3 Creative Workplace Policies that Lure Knowledge Workers

For a long while, it was Silicon Valley companies and tech-oriented startups that lured young digital specialists with perks ranging from in-office massages to ping-pong tables to generous stock options. The Great Recession interrupted much of that, and as the U.S. market for knowledge workers continues to tighten with the slow economic recovery and the digitization of just about everything, companies are getting smarter about the best way to attract and retain these prized employees.

Here are three examples.

1. “Firm 40” workweeks. More small and mid-market companies are trying a “radical” management idea: a 40-hour work week. But the twist, The Wall Street Journal reported, is that they’re placing strict limits that encourage workers to focus fully on their jobs when they’re in the office and to unplug totally when they leave—in stark contrast to the “work-life integration” policies so in vogue as a way for a company to get its employees essentially on call full-time.

This “firm 40” philosophy includes demands that employees take no breaks for Facebook or online shopping, but also the expectation that they’ll leave promptly after an eight-hour day. “You give us 40,” Laura Lawson, chief people officer of United Shore Financial Services in Troy, Mich., told the Journal. “Everything else is yours.”

“A firm 40 philosophy demands that employees take no breaks for Facebook or online shopping, but also promises that they’ll leave promptly after an eight-hour day.”

2. “Weekly vent reports”. A San Francisco-based app-development company has established these as a way to give employees a real voice in what the company does, so that their complaints and suggestions are heard. Once a week, management at Appster goes through the reports and the whole team discusses each comment together—out loud. Co-CEO Josiah Humphrey said that the practice “is really alleviating the pain of employees feeling unheard, as if their opinions don’t matter.”

3. “Sentiment-analysis software”. A new application of big data being used by a host of companies, including Intel, Twitter and IBM, is software that gauges how employees feel about everything from diversity efforts to their prospects for promotion. According to the Journal, such tools let HR managers analyze text such as internal comments on blog posts or responses to open-ended questions on employee-feedback surveys to get a reading of where management can make changes to improve the likelihood that employees will remain enthusiastic about the company and ultimately stay there.

“Making sure that we know what employees expect out of their experience at Twitter and the degree to which we’re living up to those expectations is incredibly important to us,” Shane McCauley, director of people systems and analytics, told the newspaper.

As hiring of knowledge workers picks up, expect such innovations to proliferate. And you’ll have to get creative if you want to hire and keep them going forward.


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