There was a time when Los Angeles-based information security company Xypro focused deeply on employee retention. Many of its current employees have been there since the company was founded in 1983--or close to it. That brought about an inevitable crisis: A large percentage of the office was set to retire at the same time. CEO Lisa Partridge's solution was to jump to the other extreme, targeting new employees barely out of college (or, on occasion, still in college). That strategy paid off to the tune of a $20 million annual revenue, which Partridge says is top-five in the industry. Here's how she did it.
--As told to Cameron Albert-Deitch
We started as a very small company. There have been, at times, as few as six of us here. Other times, there have been about 20 to 25 people, running a healthy small business, keeping our customers happy. Everybody was happy with revenue. Projects were running along. And people who came here never left.
We prided ourselves on employee retention. I myself have been here for more than 25 years. Our chief architect has been here for more than 25 years. Our VP of human resources has been here for 30 years. And many people are in the double-digits.
We started, about six or seven years ago, evolving the company and getting more into modern security technologies. When we started that, we realized that we had to bring in some new blood. Most of our employees were older. There was a time when they might have all been retiring within a five-year time period.
So we specifically started targeting universities and their career fairs. We started an internship program, very small at first, with one or two interns. Now, six or seven years later, we regularly have 12 to 15 interns at any given time.
We established an onboarding program. We ensure regular product training happens through structured classes so that everyone knows what the company does. We have a lot of get-togethers during which we make sure all the different people and the different departments mix and mingle, from celebrations in our little library area when something good happens to planned team lunches to silly celebrations. On National Hot Dog Day, we might bring in a hot dog food truck.
People want to like where they work. People want to feel excited about coming in every day. People want to know that when they speak up at a group meeting, everyone's going to let them have their say and write their idea down on the whiteboard and throw it around. Maybe it evolves, maybe it doesn't, but there's a lot to be said for people feeling involved.
People who are induced by a crazy-high salary, we find, don't tend to last, because they're always looking for a higher salary elsewhere. People feeling invested in what they're doing and enjoying their work culture is as important as the paycheck.
We're always adding things. Looking now at the age of our current employees, there are certain types of benefits they would appreciate that we haven't had to think about in a while: maternity leave, paternity leave, time off for charitable volunteer work, community service. We've added a bug bounty program, where we give out cash prizes to employees who find security holes in our system. We've added big dollars to our referral program. We've brought in on-site yoga, and we have fun team-building activities.
That's all designed to keep the newer folks interested and going, "Hmm, this seems like a really great environment to work in." And the mere presence of the newer folks invigorates the people who have been here for a long time.