What Business Owners Can Learn From What Silicon Valley Employees Want

By Armen Berjikly of Kanjoya

Mark Zuckerberg, who recently announced the birth of his daughter, is about to take advantage of one of Silicon Valley’s biggest perks: paid paternity leave. As perks in the Valley go, paternity leave is just the tip of the iceberg.

Tech companies have become famous for their corporate cultures, perks, and the incredible tactics they used to hire and keep top talent. Nap pods, on-site barber shops, and even concierge services have become standard fare for competitive tech startups. Facebook has taken employee perks to new heights by offering to pay for employees’ eggs to be frozen — a five figure expense at minimum. Silicon Valley stalwarts like Apple, Google, and Amazon shell out top dollar to convince people to work for them — but are money and free dry cleaning really what employees want more of?

armen Berjikly web

Armen Berjikly
(Photo courtesy of Armen Berjikly)

 

After analyzing over 100,000 employee surveys in our database, the surprising answer is a resounding “No.”  Money lags far behind transparency, agility and responsibility on employees’ wish lists. Now most small businesses cannot keep up with the Silicon Valley perks. But owners of small business can learn a lot from what truly moves the needle in the most extravagant work environments in the country. And the answers may surprise you.

 

Transparency

Greater transparency is among the things employees ask for most. It’s asked for twice as many times as greater compensation is. This may not come as a surprise given startups’ tendencies to closely guard product plans and business roadmaps, but it signals something positive — Silicon Valley employees want greater visibility into their companies and their futures. And they want to be a part of making those futures happen. Tech workers are clamoring to be empowered, rather than recognized — what they need is knowledge.

Companies stand to benefit from greater employee transparency as much as employees themselves. The companies making up the Fortune 500 lose an aggregate $31.5 billion per year from employees failing to share knowledge, according to Harvard Business Review. Transparency fosters inclusion as much as it raises the bottom line.

 

Agility

We found that Silicon Valley employees asked for greater latitude in their work responsibilities as often as they asked for greater transparency from the companies they work for. They don’t like being held back — by sluggish processes, lack of empowerment, or bureaucracy. Tech employees want to get rid of the red tape that’s become commonplace at companies across the country. The Valley’s reputation for hard work and long hours has created top-tier employees who understand their capabilities and where they’re most valuable. What they want is the ability to call out opportunities to utilize those skills and tackle big problems as they crop up. Companies like Intel and Virgin America have been letting employees “test drive” new roles in job rotation programs for years. Small businesses, especially with the numerous new challenges facing them every day, should take a similar approach, and let employees try out different roles. It will help cultivate trust among employees and ownership, but will also employees a valuable perspective into how the business operates.

 

Responsibility

After transparency and agility, most Silicon Valley employees asked for more responsibility — about 11x as often compared to the average employee request. Silicon Valley employees are clamoring for bigger, more impactful responsibilities — more so than they are of compensation or any of the traditional perks you think of with tech companies. In return, they want to know what’s going on and what the future holds, and the power to power to help their companies get there. Google is famous for empowering employees with its “20 percent” policy, a philosophy that encourages Googlers devote a portion of their time to self-driven projects that can morph into full on products and new roles. Startups can follow Google’s lead by encouraging — but not requiring — their employees to take on additional projects that contribute to the company’s overall mission.

 

More Than Money

In an industry so focused on talent retention, it may surprise some to learn that material things aren’t on tech employees’ wish lists. What they really want is inclusion — the ability to deploy their skills where they’re most valuable. Inclusion comes in many forms: letting employees in on long-term plans and corporate insights, giving employees greater latitude with their roles and responsibilities, and trusting employees with meaningful projects once they’ve proven themselves. The benefits of employee empowerment are tangible. Whether it’s boosting overall productivity, discovering new employee skills and talents, or fostering creative ideas, Silicon Valley stands to gain from listening closely to employees. This is good lesson learned for small businesses, which cannot always make the highest offer to job candidates. But our study found they may not have to: helping employees feel included and valued can be just as important.

 

Armen Berjikly founded Kanjoya in 2007 and serves as the company’s CEO. Armen received a BS in Computer Science and an MS in Management Science from Stanford University, where his research focus was Human-Computer Interaction. Previously, Armen founded numerous successful Internet startups, including FileDemon, Do Everything, and multiple online patient health communities designed to sponsor hope through research and community.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the authors alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the authors.

 

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