The Playbook For Software Companies To Build A Better Place To Work

Post written by

Mark Johnson

Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Michigan Software Labs

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Our software company had the honor of being named one of Inc. Magazine's Best Places to Work this year. We want you to have a company worthy of this award, too, which is why we are sharing our playbook. Though being recognized with an award is great, the increased productivity, happier employees and satisfaction of building a great place to work will far outweigh any trophies you could win. After implementing these ideas, you will enjoy going to work and spending time with your team. Your business will grow and you will be sought after by both potential talent and other companies that want to work with you.

To keep things simple, we begin with the easy stuff and progress to the hard stuff.

1. Survey your team.

We'll start with the easiest step. If you apply for a spot on Inc.'s Best Places to Work list, once your application is received, Inc. will send out a survey on what it’s like to work at your company. Topics include "trust in senior leadership, career development, change management, and benefits and perks" as well as "financial elements of corporate culture."

Below are a few sample questions. As you can see, they’re fairly open-ended:

• How likely is it you would recommend working here to a friend?

• What should our company start/stop/keep doing?

• What do you like best about working here?

If you aren't applying for the Inc. list, you can use another survey system to get anonymous feedback from your team.

That’s the easy stuff. Now the real work begins.

2. Build a great team.

Now comes the hard part. Hiring the right people for your tech company is difficult. After you identify, interview and hire a great candidate, you need to onboard them. As you may know, this is one of the most important aspects of being a leader.

Our company hires for hunger, humility and smarts. In short, the goal is to steer clear of big egos. While we have talented team members, no one is so full of themselves that they’re beyond helping others.

3. Be intentional about building culture.

A great culture doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We’ve been learning every day since we opened our doors a decade ago. Along the way, we’ve come across a few things you can do as a leader to improve your culture.

• Listen more than you talk. We recently read the book Crucial Conversations together as a team. The book addresses questions like, “Are you listening to your team?” and “Are you asking ‘How can I help?”’ If not, these are simple changes you can make. We use a feedback app to hear from the team. Every one to two weeks, the team receives a message asking them to tell us how the week went. It’s a really easy way to begin collecting feedback and make simple changes, which can make a significant difference in the long run.

• Put your team first. Then your clients/customers, then providers/vendors, etc. Employees know when they come first and thrive as a result. On the other hand, a culture goes downhill when priorities get out of sync. One way to know this is in times of crisis. It doesn’t matter how much revenue a client is generating, when they lie, cheat or don’t value your time, it destroys your culture.

Consider offering these benefits:

• Competitive salary

• Great health care and dental insurance: Pay 100% of the premium for an employee, legal spouse and children

• Sustainable pace: We try to shoot for a 40-hour workweek and value a healthy work-life balance

• 100% paid paternity/maternity leave

• 401(k) with a matching contribution

• Ongoing professional development, including books, conferences and certifications

• Regular snacks/lunches: We spring for lunch every other Friday on our rooftop deck. We also get together for sporting events, restaurant outings, game nights, etc.

Continually work to improve your benefits based on feedback from your team.

• Set aside time for innovation. From the beginning, Google has encouraged its employees to devote 20% of their time to side projects, which is one reason why it remains one of the most innovative companies in the world. We started by having an "Innovation Day," and now we just set aside time in the week for developing innovative digital products. The team has autonomy in deciding what to build and has since built apps that open doors, show a green light on your computer that means you're free to talk and facilitate ordering lunch.

3. Don’t hesitate to get started.

Here are some simple things you can do to make your tech company a great place to work:

Take the survey yourself. Grab a cup of coffee or tea (or a beer) and see how it goes. More than likely, you will come across areas for improvement. For example, how would you respond to the statement: “The benefits offered here meet my family's and my needs.” If your benefits aren’t up to par, you may want to consider working with your team to improve the package.

Sit down and talk with other leaders in the trenches. We have a list of respected leaders — the best of the best. They have built businesses and helped to grow teams using these tried-and-true practices. We are willing to introduce them to you, if you can share what you are willing to change based on your meeting. Feel free to email [email protected] with the subject “Willing to change.”

We’re rooting for you and hope these simple tips can help you become one a great place to work. Making these important changes to your company can only contribute to your success. And the best part is, you will enjoy working with your team and watching them succeed.

Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?
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Getty

Our software company had the honor of being named one of Inc. Magazine's Best Places to Work this year. We want you to have a company worthy of this award, too, which is why we are sharing our playbook. Though being recognized with an award is great, the increased productivity, happier employees and satisfaction of building a great place to work will far outweigh any trophies you could win. After implementing these ideas, you will enjoy going to work and spending time with your team. Your business will grow and you will be sought after by both potential talent and other companies that want to work with you.

To keep things simple, we begin with the easy stuff and progress to the hard stuff.

1. Survey your team.

We'll start with the easiest step. If you apply for a spot on Inc.'s Best Places to Work list, once your application is received, Inc. will send out a survey on what it’s like to work at your company. Topics include "trust in senior leadership, career development, change management, and benefits and perks" as well as "financial elements of corporate culture."

Below are a few sample questions. As you can see, they’re fairly open-ended:

• How likely is it you would recommend working here to a friend?

• What should our company start/stop/keep doing?

• What do you like best about working here?

If you aren't applying for the Inc. list, you can use another survey system to get anonymous feedback from your team.

That’s the easy stuff. Now the real work begins.

2. Build a great team.

Now comes the hard part. Hiring the right people for your tech company is difficult. After you identify, interview and hire a great candidate, you need to onboard them. As you may know, this is one of the most important aspects of being a leader.

Our company hires for hunger, humility and smarts. In short, the goal is to steer clear of big egos. While we have talented team members, no one is so full of themselves that they’re beyond helping others.

3. Be intentional about building culture.

A great culture doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We’ve been learning every day since we opened our doors a decade ago. Along the way, we’ve come across a few things you can do as a leader to improve your culture.

• Listen more than you talk. We recently read the book Crucial Conversations together as a team. The book addresses questions like, “Are you listening to your team?” and “Are you asking ‘How can I help?”’ If not, these are simple changes you can make. We use a feedback app to hear from the team. Every one to two weeks, the team receives a message asking them to tell us how the week went. It’s a really easy way to begin collecting feedback and make simple changes, which can make a significant difference in the long run.

• Put your team first. Then your clients/customers, then providers/vendors, etc. Employees know when they come first and thrive as a result. On the other hand, a culture goes downhill when priorities get out of sync. One way to know this is in times of crisis. It doesn’t matter how much revenue a client is generating, when they lie, cheat or don’t value your time, it destroys your culture.

Consider offering these benefits:

• Competitive salary

• Great health care and dental insurance: Pay 100% of the premium for an employee, legal spouse and children

• Sustainable pace: We try to shoot for a 40-hour workweek and value a healthy work-life balance

• 100% paid paternity/maternity leave

• 401(k) with a matching contribution

• Ongoing professional development, including books, conferences and certifications

• Regular snacks/lunches: We spring for lunch every other Friday on our rooftop deck. We also get together for sporting events, restaurant outings, game nights, etc.

Continually work to improve your benefits based on feedback from your team.

• Set aside time for innovation. From the beginning, Google has encouraged its employees to devote 20% of their time to side projects, which is one reason why it remains one of the most innovative companies in the world. We started by having an "Innovation Day," and now we just set aside time in the week for developing innovative digital products. The team has autonomy in deciding what to build and has since built apps that open doors, show a green light on your computer that means you're free to talk and facilitate ordering lunch.

3. Don’t hesitate to get started.

Here are some simple things you can do to make your tech company a great place to work:

Take the survey yourself. Grab a cup of coffee or tea (or a beer) and see how it goes. More than likely, you will come across areas for improvement. For example, how would you respond to the statement: “The benefits offered here meet my family's and my needs.” If your benefits aren’t up to par, you may want to consider working with your team to improve the package.

Sit down and talk with other leaders in the trenches. We have a list of respected leaders — the best of the best. They have built businesses and helped to grow teams using these tried-and-true practices. We are willing to introduce them to you, if you can share what you are willing to change based on your meeting. Feel free to email [email protected] with the subject “Willing to change.”

We’re rooting for you and hope these simple tips can help you become one a great place to work. Making these important changes to your company can only contribute to your success. And the best part is, you will enjoy working with your team and watching them succeed.

Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?

Michigan Software Labs. Read Mark Johnson's full executive profile here....">Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Michigan Software Labs. Read Mark Johnson's full executive profile here....

Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only, fee-based organization comprised of leading CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Find out if you qualify at forbestech...