Patrick Van Der Mijl, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer, Speakap

It’s no secret that today’s workforce wants more than a secure job and a steady pay cheque. While those may have been important criteria for employment back in the day, it’s a very different picture these days.

With the high rates of adoption of digital and mobile tools, apps and social platforms, coupled with the influx of a younger generation of workers (millennials and Gen Zers) making up the majority of the workforce today, keeping employees happy, fulfilled, motivated and engaged long-term is a lot harder than most HR and employee engagement professionals realise.

With many tech companies currently being named and shamed for low employee engagement and toxic cultures, culture is fast becoming a must-have component of HR and employee experience programs. And according to our latest research into culture’s role in improving employee loyalty, culture isn’t just a nice-to-have attribute for employees; it’s a critical attribute that strongly influences their perceptions, trust and loyalty with their employers.

In fact, 58% of the surveyed UK respondents admitted they would gladly ditch their current employer for a competitor if the competitor had a better culture. And if culture has that much of an impact on employee loyalty, it could lead to bigger and more costly problems with turnover and business growth.

This isn’t the only reason businesses should invest in culture. A trusting, fair, respectful, transparent and collaborative workplace sets off a “virtuous circle,” where employees enjoy coming to work every day, feel motivated to perform better and are committed to helping the company achieve its mission. When this happens, employees begin to feel a sense of
personal fulfilment, purpose and alignment to their employer’s cultural values, which makes them happier, more engaged and more loyal.

So what can tech companies do to ensure their company culture hits all the right notes and becomes the driving force for higher levels of employee satisfaction, engagement and loyalty?

Beyond the perks

If we were to ask certain businesses what initiatives they’re implementing to create and sustain a positive company culture, many would name superficial perks, such as free beer, company outings. gaming rooms and ping pong/pool tables.

These are surely fun things. But they aren’t values, attitudes, beliefs or behavioural norms. And I’m not saying companies should stop offering these perks. What I am saying, though, is that these are perks and shouldn’t be mistaken or used as fillers for actual culture embodiments. Our recent research proves this point, as only 5 percent of the employees surveyed said they consider regular social outings and events to be important to feel connected to the company’s culture.

Culture should represent the core values, beliefs and attitudes that the business believes in – values that the workforce identifies with and that are embodied in the way managers and employees interact.

Our latest report supports this: When we asked a sample of UK workers what specific attributes contribute to a strong workplace culture, 49 percent answered with respect and fairness, 24 percent mentioned trust and integrity, and 8% cited teamwork.

Millennials, who currently make up 35 percent of the global workforce and are driving the biggest transformations in the workplace, want to work for businesses whose values they identify with and feel connected to. So, if tech companies want to create a culture that appeals to today’s most talented and desirable workers, they should focus on cultivating
behaviours which mirror the values of the company, which make their staff feel respected, trusted and treated fairly.

Get techy

In today’s digital workplace, technology allows employees to be more productive, work flexibly and independently, communicate with colleagues and clients worldwide, and so on. However, employers need to recognise that technology, if used correctly, can also contribute to increasing engagement and strengthening culture.

By facilitating the sharing of news,
content and ideas, technology can create a sense of belonging, acknowledgement and cooperation among the workforce, which can immensely benefit a business.

Technology’s power to improve culture can, and should, be harnessed even before an employee’s first day of work. While we’ve all heard of the importance of an effective on-boarding process, our research shows that the pre-boarding phase can be even more crucial when it comes to engagement and culture.

In fact, 19% of the UK workers we surveyed said being invited to join an employee communications app and interact with colleagues before their first day would help them feel more engaged with the business. One way to do this is by encouraging new hires to post a company-wide message on the dedicated employee communications platform to introduce themselves before their first day.

This can help forge strong relationships from the very beginning, along with giving the new hires a glimpse into the types of conversations their soon-to-be colleagues are having – and even start interacting and engaging (liking, commenting with colleagues’ content).

Another area employers should focus on and where technology can offer significant benefits is employee recognition. One in five of the surveyed employees in our research said being recognised for their work by their leaders helps them feel more connected to the company culture.

Posting individual and team achievements on an enterprise social network can go along way in making employees feel valued and appreciated. Plus, it can spur some healthy competition, and ultimately, create a more engaging and productive work environment.

A matter of balance

According to Comparably’s 2018 Best Company Culture list, 29 of the 50 businesses with the best culture were tech companies.

When asked what made their workplace so great, many respondents mentioned work-life balance. This is surprising, considering the recent scandals which have shined a light on the toxic environments and intense working conditions at some of today’s largest organisations within the industry.

The freedom to own their own private time might seem obvious, especially with millennial workers who place a high premium on spending time with friends and family, as well as pursuing non-work-related activities that contribute to their sense of personal wellbeing and fulfilment. However, for those employees who work in tech companies that offer numerous
office-based perks including inviting spaces to eat, play, meditate and sleep – the boundaries between personal and professional life can often become blurred.

Our own data reveals a contradiction in this regard: 48 percent of the UK employees we surveyed stated that they would rather work a 60-hour week than work for a company that doesn’t value culture.

In essence, they are saying that they’d sacrifice work-life balance if it meant they could work at a company where the culture is founded on the principles of trust, respect, fairness and transparency. But that doesn’t mean a work-life balance shouldn’t be encouraged by employers.

As our study found, 66% of the surveyed UK employees said a healthy work-life balance has a high impact on their job satisfaction. This shows that employers, and employees, shouldn’t view culture and work-life balance as mutually exclusive. A positive workplace culture depends on a business’ ability to create an exciting, stimulating workplace where its employees are engaged and inspired, while respecting their right to enjoy their private time away from work.

That’s where right to disconnect laws, recently enforced in France, Germany and possibly coming to the US, have begun to place increasing pressure on employers to take better care of their employees and protect their right to switch off after working hours. And digital Do Not Disturb features can play an integral role in helping employees disconnect after work in order to reduce stress and anxiety.

Building a strong company culture might seem like an elusive goal, made of abstract ideals more than tangible realities. But organisations in the tech industry can succeed if they live out their core values day by day, and take every interaction with their workforce as an opportunity to let these beliefs shine through.