How To Win The War For Talent (Hint: It’s About Being Authentic)

Retaining talent is a leading concern for businesses these days, and it all comes down to workplace experience and authenticity.

By Zach Holmquist

When people ask, “where do you work?,” it’s often followed by “what are the perks?” I argue that most employees don’t really care about perks. In reality, gourmet meals and massages are no more than a bandage that prevents companies from acknowledging and addressing real issues. Right now, unemployment is at an all-time low while job hopping is at an all-time high. As a result, retaining talent is the number one concern for businesses, and it all comes down to workplace experience and authenticity.

In our office, workplace experience is top priority — we strive to create an aspiring, innovative, and productive space. Having put our whole selves into this initiative, we learned a lot about the steps companies need to take to create a workplace experience that not only attracts, but retains talent.

employee retentionShow You Care

Seems obvious, right? You’d be surprised at how many companies don’t care about their overall workplace experience and design. Often companies view their employees as a resource, nothing more. This must change as retention has little to do with perks and everything to do with employees’ sense of purpose, happiness, and ability to be productive. If companies don’t start listening to their employees and thinking of them as people, they’ll fail. Bottom line: employers need to start caring about how employees are doing their job.

Be Yourself

The main reason companies struggle with talent management is that they don’t know how to be authentic. Workspace and perks in Silicon Valley are often showcased as the pinnacle of how to attract and retain talent — setting a precedent that’s causing companies to ignore real issues making their employees unhappy. Perks are just a temporary distraction, and employees realize this and eventually leave.employee retention

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a game of ping-pong every so often. Office perks help keep employees happy and build company culture — but the key is to know your brand and ensure the benefits you offer align with the image and culture you’re trying to create. For example, Google’s office includes playground slides — this perk isn’t a fit for my company, but it aligns with Google’s playful, flexible brand identity.

A visit to Box’s HQ in Silicon Valley shows a company that knows it’s roots as a playful startup, yet embraces it’s future as a well-respected cloud service. For example, surrounding massive whiteboards on each floor are quirky artifacts from their history: unicorns, stuffed animals, nerf guns, Star Wars toys. Even in their kitchen is a piece of artwork that is actually their playground slide cut-up into massive rings when they removed it and refined their workspace. Know your brand and make sure your workplace experience ties back to it.

Listen And Adapt

As a facilities manager, you support your organization in hiring and retaining the best employees — employees that will increase your company’s bottom line and contribute to the growth of the business. To make this happen, it’s crucial to look at the big picture and understand how to optimize productivity for each unique individual at your company.

Employers often put limitations around new employees’ work style, dictating how, where, and when to work. Leadership may decree that the open office is best for workflow without thinking about its cultural impact. The open office isn’t for everyone and organizations should create multi-modal workspaces to accommodate different styles. Teem has an open office, but we also have phone booths, quiet rooms, and conference rooms for individuals to collaborate. An example I like is Valve in Bellevue WA, whose desks have wheels to encourage people self-organizing and moving around. Before overhauling workflow, understand what employees value — learn how they go about their day, how they work to meet deadlines and how they interact with others. Doing so enables a stronger culture and greater levels of happiness and productivity.employee retention

Office = Community

Ask yourself how you’re going to leverage your office space to make employees feel like it’s not just an office, but a community. Today, the workplace competes with the home office, why would an employee come in to an office when their home offers better technology, personalized amenities, and a relaxed dress code? To compete, the office needs to create a space that supports collaboration and community, encouraging people back into the office and making it a valuable experience. An exercise I often do is walk into a space and find one way to make it better, to communicate belonging, and to express our culture.

One of the first things I did at Teem was I put love letters in the ceiling with the label maker. I visualized someone sitting back in their chair, rubbing their face, and peering up and seeing a little note that reads, “You are doing great”, and feeling that little spark of motivation to keep going. It wasn’t long before I heard people feeling empowered by the notes. It was a simple gesture that ended-up pushing our loving, goofy, kind, and helpful company culture forward. By simply experiencing a space and finding ways to elevate it, you can curate a company culture of belonging for every employee.

Finding the right people to contribute to a company’s mission is hard. Keeping them is even harder and there is no sign that the talent war will get any easier. The key to attracting and retaining talent is knowing your brand, being authentic and listening to how employees prefer to work.

Holmquist is the chief of workplace experience and Co-Founder of Teem, a cloud-based software and analytics platform for meeting management and analysis helping companies maximize workspace and employee productivity. He brings years of valuable prototyping, development, and management experience to Teem. Responsible for Teem 1.0, Holmquist has advanced the product from an iOS app to a powerful enterprise platform. He has established successful relationships with Teem’s first customers which include some of the world’s most high profile companies. As a student of yoga, he wakes up at godforsaken hours to find his inner zen before the pandemonium of daily startup life kicks in and is a 500 hour RYT certified yoga instructor.