In the Bay Area, you can bet it can be pretty tough to retain employees. In fact, a report by Payscale said that Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Google, and Amazon had the worst employee retention rates, and Google’s average pay was the best. I guess it’s not just about top-notch free food, free yoga, and Google airplanes.

What we’ve found at VerticalResponse, is that people have to like what they do and like whom they work with. They need to trust that the people they work with are doing the right thing for the company. They also like to be acknowledged for their part in moving the company forward. Seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

Don’t Pretend

I’ve found that when we are totally honest with people, they respect it whether they agree or disagree with something we’re doing. We don’t pretend to be something we’re not. We don’t put on suits when we meet with people; we don’t clean up the office when people visit. We are who we are, and that’s part of our culture. Our employees cherish this.

Transparency is Key

When I started VerticalResponse, it was easy to be transparent–there were only five of us in the office. But as we went through growing pains and lost people for not letting them in on company strategy and vision, we realized it’s crucial to take the time and let people know what’s going on. Now, I take copious notes in our weekly management meetings and send an email out to everyone in the company about where we are, what’s happening (both good and bad), and what, if anything, we need to do to recover. I also just started putting an incentive into the email in which the first person who reads the entire thing and answers a question about the content gets a gift card. Readership has increased, to say the least.

Give Them Space 

You can’t please everyone, can you? In our office, we live in cubeland (albeit with low walls), where some people love their own space and some hate it. For those that love it, we conform to openness and invest in giving them space so they can create. For those that want to stand in their cubes, we do the same. We also invest in open areas so that those who are feeling stifled can slip away with their headphones to a beanbag chair in the corner. Letting people work how they want within some constraints can be really beneficial. (Read this post about office spaces.)

Invest in Their Growth

Getting people to the next level is a goal that every manager may have, but you can’t get hung up on it. You do your best and hope that if you invest in their growth (mentoring, a seminar, a class), people will stay and continue to contribute. If they leave too early, think of it this way: You just paid a bit early for them to not be part of your organization, because do you really want someone on the team that doesn’t want to be there anyway?

The reality is, in order to attract and retain talented employees, you need to offer the things people need, such as good insurance coverage, free food, treats, and fun. But I firmly believe if you don’t look at the foundation of how you treat your people as creative human beings that have a ton to contribute to your business, all the perks in the world won’t keep them around for long anyway.

What’s your No. 1 way to retain talent? Share in the comments.

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