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The Hows of Building A Better Workplace

If you own a business of any size, you want to attract (and keep!) the best employees. That’s hardly a secret, it’s something that every company aspires to do, and why not? If you attract the best of the best, it’ll do great things for your company, your brand, and of course, your bottom line. They are, after all, the best for a reason.

The question is: How? How does a company go about consistently attracting the best and brightest minds in the world? And how does one keep them?

Some owners are convinced that if they study the perks and benefits that the “Top 100 Best Companies To Work For” that they’ll be able to combine enough perks and incentives that the best of the best will start flocking to their banner in droves. Unfortunately, there’s solid science that indicates that perks, whether in the form of catered lunches, more vacation days, or higher salaries, aren’t nearly as effective as owners wish they were.

That then, raises some interesting questions. If they don’t seem to work all that well, why to some of the best companies offer them in the first place, and if it’s not perks, what kinds of things do motivate employees to flock to some companies and avoid others?

Those are both excellent questions, and getting to the answers to them is pivotal to your company’s long-term success. As it turns out, the secret can be summed up on a single word: Culture.

If you want to attract the best and brightest employees, then your first, overriding priority should be to build a company culture that nurtures and supports them. Of course, culture is one of those “squishy” words that can mean different things to different people, so getting to the root of what that means can be a daunting task.

What it ultimately comes down to though is interpersonal relationships. You want to create a work environment that facilitates the formation of strong interpersonal relationships among and between your employees at every level.

One of the best examples of this in action is Google.

You probably know that Google offers its employees free lunch in the cafeteria. It’s not substandard lunch, either. We’re talking gourmet fare…pretty much anything you can imagine, available for free, any time you want it.

At first glance, that sounds like a perk, and on a certain level it is, but it’s the way Google uses the perk that makes all the difference.

See, the company makes sure that everyone who comes in for lunch has to wait in line. Not long, three, maybe four minutes at most. They do that because it gives the employees standing in line a chance to talk to each other.

There are no small, private tables in the cafeteria, either. Instead, you’ll find long tables and communal seating, which means that you’re much more likely to find yourself sitting next to someone you don’t know, which again, fosters conversation and the formation of relationships.

Those long tables are tightly spaced, too, so when you get up, you’re very likely to bump elbows or chair backs with the person sitting behind you. That’s not an accident, it’s a design feature, because again, it prompts a conversation, probably with someone new. Google employees even have a name for the phenomenon: The “Google Bump.”

Any company can offer free lunch to their employees, but do you see the cunning difference here? The way Google uses food as more than just a simple perk, but as a tool that fosters relationship building?

And it goes far beyond just food. That attitude is everywhere inside Google. Encouraging new relationships is a fundamental component of the company’s corporate culture.

For decades now, we’ve been told that “Knowledge Workers” are the future, but interestingly enough, as time goes by, that’s becoming less and less true.

Knowledge is cheap, and easily acquired. Want to learn how to build a 3D printer from scratch? You can find plans and detailed instructions online.

Want to get an advanced degree? Most of the classes you’ll need to take are available online, and many of those are free. Knowledge is everywhere. What’s becoming more important is the skill of building relationships.

As much as they’d like you to think otherwise, geniuses aren’t the only ones who have great ideas. The next “Big Idea” can come from literally anywhere. The trick then, isn’t to hire the biggest brains you can find. Depending on what business you’re in, that can certainly help, but even better would be to hire someone who can build great relationships and earn the respect of his or her peers who can harvest great ideas, whatever the source. That’s the future. Those kinds of employees are rapidly becoming of greater, more enduring value than the traditional “Knowledge Worker,” which brings us full circle.

Attracting the best and the brightest employees to your company isn’t about salary or perks, it’s about culture, and at the end of the day, a company’s culture is, in large part, driven by the ability of a company’s employees to build and maintain great relationships with each other.

Food can certainly be used as a powerful too to help foster the creation of relationships, but it’s just one of a virtually limitless number of possibilities. Honestly, almost anything can be used to similar effect. The real trick then is in finding way of using or redirecting some of the things you’re probably already doing, and allowing them to become conduits of opportunity for relationship building.

Encourage it. Celebrate it, and your employees, and most importantly, trust them. Don’t just say you trust them, but actually, genuinely trust them.

Did you know that most of the 100 best places to work let their employees set their own hours? No clock punching required, and they get a lot more work and productivity out of their trusted employees than you’re getting out of yours. There’s a powerful lesson in that.


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