If you're like most bosses, your two least favorite activities are hiring and firing. Wouldn't it be great if you never had to replace an ex-employee again?
That may sound far-fetched, but it's doable, according to Matthew Goldman, founder of Wallaby Financial, an app that helps consumers determine as they shop which credit cards to use to maximize their rewards. The 13-person company was founded in 2012 and acquired by BankRate in 2014. Since its founding, Wallaby has had zero turnover--no employee has ever left the company, and none has ever been fired. Goldman says his secret is following ten rules that can keep your own turnover at or near zero as well:
1. Hire slowly.
You've heard this before, but it's good advice and worth repeating. Making carefully considered hires allows Wallaby Financial to preserve a culture where no new hire ever goes south. It creates what Goldman calls "a culture of cohesion and dependency." "People know the person next to them will be there next week,next month and next year."
2. When life happens, be flexible.
"We've had people come on board and then have to move within 3 to 12 months," Goldman says. It's not ideal, but everyone's life has its complications. We could tell them to leave their keys on the way out, but instead we find a way to solve it."
3. Communicate often. Very often.
Wallaby has a company-wide 10-minute stand-up meeting each day to update everyone on what's going on. "We are on Slack all the time," Goldman says. "We have video conferencing set up. We use screen-sharing software. We are always talking or typing."
4. Be very clear about priorities.
"Uncertainty sucks," Goldman says. But, he adds, startups by their nature breed uncertainty. "We solve this conundrum by running the entire company off of a prioritized project list and two-week agile software sprint process. Every two weeks we discuss what's most important."
Do those priorities change over time? Of course they do, and the company adjusts, he says. "But there isn't confusion."
5. Make decisions quickly.
Being slow about making decisions is another thing that leads to uncertainty and can alienate employees, Goldman says. "We don't deliberate for weeks. If there's a problem or something to figure out, we get together right away, talk about it and come to a decision. Then we move forward."
6. Create an inviting workspace.
Wallaby Financial has all the usual startup trappings, Goldman says--coffee and snacks, foosball, all the t-shirts you want, and so on. "More than that, it's a nice place to be," he says. "There are windows, good equipment, and so on." Although a pleasant workplace won't make employees stay at jobs they don't enjoy, it can be one more element that encourages people to stick around. It's also a way of showing the people who work for you that you value their efforts and their well-being.
7. But don't expect people to live there.
"Don't make the office your family," Goldman warns. "People will burn out. We don't want you to have to spend all your time with us because we want you to want to be here." He stresses the importance of having employees go home, spend time with their family and friends, and enabling them to work from home if late hours are needed.
8. Celebrate your successes often.
Since Wallaby Financial is on a two-week agile software release cycle, the people who work there have something to celebrate every 14 days--and they do. "We share demos of what we've put together, we have a few drinks and we enjoy ourselves," Goldman says. "Even in the midst of a crunch there is time to enjoy what you've completed."
9. Acknowledge your mistakes.
"I'm a Harry Truman fan--the buck stops at the top," Goldman says. "If things are going poorly, it's my fault and I acknowledge it to the team. I talk to them about how to right things." This kind of openness helps Goldman and the rest of the Wallaby team identify problems and find solutions quickly, he says.
10. Give employees autonomy.
"I try to pose problems and ideal end states to my team, but I let them figure out how to get there," Goldman says. "Remember that you hired all of them for their particular skills, so let them go demonstrate those skills."
What if you're concerned they may not be up to dealing with a particular problem or situation? Give them the chance to prove themselves, he advises. "If you don't give them room to fail, you don't give them room to succeed either."