As Competition for Talent Increases, Learn from Silicon Valley

As the job market heats up, companies will find employees pickier about where they choose to work. This might catch some employers unawares, as many companies have become complacent through these recessionary years, perhaps getting a little too accustomed to having their pick of employees.

In Silicon Valley, the talent wars have remained competitive throughout the past years of our struggling economy. Major companies in industries outside technology, from knowledge businesses to retailing to manufacturing, can learn a few tricks from the recruiting and retention strategies that have long-been standard procedure on the West coast.

Interestingly, offering higher compensation isn’t necessarily the answer. It’s not even the top consideration for a lot of star talent. What will matter more in a competitive job market is:

• The Work: Having the opportunity to do meaningful or groundbreaking work

• The Company: Identifying with or believing in the vision of the company and the chance to be part of making the world a better place

• The Team: Working on a team of smart people who are either current leaders in the industry or destined to be

• The Quality Life: The sort of life the job provides, both at work and for one’s personal and family life. This has to do with the office environment, the geographical location of the company, the benefits and perks — and, of course, the pay

“Employee happiness is the key to retention, particularly in an extremely competitive job market like in Silicon Valley,” says Amy Buckner Chowdhry, CEO of AnswerLab, in a recent article by Ashley Wilson. AnswerLab is a user experience company in San Francisco.

AnswerLab measures employee happiness in four areas: Career, Learning, Wellness and Giving Back. Those four areas correspond with the bullets above. Career and Learning are part of The Work. Wellness relates to the Quality of Life. And Giving Back has to do with The Company and its impact on the world.

Other Silicon Valley companies have offered employee perks ranging from free meals to free haircuts to free iPads, according to a New York Times article. But the most interesting perk mentioned is offering employees help in starting their own companies — in the form of venture capital, business advice and even start-your-own-startup classes. Redfin in Seattle offers entrepreneurship classes for employees twice a month. Square, co-founded by the same guy who co-founded Twitter, gives employees 20-minute lessons on finding VC and other related topics.

That just underscores the notion that recruits care about what a job can do for their own professional growth — more than almost anything else. Just being named a Best Place to Work won’t cut it if your company doesn’t provide star talent with plenty of opportunity to develop their careers.

 

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