The lines between work and personal lives are blurring for many employees. They’re seeking balance between the two.
People are finding value in the ability to choose the specific benefits that best meet their needs at this point in their lives. And employers are learning that, when chosen and implemented effectively, benefits can demonstrate leadership’s concern for the well-being of employees, reinforce cultural values, and foster deeper employee engagement.
According to James Berkeley, Director of Berkeley Burke International, however, there’s still a disconnect. “The decisions made regarding what benefits to offer are often based on subjective viewpoints, viewpoints that are far removed from the actual needs of employees.” Rather than assuming you know what your employees want, Berkeley suggests you ask them. Though answers will vary, many people are interested in more benefits in these areas:
- Healthy Living and Wellness Benefits. Susan Combs, President of Combs & Company, “The biggest benefit that employees ask for is gym membership reimbursement.” Wellness programs like WalkingSpree – which creates walking clubs, assigns teams and creates competitions – are another great way to motivate and engage employees to live healthy (thereby reducing your health care costs).
- Flexible Work Options. Telecommuting and other forms of flexible work options make employees healthier and happier. And as Sara Sutton Fell, Founder and CEO of FlexJobs points out, studies show that, “Employers who offer flexible schedules and alternatives to the traditional nine-to-five not only see higher productivity, but also save on health-related benefits they already offer.” Stanford University conducted a big study that showed that telecommuters were four percent more productive than office workers, working more hours and taking a larger workload.
- Commuting Relief Benefits. More and more are looking for commuting relief benefits from their employers. Incentivize carpooling; use services like Transit Chek so employees can purchase transit tickets with pre-tax dollars; Or promote healthy living and alternative commuting options by installing bike racks in the office.
- Perks You Can Afford. Great perks aren’t just for the guys in Silicon Valley. Many companies–big and small–bring in a massage therapist who offers chair massages to employees. Convenient and relaxing, this perk costs the employer nothing and might just keep employees in the office longer. Others adopt reward programs like BetterWorks where employees are given an allowance to spend on discounted food from local restaurants, dry cleaning, gym memberships and more.
Clearing The Great Leadership Hurdle
By offering benefits that are actually competitive, an organization can set itself above the competition–and build a strong culture of engagement and motivation. But as Eddie Trieber, CEO of HRI, points out, “Getting there requires the support of leadership–and there are a few common concerns that need addressing.” Leaders are often focused on Costs, Immediate Benefit, and Employee Utilization. It’s up to you to deliver on these key points.
Address the issues of cost by reminding leadership how little (if anything) creative benefits cost the organization. It might also help to frame benefits in terms of investments–not costs–in new employee acquisition and retention. And educate your employees. Actively promote offerings in your recruiting strategy. Use open enrollment to re-educate employees. Add FAQs and educational content to the employee self-service portals in your HRMS.
About the author: Kyle Lagunas is the HR Analyst at SoftwareAdvice.com — a resource for selecting online HR software and more — and reports on trends, technology, and best practices in human resources and recruiting. For further reading, you can find the full article on Kyle’s HR blog.
If you are building a star team and you did not have a chance to read this article by
Guy Kawasaki please do yourself a favor.
The article describes many symptoms of the bozo explosion so as the ways to prevent it. Honestly, I think that Guy’s article is worth re-reading every time before making a hiring decision. Out of the many prevention measures I would stress the importance of looking beyond the resume when bringing new people on board. As the article says:
The goal of hiring is building a team of great employees. One proxy for a great employee is a relevant educational or work background. However, the perceived “right” educational background and work experience are not sufficient conditions for excellence. Hiring a bozo with the “right” resume can drag down other employees and increase the probability of hiring more bozos. Not hiring a great person because she lacks the “right” resume is not as harmful but is a mistake too.
Guy Kawasaki knows what he is talking about. His successful career was anything but linear – counting diamonds, evangelizing Apple products, launching startups…
There is another thing that makes the problem even more complicated. It’s a well-known fact that most recruiters spend 5 to 10 seconds per resume going through applications. I can understand where such a limited attention span comes from but the fact remains the same – for the most part the current recruiting process is very resume-centric and the primary goal of a resume is to be an attention grabber more than anything else.
Sifting through a stream of mediocre job applications is not fun and very time-consuming. Anything that could help us to spot the promising candidates easier would greatly increase the chances of bringing the right people on board and that’s why BrightMesh exists.
There are always many good reasons to be in a hurry but slowing down while making important decisions (especially people decisions) really pays off.
One of the key goals for Steve Jobs after his return to Apple was preventing the bozo explosion from plaguing Apple with mediocre employees.
People who worked with him admit that he was not necessarily the easiest person to work with but the biography published today provides interesting details about how much attention Steve Jobs paid to bringing the best people on board. In his own words:
For most things in life, the range between best and average is 30% or so. The best airplane flight, the best meal, they may be 30% better than your average one. What I saw with Woz [Steve Wozniak] was somebody who was fifty times better than the average engineer. He could have meetings in his head. The Mac team was an attempt to build a whole team like that, A players. People said they wouldn’t get along, they’d hate working with each other. But I realized that A players like to work with A players, they just didn’t like working with C players. At Pixar, it was a whole company of A players. When I got back to Apple, that’s what I decided to try to do.
Steve Jobs about the collaborative hiring
You need to have a collaborative hiring process. When we hire someone, even if they’re going to be in marketing, I will have them talk to the design folks and the engineers. My role model was J. Robert Oppenheimer. I read about the type of people he sought for the atom bomb project. I wasn’t nearly as good as he was, but that’s what I aspired to do.
Sure these non-commodity individuals are rare but the case of finding them is not so difficult as it might seem but you’d have to re-frame the problem:
To find bright people you have to let them find you.
If you think about it for a moment it makes a lot of sense. Bright people are rare so sifting through the endless mediocrity is nothing but the waste of time. Moreover, how will you recognize a bright individual when you see one? Resume? Number of connections or followers? Give me a break – these things are hardly related.
Knowledge and the ability to apply this knowledge in real world situations is the only thing that matters.
If so, then the next question is what have you done to let bright people find you? Why exactly they should think that joining your team is what they need to realize their potential. And trust me they are looking. The thought of performing daily nine to five meaningless routine does not sit well with them, so they are looking…
Social media or not, bright people are not looking for marketing campaigns, especially those dominated by stereotypes. They are looking for an open two-way communication with potential employers related to their area of expertise because this is the best way to see if a career opportunity can challenge their creativity and let their talents shine. What’s really interesting is that for employers a problem-driven discussion related to their hiring needs is the best way to recognize bright people and bring them on board. It’s a win-win arrangement.
If you want to attract and recognize really capable professionals make sure that knowledge-focused discussions related to your employer brand are an important component of your recruiting strategy.
Related: BrightMesh – the knowledge network
You can hardly find a job posting that does not require a certain number of years of experience in one or more fields.
Same true with the calls from recruiters who often say that this is the first gate a candidate has to pass, equally often having no slightest idea what these fields of experience are about. Is requesting candidate to have a specific number of years of experience a useful checkpoint or it’s plain useless? I think it is not only useless but actually reduces your chances to hire truly bright people and capable professionals.
Look at your co-workers, people you know and ask a simple question: is there any correlation between the years of experience they have and their professional qualities? And by professional qualities I don’t mean their professional attributes, rank or status. I mean their real ability to deliver results that move things forward. Sure there are great professionals with many years of experience but the examples of the opposite are much more frequent. The reality is simple - years of experience are irrelevant if this experience is not transformed into a practical knowledge. And I don’t mean the knowledge of corporate politics and career ladder climbing. What matters is the real knowledge that creates professionals who are capable of making things happen and if it took a little time for these people to obtain such knowledge it’s only better – it speaks well about their learning skills and ability to respond to the new challenges.
It’s been a long time since I stopped paying attention to this “years of experience” thing when looking for bright people. Knowledge and ability to apply this knowledge in real world situations is what I am looking for. Jeff Atwood wrote an excellent article specifically about the pointlessness of the years of experience myth in IT industry. I always try to challenge potential candidates with a situation that requires the knowledge in the field they claim to be experts in and it becomes obvious immediately who is the real deal and who just have been around for X years. And there is no better way for a real expert to shine than being challenged with a specific problem.
That’s the key idea BrightMesh is based upon. Not only it enables you to create interactive job postings to preview people’s knowledge you are specifically interested in but it also allows you to save time that is wasted on interviewing people whose only area of excellence is resume writing and keyword hunting. As Jeff mentions in his article:
…you should be 95% certain that a candidate would be a great hire before they even set foot in an interview room. Anything less is a colossal waste of everyone’s time.
I think at this point the bottom line is clear enough. If you want to give the really bright and capable people better chance to join your team disregard the years of experience myth and start looking for real practical knowledge.
There is no way around it. And yet way too often you can see a situation when people decisions are handled as ordering of the new equipment – we need X managers who fit this specification and Y software developers designed according to these specs… and by the way we need them tomorrow.
It does not work this way. Well, at least if you care about bringing the right people on board and making sure that you have a functional and effective team. Peter Drucker summarized it nicely:
People do not come in proper size and shape for the tasks that have to be done in organization – and they cannot be machined down or recast for these tasks. People are always “almost fits” at best. To get the work done with people (and no other resource is available) therefore requires lots of time, thought and judgement.
It is not a coincidence that the management of successful companies spends a lot of time on people decisions. And it pays off.
Recently I had a chance to sit down for a conversation with Joel Lessem and Robert Wilder, people who along with Randy Rosenberg co-founded Firmex about five years ago. What started as a five people startup is now a high growth B to B SaaS company of 40+ staff and over 100,000 users around the globe relying on Firmex virtual data rooms to share highly confidential documents for M&A, Finance, Litigation and Governance processes.
As I entered the office located in the vibrant Adelaide and Spadina neighborhood of Toronto, one thing was immediately clear – people love coming to work here. Naturally, the question about the corporate culture at Firmex was among the first.
About team values and the culture of innovation
How would you define your corporate culture?
Joel Lessem: Our three key values are drive, curiosity and transparency. From the management perspective we are a very open book culture. This is what the revenues are, this is where we are going, that’s what we’ve learned… I would sum that up is to have an innovative culture you’ve got to have people willing to take risks. And the only way people are willing to take risks is… the leadership has to show that they take risks and sometimes they succeed and sometimes they don’t but there is nothing wrong with not succeeding – it also has value, it’s just a different kind of value. Once people feel that they are allowed to take risks and they are allowed to be curious and you give them that type of autonomy they will become very passionate about their work. That’s what we are trying to do here from the leadership perspective – let people run with it and they produce amazing things.
Robert Wilder: Our client services people manage their own schedule. They support people 24X7 so they get up in the middle of the night and deal with people. And they said that one of the things that made them feel empowered is that they manage they own schedule as opposed to manager managing their schedule.
Joel Lessem: There is a real myth in the media about CEOs. The myth about great CEOs especially a great young CEO – wow he is 27 and he is brilliant and look at what this person has achieved and his company… And it’s all about this person, this person, this person… I think it’s really about the team and culture that the leadership builds in the company. A lot of entrepreneurs are very possessive – it’s my business, it’s my great idea and I am not sharing. They have to be involved in everything and that I think restricts the culture.
What Firmex team members say
Jason Soo, Client Success Manager: Every single employee is a major piece of the puzzle. A ton of talent and different skill sets.
Sommer Stewart, HR and Accounting Manager: Employees are empowered to run with projects – help and guidance are always available but you are encouraged and given the freedom to make things your own.
About hiring the right people
What percentage of your time you dedicate to recruiting?
Joel Lessem: One day a week. Every CEO if you read, you know, they talk about 25 percent of the time spent on recruiting.
If you have to hire a key figure would you prefer to do it yourself or use recruiters?
Joel Lessem: Obviously the recruiter costs money. So you might spend one or two weeks seeing if there is a low hanging fruit in your network and if it does not look like there is any then I go to recruiter. Especially on mission critical hires.
Does social media play a significant role in your recruiting strategy?
Robert Wilder: It depends on how we define social media. If you add LinkedIn to it and if you add a corporate profile on Facebook than yes. If people feel that there is a good culture going on at the company they will be more active applying. We didn’t build up massive Facebook presence because we don’t think that’s where our readers are but for instance our profiles on LinkedIn – we spend time and make sure that they are accurate.
Joel Lessem: But you know what? Recruiting is so critical, it’s all about the people in your company so you need to throw at it everything you can – inbound, outbound, recruiters… You have to do whatever you can within your budget to find the best people. And the best people are hardest to get because everyone wants them. There is a reason we have this nice space at Adelaide and Spadina, it’s not because it’s cheap, it’s because people want to work here.
About Canadian startup community
Do you still consider Firmex to be a startup company?
Joel Lessem: We are going into our next phase – growth.
Robert Wilder: I find it an interesting question because I sometimes wonder if from the cultural standpoint you consider yourself a startup…
What’s your take on Canadian / Toronto startup community?
Joel Lessem: The criticism I’ve heard about the Canadian startup community that there is not enough people talking to each other although you can see a lot of these community startup events… The other criticism I hear is that Canadians don’t think big enough…
When you say don’t think big enough you mean startups, venture capital?
Joel Lessem: There are very few venture capital firms left in Canada… It’s a [startup] community I am pretty keen on developing. There is a highly educated population here, it’s a big labor pool – we are the fourth largest city in North America and why should not there be a highly vibrant high-tech startup community in Toronto. I think a lot of that will come from mentorship. While funding is helpful nothing works better than a market running in your favor. A lot of people throw a lot of funding around but I don’t know if it really generates a lot of good businesses, it generates a lot of payroll.
All the presentations I have seen from the other startup entrepreneurs – most of them are technologists so they get in a room and they say I have invented something really smart, there is no competition and we are the smartest people in the world. And I say OK, where is the sales and marketing plan? How are you going to distribute this? How are you going to price it? How are you going to win against the competition – if it’s a market there will be competition.
And there is no commerce culture – that’s what we are lacking. There is a lot of people, who understand finance and a funding community, and there is a lot of people who understand technology but there is not a lot of people who actually understand how to sell product to customers and I think that’s where the gap is.