What can you do with 90,000 hours? For most Americans, it's work. The average American will spend roughly one-third of their life clocked into their 9-to-5. But at what cost?
With so much time spent at the office, it's important to evaluate the quality of life your job, and more importantly your employer, offers you. This got us thinking about a little thing called "employee experience." It's nothing new but it's something more and more companies have begun to focus on—especially within startup culture.
Gone are the days when foosball tables, unlimited vacation policies and beer-on-tap dictate what startup culture is and is not. While nice, these things can be superficial in a company's efforts to create a positive employee experience. Now, employees and employers are focused on the things that matter: flexible work opportunities, equal pay, medical and dental benefits and equity.
We chatted with Ben Kochanowski and Jakob Rodseth, co-founders of Neon, a Detroit boutique software development agency founded on the belief that working should feel less like work.
"At Neon, we view the employee experience as the overall quality of that third of an individual's life, their struggles and triumphs within the dedicated spaces of productivity in our society, and the fairness and legitimacy of the social relations into which they enter while being productive," Rodseth said.
Interested in what else Neon had to say? Let's dive in.
re:purpose: What does employee experience mean specifically within tech startups?
Neon: Tech businesses provide relatively high compensation & benefits packages, office perks, and more in hopes of winning over top talent. However, once they’ve hired talent, there can be a total reversal of attitude. Good employee experience in tech startups requires an awareness of this behavior by businesses and the particular oddities of working in tech in parallel to an extreme commitment understanding employees as individuals.
re:purpose: How do startups maintain a positive employee experience during growth periods?
Neon: When a company scales, oftentimes barriers of scale can prevent individuals from raising concerns with management or other employees. A healthy flow of feedback and a genuine say in the direction of the company from the bottom up can help employees feel empowered and protect their overall experience.
re:purpose: What's Neon's approach to healthy employee experience?
Neon: Our team is empowered in 3 ways. First, they're free to, and are encouraged to, self-organize their teams & offices, make decisions and operate within a system of decentralized authority. Secondly, they tailor their compensation to their own needs and preference, so they have the ability to decide if they prefer more salary over equity, or PTO over bonuses, while their compensation is still directly tied to their value they bring to the company. Lastly, employees are governed through consent, not coercion, and all levels and forms of leadership are held accountable by employees.
re:purpose: How does employee experience affect the Detroit startup community?
Neon: Poor employee experience is symptomized by high turnover, low morale, lack of passion, and ultimately the degradation of team and company performance. Any of these can be company-killers. Startups are particularly vulnerable. It might be possible to strong-arm a team to get a product out the door, but building a single product is a far cry from building a built-to-last company. Through a true commitment to employee experience, Detroit startups have the opportunity now to reinvent the tech company model and maybe even take on both coasts in the near future.
Not sure if you're providing a good employee experience?
No worries. According to Neon, correcting starts with 4 simple questions.
What to Ask Yourself
Are my teams consistently raising issues with their experience and when they do, are they empowered to solve them without my approval?
Do I have to use implicit or explicit disciplinary actions to get my teams to work the way I want them to, my boss wants them to, or the company wants them to?
Ask Your Team
Do they feel connected to their work, workplace community and the company as a whole, or do they feel alienated and disconnected?
Do they know, agree with and believe in the mission, vision and goals of the company?
Have questions for Ben, Jakob or the Neon team? Shoot them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.