Is Your Company Independent or Co-Dependent?


Steve Jobs was once famously quoted stating, “the secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.” Employees are a critical part of any company’s backbone, no matter the size or industry of the business. They are the driving force that executes the company vision on a daily basis, and make decisions that make it possible to achieve its growth and goals.

This is the reason many businesses wisely place a huge value on human capital and prioritize their focus on retention though recruitment techniques like competitive benefits and incentives. A recent Glassdoor report found a strong correlation between high benefits and job satisfaction, and that 57 percent of job candidates strongly considered both benefits and perks before accepting a job.

However, high turnover and attrition are still common among most large and mid-size companies, particularly in fast-paced industries like technology, where according to PayScale, the turnover rate is greater than any other industry. Netflix, which offers one year of paid maternity and paternity leave, and Airbnb, which gives its employees $2,000 a year to travel anywhere in the world, are modern examples of efforts being made to crack the code on how to maximize recruiting investments and keep talent over the long-term.

While most companies will continue to apply a great deal of resources into ensuring they hire and retain the very best employees, all too many make the misstep of undervaluing one key element: workplace autonomy.

Without autonomy, creativity, disruption, and innovation cannot flourish—ultimately limiting the broader potential for growth and competition. Employees that feel micromanaged are limited in their power to make a difference, leading to job apathy and disinterest. To this end, a 2016 Gallup study found that only one-third of U.S. employees are fully engaged with their current job, which is alarming if you are running a company that requires innovation and passion to compete in the marketplace. This kind of workplace negativity and limitation can impact a company all the way to the top, manifesting in leadership teams that are held back by overbearing board members or other pressures.

An executive leadership team or CEO that does not have autonomy can be more prone to react to trends and unnecessarily change company direction on a whim. This may cloud the business’ vision and leave the company always chasing the next big thing.

With autonomy at the core of company culture, leaders can improve long-term retention, attract passionate people and remain as independent as possible from the board and industry ups and downs. Below are five steps company leaders can take to foster autonomy from the ground-up and establish company independence so the core focus always remains on executing thoughtful vision and strategy:

1. Employ a flat organization
Autonomy must start at the most basic level. Begin by constructing a hierarchy that is based on mentorship—instead of management—to ignite an entrepreneurial spirit from all employees. This in turn produces a sense of accountability to one another, rather than intimidation.

2. Buck “fun” perks for those with tangible work-life benefits
Employees who work after leaving the office will eventually burn out, which can be detrimental to moving business goals forward and lead to high turnover. Instead, enable a true work-life balance through perks like hot meals and work-from-home days to keep the workforce happy and healthy.

3. Make sure each of your employees is in a creative role (even your engineers)
Full autonomy requires a respectful and collaborative atmosphere that motivates employees to bring ideas to the table. This environment sparks a passion to execute on the overall vision of the business while still maintaining checks and balances on project management. Creativity lies within every employee from artists to engineers, and a smart company will work to bring this to life in every role.

4. Create an open door, open data policy
Many businesses collect copious amounts of data that are rarely shared with the staff. By incorporating absolute transparency with every decision, employees will be aware what impact their work has made and how to improve their work product moving forward.

5. Act like a CEO, not a parent: “Do as I do, not as I say”
Leading by example goes a long way—even if it’s a minor gesture like walking around the office Monday morning asking the staff about their weekends. Upholding the core values the company was founded on will earn respect and build trust. Modeling the culture creates an environment where employees are comfortable and can become passionate about their jobs.

While this approach might be difficult to implement for large organizations where autonomy is not already an established value, it has been critical to the success of my company. We opened our doors more than 10 years ago and have had less than 5 percent turnover since, clearly bucking the tech industry norms. Our culture allows every employee to have a voice in the overall direction, and for any company, this can provide a foundation for future success in acquiring talent and increasing retention.

Derrick Morton is co-founder and CEO of FlowPlay. Follow @FlowPlay

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