The problem of what a company could and should offer its employees is wrapped up in complex political and social concepts that go all the way to the debate between capitalism and socialism. At Paiyak Development, we tend to run on the socialist side of things, and I will enjoy writing a few posts about running a socialist business in a capitalist market someday. But first I want to concentrate on the very basics that a web development company needs to offer its employees, no matter what economic and social values that company holds.
When considering the employee-employer relationship, the employer must meet certain basic needs of their employees. If they do not meet these needs, they are at a high risk for losing quality talent. Whenever we talk about needs, I enjoy referring to Malsow’s hierarchy of needs. Below you will see how that hierarchy applies to what you provide to your employees.
Security: Physiological and Safety
Technology has greatly increased the number of freelancers and self-employed individuals in the past few years, so much so that it is predicted that by 2020, half of all workers in the U.S. and U.K. will be self-employed. Since it is technology that is allowing a wider reach for freelancers, it should come as no surprise that most of the leading areas for self-employment are web development, design, and content.
However, there are still individuals who give up the freedom of self-employment to continue to work in traditional models of employment. Every individual has their reasons, whether it is that they do not want to field and work directly with clients or they want the companionship of a close team. One of the top reasons many people stay in traditional employment models is economic security. Employees have a right to feel secure at their companies, and if they do not, you will surely see them leave sooner rather than later.
Security involves creating a safe work environment, where your employees can feel free to interact with their coworkers without hostility. With the increase in remote work, creating the optimum office environment can be difficult. Add to that the number of young professionals running web development businesses. Many employers begin as freelancers and have much more experience with their product than management. They value casual work environments and there is much overlap between work and personal life. All of this makes it difficult to ensure an emotionally safe working space, but it needs to be an employers priority.
The second aspect of security involves monetary compensation. Young companies need to take risks in order to flourish, however, those risks should not put your employee’s compensation in question. It is a balancing act, to make your company grow without taking unnecessary risks.
Work-life Integration: Love/Belonging and Esteem
Gone are the days of work-life balance. They have been replaced with work-life integration. Currently, there are a lot of questions regarding the difference between work-life balance and work-life integration, as well as a fear that work-life integration can lead to employees becoming workaholics. Work-life balance is an outdated term that assumes that work and personal life are always on opposite ends of a fulcrum, and your time and energy need to be evenly balanced between them. Work-life integration recognizes that employees in the tech industry can effectively work at any time from any place. It recognizes that employees take their work home with them, that they regularly check their work email over the weekend, and that they are hesitant to take a vacation, even when companies offer unlimited vacation days.
One main aspect of implementing a fair work-life integration policy at your company is taking the time to understand your employees. Every company and every employee will utilize slightly different aspects of work-life integration. However, here are some that you should consider:
- Liberal remote work policies. Don’t limit remote work policies to traditional family issues or your employee being sick. Instead, allow them to explore, meet new people, and reconnect with themselves. It can give you more dedicated, creative, and motivated employees.
- Unlimited vacations. You don’t feel like you are ready to offer unlimited vacations? Fine, how about extended vacations by allowing your employees to work remotely?
- Increased social functioning at work. Let your employees get to know each other and experience the thrill of working as a team with members that they respect. Taking five days for the last WordCamp Europe allowed the majority of our team to break the ice and bond with each other, increasing our effectiveness at work.
By respecting your employee’s desire for work-life integration, you allow them to satisfy their basic need for love and belonging, both in their personal life and through their relationships at work. Furthermore, you begin to allow them to gain esteem through their outside pursuits and by developing a natural passion for their profession.
Professional Development and Stimulation: Esteem and Self-Actualization
Once the basic needs of a person have been met, they are able to move forward into self-actualization. This is the process where an individual integrates their real self with their ideal self and involves self-reflection and a definition of values. Self-actualization is not something that can be achieved solely in a professional atmosphere. However, it is necessary for the work atmosphere to support reflection and growth that can lead to self-actualization. One of the ways that employers can do this is to offer plenty of opportunities for professional growth and stimulation.
When offering opportunities for growth, you need to go beyond the basic skills of the job. These need to be opportunities for your employees to stretch their creative skills, to challenge their current work methods, and to discuss with others the current goals and ethics of their profession. This type of development is essential to creating a healthy, long-lasting bond with your employee that will win their loyalty and increase their productivity.
Obviously it is not your job as an employer to fulfill all of your employees’ needs. However, if you are aware of them and build a business model that takes their needs into account, you have a greater chance of stability and future success in your company.