The technology companies on the scene in today’s business world push the envelope with regards to the innovation they deliver, but many of the same companies are deploying tactics that set them apart in the business world, too. They’re challenging pre-conceived notions about how a company should be run, traditional employee roles, virtualized offices and much, much more.
From enlisting the help of contractors, to investing in state-of-the-art technology to deliver results to clients, to even offering unlimited paid time off to employees, today’s businesses are more flexible and non-traditional than ever. Google offers midday rests in nap pods. Asana offers life coaching services to employees. Facebook boasts four months of maternity and paternity leave. Salesforce gives their employees seven paid volunteer days and $1,000 to donate to a cause of their choice. And these are just a couple of the emerging “non-traditional” benefits of today’s top tech companies.
I started my entrepreneurial career as a security integrator, creating a business that was built on a traditional organization with scheduled vacations, a strict organizational chart and regular meetings. Our company checked all the boxes for a “typical” hierarchical organization, with on-site accounting, a receptionist, traditional office check-ins and regular office hours. While the venture lasted eight years with me at the helm, I learned a lot about how a business functions, what works and what doesn’t, and how employees respond to stricter rules governing their work lives. Most importantly I learned that teams facilitate accomplishments and creating the right team-centric work environment will unleash the full potential of the group – and isn’t that the main goal of leadership?
Fast-forward 15 years, and I’m at a jumping-off point for a new technology and robotics company, taking a completely different approach to its corporate growth and development. It’s not simply the technology that’s “new and improved” – it’s our strategy for recruiting, training and retaining top talent in the growing world of start-ups (and in California, no less). The technology we produce is the start of a new industry, and our products use many new and emerging technologies that require an open mind – and attitude – to produce.
But how am I making this experience different than the one I started more than two decades ago?
Unlimited PTO. More companies are shifting to this approach (2 percent of companies offered unlimited PTO in 2015, up from 1 percent in 2012, 2013 and 2014, according to a study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management). But it’s still the exception to the rule. Studies have shown employees who take vacations are happier overall, have less stress and are more engaged in their work – and we see that! It also helps us remain competitive when recruiting top talent, saves us money in the long run and runs in line with our project-driven approach.
Project-driven, not hours-driven work. So much of our business relies on the technology implementation that our clients need, which means each project is critical to our company’s success. That’s why we’ve built our company culture around the projects we tackle instead of the hours we spend at the office. Not only does this allow us the flexibility to achieve our goals, but it focuses our employees on the task at hand – not on the act of staring at a clock, which makes for a more fulfilling work environment.
Virtualized roles. Accounting and bookkeeping, legal, marketing and public relations, as well as Microsoft Office 365 and cloud services are all outsourced. Today’s workforce is changing. According to a recent study by Intuit, the gig economy is now estimated to be about 34 percent of the workforce, and by 2020, that number will be as high as 43 percent. The reasoning goes back to project-driven work; we see value in hiring individuals who are focused on the task at hand. We must focus on our core mission and leave supporting functions to experienced contractors. Furthermore by contracting we are essentially getting incredibly experienced staff at the fraction of the work – and therefore cost. It allows us to build the best team at the best price.
No auxiliary employees. You won’t find receptionists, assistants or secretaries in our company – and there’s a reason. When building a company, it’s important to start with producers and experts, adding doers and thinkers that propel the product. Later, we can have the option of hiring admin/support as the company grows. But by not spending so much time/resources on “systems” and paperwork, everyone is focusing on the end goal.
Meritocracy. When we have movement within the company, decisions are made based strictly on merit. We want to be clear with our employees: Perform as a fantastic team, be a great team member and opportunities will come.
Taking a unique approach to our modern-day business has allowed our tech company to scale more cost-effectively across two countries, while more than 20 years ago, this endeavor would have been much more expensive and time-consuming to achieve. There’s a good chance I wouldn’t have even tried! But with experience – and the changing dynamic of the modern workforce – brings the ability to embrace updated ways of building a company.
This approach has allowed us to attract top talent, which is perhaps the biggest advantage of this way of doing business. Managing employees, as well as a number of contractors that fill various critical roles in our organization, reduces the occurrence of internal conflict between various role types and reduces the feelings of competitiveness that can often plague new and established companies.
In this arrangement, the organization also only pays for time/services used, not the hours spent browsing the Internet for clever memes. Instead, we’re creating an environment where employees are given the opportunity to work in a place where their work is valued and their abilities are recognized.
While we’re still a relatively new organization, the results are astounding. Employees in this kind of structure are happier, well adjusted, feel valued and also see the value in giving quality time and energy to the organization. To me, that’s the definition of the modern-day workplace.