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In Building a Company or a Marriage — Perks Just Don’t Cut It

Just as life-partners need to weather the storms that often arise in marriages in order to achieve effective connection and great quality of life, companies need to do the same. Not only do we need to survive the shit storms, but also come out thriving on the other end.

In March 2016, my company, Pitaya conducted a market satisfaction survey for tech employees in Tel Aviv. Of hundreds of respondents, 70% had worked in their companies for less than 2 years. Despite being new employees, subjects reported a surprisingly high level of company loyalty, and comfort being honest with their direct managers and/or direct reports.

When you pop the hood and peek into the day-to-day of a terrible company to work for, or an absolutely fantastic company to work for, it all boils down to a subjective reflection of the experience. It’s no accident when people feel connected to the mission of their company, proud of their employer, and driven to help their company succeed their lofty goals.

Out of the data we collected, two things became very clear:

  • Problems and frustrations of working in fast-growing companies repeat themselves.
  • People love coming to work for very similar reasons, and, when they talk about their work, they sound like they are talking about a great relationship.

Below are five important lessons to make the workplace work.

1. Shiny perks won’t cut it forever.

You know what’s fun? An all-expense paid company trip to Cancun. You know what’s not fun? Coming back to your desk on Monday morning with the overwhelming need to chuck your shiny MacBook Air out the window.

Just as a great marriage isn’t built on a foundation of fancy diamonds, a great company culture isn’t built on gluten-free granola bars and unlimited Nespresso pods. Perks are an awesome tool for branding and creating temporary highs, but they won’t be the solution to fixing naturally fluctuating human issues of motivation, excitement, and loyalty.

When your company is hot, and the best of the best are competing to jumping on board, remember that this moment will pass and you’ll need to dig deeper to keep that shiny new talent. And if you’ve been operating for years, or decades even, you’ll need to protect and foster those talents so that they don’t slip away, or get wooed by someone else.

Perks are nice, but they won’t make the marriage last. The stuff that satisfying and healthy relationships are based on goes much deeper. It’s all about the balance between short term perks, and long term investments to achieve the ultimate goal.

2. Times Change, People Change

In our Pitaya market survey, people ranked career development as the element they value most in their job. 37% of respondents ranked it as a top priority- more so than compensation or relationship with their management team.

Excerpt from Pitaya Market Research

Whoever is employed today by a tech company is brutally aware that competition is fiercely growing as the landscape of technology continues to develop. Gary Vaynerchuk presented this nicely in a recent article on innovation. In order to stay in the game, development is key.

A HBR article entitled Why Top Young Managers are in a Non-Stop Job Hunt, summarized research conducted among 1,200 employees. These employees affirmed in many cases, that investment in their development was lacking and that they were searching for any way to develop their careers from within- or at another company if need be. From a managerial perspective, professional development programs create company stickiness along with a natural enrichment of company culture.

How to give your employees the tools necessary to achieve amazing results:

  • Share skills and stories among employees. Set up recurring days where one team or employee will run a session for a group under a different discipline. (Ex: Have product run a session for sales and marketing on how they prioritize feature creation.)
  • Invest in learning. Invite professionals to speak with your people, or run relevant workshops on-site. Alternatively, you can give employees a budget for learning and they can spend it on whatever they want. Udemyand Coursera, and Lynda are amazing tools for learning on the go, and General Assembly-style campuses can suit those people who want a classroom style experience.

3. Play Nice

Perhaps it’s obvious, or perhaps it’s a notion so overlooked that we forget about the basics of building positive human relationships.

Rachel & Alexis

Let’s take a moment to remember some relationship advice. Nobody is perfect, and no shared job is equally split down the middle. If you know your spouse hates doing dishes, but loves to cook, offering to do the dishes is a great way to step up and contribute. If you know your spouse has been working extra hours so you can pursue a coding bootcamp or a yoga teacher training, you should give them a kiss and a thank you.

These little things add up. Efforts of kindness, and verbal accolades, usually don’t cost a thing but they go a long way in making someone feel appreciated and valued.

The same goes for the workplace. If you know someone on your team has been working around the clock to deliver on a deadline- say thank you. Tell them you appreciate their work. You can include time for kudos in your weekly standup meetings, and give opportunity to team mates to thank those who help them. Conversely, you can encourage a culture of gratitude by posting praise in your internal Slack channel, Whatsapp group, or Facebook group.

Kindness doesn’t cost a thing, and others will always appreciate it.

4. Secrets aren’t Necessarily a Bad thing

There’s a common misconception in company culture that communication is king. However, communication ebbs and flows over time. You can have periods of great transparency and positive communication, and then you can have communication breakdowns causing or being the result of friction. But it doesn’t have to be one or the other. A lack of communication doesn’t have to result in a break-down if that space is filled with respect. Sometimes certain information needs to be kept under wraps by an employer or partner. In those cases, mutual respect and trust can fill that void so that operations can continue as usual.

Having respect for your company, and for your employees, is an important cornerstone of a long lasting relationship.

5. Keep it Real to Keep it Healthy

When you decide to bring your authentic self to any relationship, you’re able to connect on a level you’d never be able to reach should you be masquerading around with a persona you think would be more effective. In successful relationships, the individuals who get the most enjoyment are the ones who maintain their authentic identities and don’t lose themselves to the identity of the couple.

The same concept applies to business. Having a strong company identity is important and has its place in corporate culture. However, this shouldn’t come at the expense of discouraging employees from bringing their authentic and diverse selves to the office.

During our research, interviewees with positive things to say about their work experience often spoke of how they felt comfortable being themselves and lending their talents & experiences to the good of their team.

To sum it up:

Just as life-partners need to weather the storms that often arise in marriages in order to achieve effective connection and great quality of life, companies need to do the same. Not only do we need to survive the shit storms, but also come out thriving on the other end.

Please continue to share your stories and experiences with us, so that we can deliver the strongest value to our community through Pitaya.

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