Scott Lerner is CEO at Better Choice Company, a growing pet health and wellness company, with 20+ years of experience in the CPG industry.
It’s no secret that it’s a tight labor market. As a result, there has been a shift in the employee/employer power dynamic. Employees know what they are worth and what they want and aren’t afraid to go after it. It’s up to leadership to steer the culture toward a collaborative environment where employees and leaders redefine how to make your business one of the best places to work.
It starts with attracting the right talent and keeping them motivated and engaged. And today, we’d be remiss if we didn’t factor the need for increased connectivity into the equation. More and more employees can choose where to work. That often means from home, where they can avoid a rigorous commute, spend time with family and avoid the expense of eating out for lunch.
Our company hired more than 25 remote employees in the last year, none of whom I had met in person before they joined. And across our company, we’ve granted a significant number of promotions. How are we doing this? We use five guiding principles that have improved our ability to retain and inspire top talent. It has allowed us to recruit the right people and grow our company in the current environment.
Here are the core tenets that keep us on the right talent track.
1. Let people and culture lead the focus of HR, not process.
Look after your people and the culture in which they operate. Learn their stories and listen to what they think is missing. For example, our employees wanted more communication and connection, so we created regular virtual town halls with accessibility to leadership. Employees want transparency and honesty, and this provides a more open approach to sharing the good and the areas that need improvement. This way, employees feel like they are all in it together.
These insights also allow us to create programs that employees want. We recently introduced a “pawternity” program, a puppy-leave initiative for new pet parents to take time off. We also instituted unlimited PTO to demonstrate trust and address when people felt burnt out. When inflation is rising faster than salaries can keep up, these benefits, combined with a strong culture, can keep employees satisfied.
2. Encourage people to “own their day.”
Throw traditional office hours aside, and let employees decide when and how to do their job. The more you empower people to set their own schedules, the more you get from them. Put the power in the hands of the people by trusting your workforce and treating them like adults.
Everyone operates differently, so you can’t treat them all the same way. This is especially true today, as home life and work-life intersect in ways they didn’t before. And it must start at the top. Executives need to lead by example. When I have to do school pick-up or drive someone to sports practice, I make it very clear. Sometimes these activities cut into the workday, and that’s OK. I make the time up at other points in the day.
3. Prioritize connectivity.
In a remote environment, you must force connectivity to keep people’s mental health intact. Isolation results in unhappiness, and it also impacts productivity. There is no reason you can’t have virtual interactions like in a real office.
For example, I spend 30 minutes every morning chatting with folks through Microsoft Teams. I created this virtual watercooler moment to learn about what’s going on in employees’ lives (both in and outside of work). It helps me be a more empathetic leader, and it allows me to show that I’m human like everyone else. You can also create virtual social opportunities, such as happy hours or lunch-and-learns.
4. Underscore transparency with measurement.
Employers need to be clear about the organization’s direction and employees’ expectations. Be very transparent about your annual goals so employees know what you’re trying to reach. Regularly discuss expectations and review progress. This helps the entire team succeed, and this comradery toward a common goal helps drive a solid culture focused on winning. It also encourages you to celebrate both individual and collective success.
5. Connect across job functions.
Connecting different business units gives people a well-rounded view of the entire business. For example, our marketing and innovation team works in lockstep with our supply chain team. We’ve developed products that can succeed in a challenging supply chain environment by working closely together. Linking people across job functions makes them feel more involved in the big picture.
The war for talent is real. Every business today is challenged to attract (and keep) the right workers. The best a leader can do is create an environment where there is a connection between leadership, people and the culture; an environment where people feel valued, respected, listened to and trusted. This is what drives satisfaction and attracts winners.