Don’t call it a war for talent.
Call it a quest to attract excellent people who thrive in your culture and want to stay.
Whatever you call it, the Best Workplaces in the San Francisco Bay Area are succeeding. They are recruiting highly skilled, energized employees, who then remain at their jobs even though they easily could hop to other firms amid one of the tightest labor markets in the country today. (See also: The Best Small and Medium Workplaces in the Bay Area.)
Anna Binder, head of people at work management software maker Asana, dislikes the war metaphor when it comes to talent management. Binder says it is overblown and off-base, given that it is always hard to hire the very most talented engineers, marketers, salespeople and other professionals.
Her strategy is to make Asana a place where work matters for each employee, and where every person feels a deep sense of belonging. To these ends, one of Asana’s secret weapons—er, magnetic qualities—is that the company is committed to decentralized decision-making. By giving people at all levels of the company real power over an aspect of the business, it’s easy for employees to see how their work ties into the broader company mission. The distributed approach to authority also allows employees to bring their passions into their professional life.
Binder says Asana’s “areas of responsibility” system makes the company stand out from other fast-growing tech companies where junior staffers may have to wait years before they have the kind of say they enjoy at Asana.
“It’s a huge draw for early-in-career talent,” Binder says. “Particularly in the product-development domain, this is a big deal—to own your corner of the sky.”
Binder says Asana’s turnover overall is about a third less than that at other high-growth companies in the Bay Area, and its “regrettable” attrition is in the single digits.
Given its egalitarian workplace culture and strong retention rate, it’s not surprising that Asana earned a top spot on the 2020 Best Workplaces in the Bay Area ranking just published by Great Place to Work, the global workplace culture experts, in partnership with Fortune. The top-ranking large company is Comcast NBCUniversal, followed by Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, technology giant Cisco Systems, medical device maker Stryker, and consulting firm Slalom.
Asana’s culture requires new hires to have a measure of vulnerability and curiosity, and people typically become more open-minded and growth-oriented once they join the company, Binder says. Still, it can be a culture shock, she says, for newly hired leaders used to cut-throat corporate climates where “every conversation is a territorial fight.”
What is working to hold onto talent at Asana, Binder says, is almost the opposite of combative meetings. It’s a culture, she says, where people give and receive “real” feedback, but “in a safe and loving way.”
In other words, if there is a battle for talent in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Best Workplaces are winning it by making love not war.
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