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Becoming an Employer of Choice: A Challenge for September

Three out of four years: done. For the last three years, Dynamic Network Services (Dyn. Inc) has placed as one of the best small companies in New Hampshire. Our goal is to be recognized for a fourth year and join the hall of fame. I hope that I can share why we do this, some things we have learned from this process, and convince you to participate.

This type of contest brings out the best in New Hampshire business and makes all of our companies more competitive. Run by Business NH Magazine, I love this competition because it creates an atmostphere where it’s possible to discuss and trade best practices. Ultimately, some new practices are adapted to our office to create a productive, efficient, and great work force. It also keeps us honest. We wanted to be an employer of choice and this annual process is a check to ensure that we remain attractive to employees, both for hiring and for retention.

If you attend the annual breakfast (which was open to participants and non-participants this February) you might think the representatives from these companies paint a picture of a self-promoting love-fest where staff and management all get along like best friends and the companies do not face hardship. That is simply not true. What is true, is that these companies (both management and staff) have taken the approach that a workforce is the single most competitive asset that a company can have.

The most poignant story was that of a company that had lay-offs, and still, the people loved the company. How? They communicated as much as they could, made things fair, and gave as many options as possible. The environment wasn’t adversarial but was as fair as possible given the unfortunate circumstances. Within time, things turned around and those people affected (either be benefit reduction or furloughs) were made whole, again, as much as possible. It was an amazing story and starkly contrasts your typical story of unemotional blanket cutbacks.

True, you hear about the companies that pay well, provide comprehensive benefits, seemingly “waste” resources on office toys, organize silly events, and promote other activities that don’t result in additional revenue for the company. While it all seems counter-intuitive, those benefits are the more overt demonstrations of workplaces where mentoring is common, people strive to get along, and there is high social capital.

How do you create a great work environment? The best guiding meme is the golden rule.

I am amazed by the number of investment and benefit structures that favor seniority and “upper management.” Implementing those benefits are complicated, create resentment, and instill a sinister competitive streak to get into the privileged pools. Our benefits are simple, comprehensive, and equal. As CEO, I don’t receive anything different from anyone else.

I also learned you don’t own those people and you cannot tell them what to do (as much as you would like to). You lease their capacities and you can only share a vision and hope they a) buy into it and b) want to do everything possible to make that vision a reality. Part of that is to pump people up and the other part is to get out of the way.

For many companies, a majority of their expenditures surround staff. Being cheap on direct compensation, fringe benefits, and the environment has a huge impact on productivity. Caring for your workforce is not just about spending money. It’s about creating communities, helping people out, communicating what’s going on, and being peers with the people that you work with. You could probably say it’s just being a good and supportive person. From the first employee you hire and on, it’s important to treat them all as partners.

Becoming an employer of choice makes you more competitive, reduces turn-over, and allows you to attract the very best people. While it’s impossible to truly measure the benefits of this approach, it is possible to measure the costs of an unruly workforce. Hard to believe that those costs are greater than just being a better employer. Look for the competition, with submissions due in September. Hope to you see you next February!


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Whois: Jeremy Hitchcock

Jeremy Hitchcock was Founder of Oracle Dyn, a pioneer in managed DNS and a leader in cloud-based infrastructure that connects users with digital content and experiences across a global internet.