career Growth and Development
For us, one of those is career growth and development through paid job training and conferences, cross-functional training, and promoting from within. We aren’t the only ones who don’t want to feel stagnant in a job position. Gallup found that 59 percent of millennials say opportunities to learn and grow are “extremely” important to them when applying for a job, the most important job attribute in fact. It’s also one of the top three factors in retaining those employees.
We always advise our clients to support employees in their career goals. It’s an investment in your employees, their families, and ultimately, the success of your company. The more skilled and diverse your employees, the more capable and innovative your company will be. You’ll also spend less time, money, and frustration backfilling vacated positions.
Inclusion and Equality
There isn’t an executive or employee out there who doesn’t want to feel valued. When companies build a culture of inclusion and equality, they demonstrate the employees are their most valued asset. This could be as simple as having an open door policy and company-wide lunches to team-based strategic planning and group brainstorming sessions.
Why should only the executives get to make all of the decisions? Your employees are often on the front lines. They know what your customers want, they see issues in processes, and they quite frequently have some killer ideas. We and our clients know better than to keep them on the sidelines. Show all employees that they have a greater purpose than their individual job roles by including them in the corporate activities that drive success.
Highly Diverse Management Team
Small businesses are small. They may not have an extended management team, but the perspectives they bring and the tone they set are as important as those in any global enterprise. No matter the size of the company, management should be as diverse as the employees they manage. The company should also celebrate diversity at all levels. Create a diverse team that brings different ideas, perspectives, backgrounds, vision, and culture. Anyone who isn’t on board should find the door. A single adversary can cause immeasurable damage to morale and reputation.
Salary and Benefits
While opportunities for growth may eclipse other job attributes, let’s not kid ourselves: people care about their salary and benefits. Knowing what those should be can be challenging. It’s why so many of our clients rely on our experience to help them craft a package that beats out the competition and retains employees for the long haul.
In today’s competitive job market, you need to provide your employees with a compelling salary that supports their quality of life in your particular city – with plenty of options for promotions and/or bonuses. Offering 401(k) matching may be a cost, but it has also been found to be cost-effective in growing a business and attracting/retaining employees.
Of course, healthcare is always a must these days. Dental, vision and health insurance are no longer a nice-to-have. Even small companies need to include these staples in their offer if they hope to compete for top talent.
For the past couple of decades, employee perks have taken on a life of their own. Companies offer everything from skydiving to lip sync battles to appear cool and get their employees talking. While some of these perks are fun, they aren’t what most employees really want.
Again, we go back to the Golden Rule. No offense to Nerf, but we think our employees would rather have unlimited vacation, personal and professional growth opportunities, and a flexible work schedule than a jovial gunfight in office hallways. They also like company-sponsored family events, a return-to-work program after parental leave, work from home option, paid sick days and holidays, and a pet-friendly office. Don’t get us wrong, a stocked kitchen, casual dress and happy hours are appreciated, too, but only if they are accompanied by perks that add to the quality of life.
You Can Be a “Best” Too
Whether you are a startup or a well-established company, it’s never too late to change direction on how your company operates. Maybe in doing so, you can get similar accolades as we and other small businesses in Austin recently did. The recognition is nice, particularly because a major component of our award was input from our employees, but the real goal should be to do right by your employees – even if no one is watching.
We believe in putting our employees and their families first and that directs most everything we do. We listen to our employees and if they have a better or new idea on how things should be done, we take it as if a paid consultant offered up the same advice.
We also practice what we preach. We always get to know our clients and their competitors because we always want our clients to come out on top. If you don’t know how your competition is attracting and retaining talent, you should. It’s important to know what other companies in your industry are doing and how well. You can learn from their mistakes and be inspired by their successes. If you’re losing talent to a competitor, do you know why? Are they doing something differently than you? Is it only about the salary or do they provide a better work-life balance? When you know what the other guys are doing, it’s much easier to determine what route you want to take to stay ahead of them.