You want your pick of top talent, and when you’ve got them, you’ll want to make sure they stay put – for long enough to make a difference anyway. For that, you know you need to be a great place to work. Simple. But what exactly does that mean? Well – if you’re thinking about kitting out your office space with beanbags and ping pong tables in your efforts to look ‘hip and happening’ – you’re way off the mark. That’s according to Ronnie Altit, c0-founder and managing director of Aussie tech company, Insentra. He calls that “fluff.”
For him, creating a really great place to work runs deeper than “gadgets and toys.” Recently ranked 8th out of 50 in the 2016 Best Place to Work Study, he’s probably worth listening to for some tips and advice. Here, Ronnie tells us exactly what his issue is with these ‘fluff’ initiatives and what he’s doing instead to appeal to the talent.
So there’s no fluff; but what do you do to promote a positive workplace culture?
“Insentra’s focus is really on the people instead of gadgets or toys. We focus on making everyone feel valued and safe to try different things without any fear of retribution. One of Insentra’s key values is celebration. We have a philosophy of “catch someone doing something right” engendering a sense of pride and achievement amongst peers for doing a great job. This is emailed to the “All Staff” mail list. This recognition is then reiterated in the Managing Director All Hands Monthly meeting, and the staff are rewarded in many different ways: Financially, Flexibility with working hours, Weekends away, just to name a few.
“At Insentra, we specifically screen out candidates who have “tall poppy syndrome”. We seek to hire and build high performing individuals who take pleasure in the success of their peers, not profit from their weaknesses. It will not benefit your business if the staff members are taught to compete with one another. No two people are comparable, and each brings different specialties to their position. “Being the best you can be” is welcomed and encouraged. In six years of being in business, this approach has proven to foster teams of high performers each seeking to assist others to deliver the best of themselves.”
What’s the problem with “fluff” initiatives?
“When Insentra started, we did all of those things – we had the break out area with a couch, bean bags, X-Box, Foosball table etc. and guess what? They just weren’t used – and not because they feared the perception it would create. We have fostered a culture of “output not input” i.e. we measure success based on what is delivered rather than the process of doing so. When you have created a workplace where everyone is doing their ideal job, there is no need for the generic distractions of toys and armchairs. Excellent people who are treated in an excellent manner will deliver excellence by default.”
How do you know what employees really want?
“What employees want is the first thing we try to find out, before they have even been hired. Learning what someone wants helps to determine if they naturally live the values that are consistent with the values that are at the very core of Insentra. The hiring process is the foundation of maintaining the culture that we have.
“We ask questions such as: ‘What excites you? What motivates you? What frustrates you? Describe the best team you have been a part of and why? What would be an ideal work environment? What do you do for fun? Describe the best company you ever worked for.’ One of our primary questions in an interview is ‘if you had a white piece of paper and could design your ideal job today and in the future, what would it look like?’
“We do this to ensure that the role we hire someone into will provide them as close to their ideal job as possible and also seek to understand if we can help them achieve their longer term goals with a view to providing longevity of employment.”
Why is it so important to nail the company culture?
“Nailing culture is critical – in fact there is little that matters more. If the culture is nailed then the rest takes care of itself. Our business is only as strong as our culture and we have taken that seriously since day zero. We know by taking care of our employees they will do the same for our clients and each other. At the end of the day, if the culture is poor there is no business, there are no profits, nor will we attract or retain the right kind of talent.”
What do you think is the biggest mistake made by other workplaces?
“Not getting to know your employees and really valuing them: why would they value your company and their role if they are not important and don’t feel important to you? This is one of the fundamental reasons why I believe in focusing on our team first, foremost and unequivocally. Insentra always focuses on making sure employees feel safe, trusted, & empowered. Their happiness is the key to unlocking outstanding work. It all starts with the creation and maintenance of a work environment where people feel trusted and safe to try different things with no fear of retribution.”
What’s your strategy to ensure you continue to climb the ranks?
Our focus is on maintaining and growing the culture that has got us this far. It is clearly a successful business model that cares of all our employees and clients. Our workplace is a totally open plan environment where communication is encouraged – the executive have desks in and amongst the team, keeping their fingers on the pulse and being accessible at any time to assist in removing roadblocks – which I see as their primary internal responsibility – to make it easy for our team to do what they do best and help them to do it better. By this time next year, we plan to be bigger, better, and higher on the GPTW list.
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