Employers: Why you suck at keeping happy employees

Employers, you are doing it all wrong. Seriously. I’m surprised it is taking you this long to realize it.

First off, let me tell you why you employers suck at working with your employees. Think about these questions:

  1. Why do so many startups have such high turnover, despite high salaries?
  2. Why do your employees jump on the first offer that pays them more than you are paying them?
  3. Why, despite amazing benefits and a cool foosball table, can you not keep your whole team long term?
  4. Why do employees stand at the water cooler (aka Slack) and laugh and joke about how excited they are that it is Friday
  5. Why do employees waste hours on Facebook and other jovial office activities (like over in-office socialization)?

If any of these apply to your company, here is the reason why:


What is a slave?

“a person entirely under the domination of some influence or person” — dictionary.com

Is dominance really the type of relationship you want to have with your employees? You may not be purposely doing it, but that is what is happening. “I own you because I pay you” is what you are doing.

Have you ever thought to yourself “He or she better get this done because that is what I’m paying them for?”.

Do you realize that what is happening is you are reducing your employee’s ability to choose, and act for themselves because of fear of losing their job and paycheck? A loss of agency.

Once a long time ago there was this guy who proposed to save billions of people. He said he would force those people to do what he said and therefore they would all be saved. Yeah that dude’s name was Satan and his proposal was rejected in favor of agency — the ability for people to have choice and freedom. Oh, and by the way, Satan and 1/3 the hosts of Heaven were cast out due to this conflict over agency.

So yeah, the ability for people to choose for themselves is pretty important to them. It is human nature to defy those that would control us.

Are you giving people what they want?

Some of you try to have good a good employee environment. Here are some of the good (but misguided) things you have done:

  1. Offer stock options
  2. Game rooms — Xbox, Foosball, etc
  3. Flex hours or extra vacation
  4. Company parties & vacations
  5. Catering

Those things are nice — but that is not what people really want. Is fun and games and play really want employees want?

What do your employees REALLY want?

Once there was a very old man on his deathbed in a hospital. He had lived a long life and had done many good things. He had many children and grandchildren who had been with him all the way even to the end. Some people might say he lived a fulfilling life. Yet, this old man was filled with regret. The nurse, sensing this man’s agony and knowing he would soon die, asked him, “Do you have any regrets about your life?” The man replied, “I worked so hard to provide a living and give my family the life they deserved, and they have had a good life. But in the end, if I could go back, I would have traded all of that so I could have given my family more of my time.”

Can you imagine being on your deathbed, someone asking you about regrets and you saying, “I wish I could have worked more”???

You can ask any human being about what they value most in life and it will be their family and relationships.

So with this in mind, why are you selling employees on foosball tables, catering, and Xbox?


How do I obtain dedicated long-term employees?

Here are some of my personal suggestions — or rather things that I wish the companies I have worked for what have done for me:

Make employee work results oriented instead of time oriented.

I once worked for an old fashioned software company in downtown LA. We were forced to be in the office from 10am — 7pm. All of us employees were doomed to be stuck in traffic. Then we would work — well sort of. Work was done amid video games, office socializing, lunch, and facebook/twitter. The boss was happy with 4 hours of work a day, so long as we were in his office during 10–7. Some might say, “Well that’s cool — you didn’t have a ton of work”. But we weren’t with our family. Not only that, we were wasting our precious time.

This company had a time-oriented relationship with its employees. So long as you are here I’m happy to pay you.

Imagine if you could be kind enough, and organized enough to set weekly goals. Goals that once completed allows employees to leave and be done with work for the week so they can spend more time with their family.

Don’t you think people would work harder and waste less time in this model? Why do you want employees in your office so bad? Do you not respect them as human beings that much?

Let employees manage their own schedule

Employees running their own schedule?!? What?? Well, why not? Let employees tell you what schedule works for them. The reason for this is because people have lives. I’m not sure if you know this or not, but the DMV is not open after 5pm…

In a results-oriented environment people will slave away for you without being a slave to you.

Why will they love you so much and work so hard for you? Because you are respecting their humanity and their personal agency.

Reduce your work-week hours

Why not stand out and reduce your 40–60 hour workweek to 30 hours a week? What is going to produce better results — an employee who works 60 hours a week for 3 months before they quit, or an employee who works 30 hours a week for years. Give people time.

Make remote work an option

Stop forbidding people from working from home. Sometimes a change of scenery is exactly what people need to be productive. Do you think people really want to face that cubicle every single day? If your excuse is, “I don’t let people work remotely because I don’t get the results I want”, then that is your fault. You need to empower people, not control people. Again in a results oriented environment the most important thing is well, results.

Parting Words

In the end I think you should stop selling foosball tables, paychecks, fun, and benefits and instead start selling, “Come work for us so you can start living”. When a person knows you care about them at a personal level, they will will respect you, serve you, and give you loyalty.

What would you rather have — employees who are loyal to their paycheck, or loyal to you?