If finding and retaining the best talent is a pain point for your company, you may want to take a look at your culture. That's according to Aydin Acar, cofounder and CEO of Influenster, a New York City-based product discovery and reviews platform. He's not worried about plans to grow his company from 34 employees to 50 by March because of the time, attention and money he and his cofounder, Elizabeth Scherle, have invested in creating an inspiring office culture. Here's his advice on how to do it.
1. Flatten your organization.
Before launching Influenster Acar worked at a large bureaucratic company where he said he and coworkers were not happy. As a result, he and Scherle intentionally designed their workspace as an open environment where the few offices have glass doors to encourage transparency. "Everybody is involved in decisions that we're making," he says. "I want to make sure that [employees] feel like if they have an idea even an intern can come to me and say 'Hey, we can do it this way' and we will definitely listen."
2. Empower the smart people you've hired.
You hired them because you believe they can do the job, so trust them to do it. Acar's previous employer disallowed employees from interacting with clients directly until they had worked for the company for at least three years. He takes a different tack with his own company and hires people right out of college and connects them to brand managers or marketing directors from Fortune 500 companies. "A lot of people that we hired two or three years ago right out of college are now managing teams," he says. "We gave that responsibility to them instead of hiring [outside] managers because they take more ownership and know that as the company scales they will grow as well."
3. Provide ongoing training and development.
Not only does Influenster hold frequent "lunch and learn" sessions depending on employee interests, the company pays for any kind of online or offline class someone wants to take. "If they want to go to General Assembly or anything like that we encourage them to do that on a daily basis, and we pay for it," he says.
4. Foster a sense of community.
Get people hanging out together on non-work activities, whether for happy hour, bowling or a volleyball game. "A lot of people go to gym together and hang out because of these social activities that we do together," he says.
5. Make work comfortable and fun.
If you're trying to hire and retain anyone under the age of 35, you need to know that Millennials want to do work that matters, but they appreciate a casual environment. At Influenster this means employees can bring their dogs to work, play ping pong whenever they want and take advantage of a stocked bar any time after 2 p.m. any day of the week. And instead of sitting at a desk they often camp out in a lounge area with a laptop to crank out work. Everyone also contributes to a Spotify playlist playing in the office at all times, as well. The company also provides themed lunches such as sushi on Mondays or tacos on Tuesdays. "The talent pool we're going after in New York City--really smart people--this is the kind of environment you have to create to be competitive," he says.
6. Do not micromanage.
Nothing is more demoralizing than this kind of behavior. How do you know people are doing good work? Set goals and expect people to meet them. "As long as they're hitting their quotas I don't care about what they're doing on a daily basis," he says. "Ninety percent of the time we hit our goals, but if there is a team that is underperforming and not meeting its goals, next quarter they will probably overcompensate and do really well."
7. Show your appreciation.
If someone hits a ball out of the park, what can you do to reward them? "Whenever someone does something outstanding we give them outings to spas or holidays where we fly them to different places," he says.
8. Put someone in charge of ensuring workers are happy.
The point? Happy employees are productive and will stick around. At Influenster this person--who holds the title of "talent and culture specialist"--is someone originally hired for an admin role but grew into more of an HR position. Not only does she make sure the office refrigerator is stocked with everyone's favorite foods, she procures just the right gift, dessert or drink for someone's birthday. "All she does is find new ways to really engage people and make sure that they're happy, there's a good culture and that they're also productive."