You want a cohesive team. You’ve read everywhere (including this site) that companies and teams with a strong culture, and a tradition of sharing successes and information, outperform those where employees are only looking out for themselves. But how can you build that kind of team culture in an age when job-hopping is the norm, and your most talented team members will only be there until the next great opportunity comes along?
By focusing on employees and putting in the work to build a strong culture–even if you know each individual team member may not stick around for long. That advice comes from Aaron Harvey, co-founder and partner at the digital ad agency Ready Set Rocket.
In advertising, a rapidly changing industry with a large population of millennials, it’s a fact of life that employees don’t stick around, Harvey says. The agency’s 25 employees have an average tenure of two to three years. So Ready Set Rocket works particularly hard to instill a strong company culture even though its personnel is in a constant state of flux.
How do you build a culture of togetherness in a rapidly changing group? Here’s Harvey’s approach:
1. Tie every task to a larger purpose.
Employees in general and millennials in particular always want to know the greater meaning of whatever they’re spending their time and effort on. So when assigning a task always explain why it’s needed, Harvey advises. “This shines light onto why seemingly remedial tasks are important for the project, the client, and the company as a whole,” Harvey says. “Everyone wants to make an impact on the future of the company, and giving this context allows employees to see the big picture.” (If you can’t really explain why a task is important in the scheme of things, consider eliminating it.)
2. Be honest.
You’ll need to build trust quickly in an organization with short tenures and honesty is one great way to do that, Harvey explains. “Share what’s working and what’s not and why,” he says. “Identify holes in their capabilities and push them by assigning tasks that help them grow.” Since today’s job-hopping employees are deeply interested in developing their own skill sets, they’ll be motivated by the opportunity to learn.
3. Learn employees’ personal goals.
“Find out what your employees are interested in accomplishing, assess how their individual goals best fit the company’s goals, and set them up to achieve their goals,” Harvey advises. “When your employees can walk away with tangible skills, it will reflect well on both them and your company.” For example, he says, if an employee wants to gain a new certification or skill set that will be useful on the job, make sure there’s time in that employee’s schedule to study.
4. Let employees see their future in your company.
“Take the time to make sure your employees know what their growth path looks like, and educate them on opportunities to earn bonuses and raises,” Harvey says. “You can do this by providing a clear and accurate description of their current job and the next logical position. Then, tailor a growth plan to the employee’s personality, so that each employee has a unique plan to help advance their careers.”
Knowing what’s expected of them so as to grow in your company will build your employees’ confidence, Harvey says. Maybe they’ll even stick around a little longer.
5. Make sure all employees get the mentoring that’s right for them.
“The most important part of managing a team is understanding each individual's personality and assessing how much mentorship each will need to be successful,” Harvey says. “Some people excel when you give them the freedom and space to make mistakes, whereas others will need weekly check-ins to stay on task. Slow down for the ones who need it and make sure you give them the extra time to ask questions and understand every project or assignment.”
Ready Set Rocket also creates informal mentoring opportunities by holding weekly partner meetings that are optional but open to all employees. Those who want to can come in and talk about the business, its people, or their own growth or challenges. “This gives them access to some of the most successful and creative minds in the company, and allows us to form relationships outside of formal meetings,” Harvey says.
6. Create shared experiences outside of work.
“We have a program called ‘Ready Set Reach,’” Harvey says. “We have mandatory, paid volunteer days where we split the office into small groups of people who don't typically work together. This allows new relationships to form and strengthens existing ones.”
Bringing people together to do activities outside the work environment is a powerful way to create a sense of community and teamwork, he adds. Besides a paid volunteer day, an outing, or group exercise class, are some other options for bringing people together outside work.
7. Help employees be happy.
A happy employee is a more effective employee, so commit to your employees’ happiness for however long you have them. “Think about the factors that lead to happiness, such as flexibility and a solid work/life balance,” Harvey says. “Then find ways for them to achieve their own personal happiness at work.
One big step is giving employees the freedom they need to take care of themselves and their families. It might be as simple as giving them time off to exercise during the day, or take a relative to the doctor if needed. “Doing so will motivate them to work harder,” Harvey says.