Finding and retaining talent is a priority for most any successful business. In the cybersecurity field, with a well-documented workforce shortage, it is doubly important. One of my responsibilities at Anvil Ventures, a security consulting firm, is to oversee recruiting. I see firsthand how competitive the market is for penetration testers. While our packages are solid, there’s no way we can compete with everybody on financial compensation and benefits alone. Our ace in the hole, so-to-speak, is an awesome culture.
Culture is tough to define, and even tougher to build. This is primarily because culture needs to grow organically; it is a byproduct of the personalities and motivations of every member of your team. You can shape and influence your company’s culture, but if you try to grasp it firmly and mold it too forcefully, it will slip right through your fingers.
The importance of workplace culture explains why there are countless experts that have dedicated years examining it, its importance regarding employee satisfaction, and helping companies build, refine, and solidify theirs. I would encourage anyone reading this to consider if culture is a priority at their organization. Companies that take culture seriously are laying the foundation for success.
What I would like to share is a handful of qualities that are integral to the culture at Anvil. While there are other characteristics that make Anvil unique, I’ve selected these because they align with the most frequent responses I receive when I ask applicants, “What’s important to you in a job?”
Allow employees to make an impact
Nobody wants to hear, “Just shut up and do your job.” From time to time, I see people who have the “old school” work mentality deride the oft-described entitled attitude of millennials. This is not only the wrong way to view an employee’s expectation of earning more than just a paycheck, it is an attitude that is dangerous for your business.
First, anyone under the age of 40 today is now considered a millennial. If you work in technology, it may be time to shelve the “I walked 10 miles in the snow” routine.
Secondly, and more importantly: don’t treat your employees like cogs in a machine. If that’s how they feel, what is keeping them from deciding to be a “cog” somewhere else?
At Anvil, employees are encouraged to give input and ask questions. We make a point to ensure that everyone knows that their opinion is valued. We try to facilitate an environment where people who show initiative and interest in areas outside of their primary job function are accommodated. Not only do people appreciate being listened to, you can miss out on great ideas if you don’t provide people with the space to express themselves.
Communicate and be transparent
Including every employee in every conversation is not feasible, nor is it even remotely advisable. However, too often I speak with people who feel isolated. They likely have a good relationship with a manager that looks out for them, or a small group of individuals that they interact with on a day-to-day basis, but beyond that they feel relatively left out. Holding occasional high-level all-hands meetings and sending out company-wide updates is not enough to make people feel connected within your organization. Communication needs to be personal. Check on your employees, and don’t just show an interest in what they are doing; BE INTERESTED in what they are doing.
Support their development
We do our best to help our employees grow as individuals and professionals. This isn’t just providing them with time and resources for training but being an active participant in their development. Managers at Anvil meet regularly with employees to establish goals and to check on their progress. These goals are expected to be undertakings that aren’t generally going to be accomplished by the employee during the course of performing their day-to-day duties. Help them accomplish goals that are larger than that; goals that will help them move on to the next step in their career, whether that is in your organization, or elsewhere.
I believe that our focus on these qualities at Anvil demonstrates to our employees that they are valued. People feel like they are integral to the success of Anvil because they are treated as such. It fosters comradery and a sense of belonging. When individuals feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves, they are going to strive to perform well and will protect the company brand. This is essential for us, as we want everyone on our team to have an ownership mentality.
This has been working for us, and while every organization is different, I believe that most firms would benefit from following suit. You neglect making your company’s culture a priority at your own risk. As a good friend of mine who is much more experienced in this field, Britt Provost, recently said, “The culture of a company really sets up whether a company is going to be successful or not.” Maintain a workplace that will ensure your employees want to stay, regardless of what the competition is offering. Or don’t; we’ll be happy to bring them on board at Anvil.
About the Author
Jason Tyler is the Senior Director of Operations at Anvil Ventures. He has over 15 years of experience supporting people-centric organizations. Jason serves as Anvil’s “jack-of-all-trades”, performing various functions within the company and is dedicated to helping team members maximize their potential.