Benefits that build passion and knowledge
Founder Friday is a weekly guest post written by a founder who is based in or hails from the Silicon Prairie. Each month, a topic relevant to startups is presented and founders share lessons learned or best practices utilized on that topic. August's topic is employee benefits.
I'd like to challenge every employee and employer to think about why they are really doing what they are doing. Employee benefits almost always focus on the employee's quality of life, and in recent years, that's included perks around the office as well. I think if we really want to shake things up and take it to the next level, we need to look at how to get better at our jobs. How can any of us really enjoy work, if we're confused as to why anyone would buy our product or use our app. It's easy for the founders – they eat, sleep, and dream about solving their customer's problems – but the larger an organization gets, it's sometimes easy to forget that not everyone truly understands the customers. Try to think of benefits that will help immerse your staff into the life of one of your customers, both with and without your company's product. It may also be helpful to incorporate your competitors into the exercise, helping your employees understand how your company is different. This is a very specialized benefit, but regardless of your industry, it should be a very hands-on activity. Not only is this process important for on-boarding new hires, but it's important for tenured employees because it's easy to get lost in the day to day and forget about why we are all here – the customers. Not only will this help everyone be more passionate about helping the customer, but new ideas will percolate out of the experience. Those new ideas need be embraced by the company and rewarded, even if they don't become the next big feature for your product.
I believe another important step to having happy employees, is to have knowledgeable employees. I'm a big believer in encouraging people to follow their passions, so I've used plans in the past that reimbursed the employee for basically any educational course. I think it's important to use a reimbursement plan, with some sort of post-course follow up that involves sharing a summary of what they've learned with the rest of the team and/or company. This will help knowledge spread, but it will also let everyone know more about each other's interests. Now you could play devil's advocate and ask why would a company fund non-work related courses? It does open up some interesting situations, for example, someone who is a programmer could decide that they want to change careers and leverage your reimbursement program to help them do that. It's definitely a possibility in an open ended program, but chances are, someone who wants to change careers, could start dreading work and really be just milking the company for a paycheck anyways, so why not give them a benefit that makes them realize how much the company cares for them. An employee that feels like the company genuinely cares about them, will always be your best employee, even if they are looking to change careers.
If you can build a team that is passionate about your customers and continuing their own education, it will be much easier to take business to the next level. And don't forget to have some fun while you are doing it!
Credits: Photo courtey
About the author: John Schnipkoweit is the co-founder, CEO and Quarterback at RecBob, a company focused on making sports after work more fun. John exited his last company, Ovation Networks, in late 2011 after growing to more than 50 employees. He joined up with his Startup Weekend co-founders to pursue RecBob full time in January of 2012. John is also active with various non-profits in his hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
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Thanks to our Founder Friday series sponsor, Heartland Technology Alliance, a nonprofit working as an advocate for innovation and competition in technology and communications across much of the Silicon Prairie and throughout the Upper Midwest.