Retaining Tips

The Newest Perk: Less Work

Clever businesses know that the best way to retain employees is to not run them ragged.

Wanted: Web developer for cutting-edge dot-com. Competitive pay, benefits, equity. Must know Java and C++ and be willing to work no more than 40 hours a week.

Is that a typo? Silicon Valley is supposed to be the land of milk, honey, and 100-hour workweeks, right? Not anymore. As dot-com burnout becomes a serious reality, recruiters looking to sign on weary Internet hotshots are turning to a new perk: a realistic balance of work and life.

Kim Fisher, CEO of audio application developer AudioBasket, competes for employees in staff-starved San Francisco and touts her company's more manageable working style as a competitive advantage. "Even though we have a wonderful, comfortable office," Fisher says, "if people don't get out of the place, they don't keep the ability to be creative."

But enforced sanity isn't just for the staff, it's also easy on the bottom line. "It's more cost-effective for us to retain employees than to replace them when they burn out," Fisher says. "We're not raising money to get bought out. We're building a sustainable business . . . and you have to have a certain environment to make people want to stay for the long run."

How does a dot-com get the job done and still send people home in time for supper? It starts with recruiting the right people. "We hire people who know their jobs, which makes it easier for people to get their work done in a reasonable time frame," Fisher says. "The kinds of people we recruit know how to get their jobs done and have a life as well."

By all accounts, AudioBasket's easygoing ways have been a hit with the staff: The only time the company has lost any of its 40-plus employees was when it moved offices, leading to the departure of a couple of commuters.

by Christopher Null in the September 2000 issue of ZDNet Smart Business

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