The Right Way to Treat Employees

When my partner and I started our company we wanted to make sure that we made it a great place to work. In the IT world employers have to fight for the best talent, and we wanted to attract and retain talent that stays loyal to us and is happy to go the extra mile to get things done. We also wanted to attract people who aren’t just in it for the money, but deliver great work and stand behind what they do.

Here are the top five things we do to attract the best talent in the field and retain them for the long haul.

1. We treat everyone equally

I truly believe that employees should be paid for the value and experience they bring, and that factors such as age or sex should have zero determination of wage. When I started the business, I was shocked to learn there is a significant gender wage gap in most countries. In Switzerland women earn about 20% less than male colleagues with similar positions; in management positions this gap can be up to 30%. I find this absolutely unacceptable.

At our company, we have a simple and transparent salary structure based on function and seniority. Everybody with the same experience level has the same entry salary, regardless of sex or age. This salary automatically increases every year to match the additional value our employees are bringing through their gained experience. This way there is no envy in the team and everybody knows their salary in ten years’ time, if they stick with us.

We take great pains to never penalize a female employee for her pregnancy; on the contrary, we are happy when an employee expands her family and do everything we can to support her during this special time in her life. We ask our pregnant employees how much paid time they need off after a birth, and we are very flexible and generous with their needs and desires. A woman’s job will always be waiting for her when she is ready to return, with absolutely no loss in seniority or responsibility.

2. We make sure our talent gets plenty of rest and time off

As a service business, we are often driven by our clients’ schedule. That makes it difficult to avoid overtime at times. It is important for me that my employees get to spend enough time with their loved ones and recuperate properly. This means that I encourage them to take equivalent time off later when they work overtime. Although it would be more profitable in the short run for me to pay them overtime instead (and I do so if that is their preference), but I believe that in the long run, a well-rested and recuperated workforce is much more important. What’s the benefit of having more money in the short run if your team is unhappy and worn out in the long run? Not only are they less happy when worn out, but they also provide inferior service in that case, and the highest service level possible is the lifeblood of our business.

We encourage our employees to stay home if they feel sick and take enough time to get fully healthy again. Not only is this the right thing to do for our employees and their health, but it also avoids other employees at the office getting sick as well.

3. We judge our employees by the quality and speed of their work, not by the hours they spend in the office

In a traditional office environment, employees are penalized for doing great quality work quickly because they’ll just get more work put on their plate right away. This dis-incentivizes speedy work, and in our business, speed is of the essence for our clients. In our office, the end result counts and not how you get there. If you are able to complete a task in half the time your teammates do, great! Take the rest of the day off and do something else that’s fun. This rewards speedy work, which makes our clients and our employees happy.

4. We invest in our talent

We give our employees time for and cover the costs of outside training and official certification in the tools they use (with no retainer or need to pay it back if they leave.) Not only does this improve the skills of our workforce, but it also provides clients with an objective measure of our teammates’ skills and certifications.

At our company, we go one step further than just providing job-based training. We believe that a happy workforce with diverse skills and interesting new perspectives vastly improves the office culture.  Thus, we provide 1 additional week off per year (on top of their standard 5 weeks of paid vacation) and up to 6000.- Swiss Francs tuition, to learn any skill they want, job-related or not. If an employee wants to learn about cooking in that week, or dance or painting, or a foreign language, we encourage that, not only because it will make them happier, but also because it will make for a more interesting office environment when they share their newfound knowledge with us.

5. We go out of our way to show our employees how much we appreciate them

Traditional management advice suggests that the main way for an employer to express appreciation for a job is through money. While we do offer highly competitive salaries and bonuses, we also know appreciation goes far beyond cash. When employees are doing a great job or working extra hard, we like to treat them and their significant others to nice dinners, give personalized gifts (such as baby chairs for employees who have just had children), and generally show our employees that we know them well, we know what they like, and we know how to reward them with a personal and meaningful touch.

What is the result of all these steps we take to ensure our employees are happy working for us? In a highly competitive talent pool, with headhunters and talent poachers around the corner every year, our employee turnover is close to zero. (In fact, we’ve had employees turn down much larger offers from competitors, because they love working for us so much.) We continually get feedback from our clients that they love working with our employees; we know that our employees’ happiness, which we go to great lengths to ensure via these steps, is central to the high satisfaction our clients have working with us.