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Are you building a business that people want to work for?

When we ask leaders ‘what’s your favourite thing about your business and the biggest frustration?’ it's often the same answer – people.

It's true that managing a team isn't always easy. Different personalities, opinions, outlooks and challenges. But think back to when you first hired them, you probably saw talent, potential, and enthusiasm. So what's changed?


The harsh truth is that the frustration you’re feeling with the people in your business could well lie with the business you’ve created.

Be brutally honest: have you created a business that people enjoy working for?

If not, once the new job shine has worn off, it’s likely so will their enthusiasm and willingness to strive. Apathy, boredom, maybe even cynicism and contempt will kick in and creativity and productivity will dive.

So what can you do to build a company that people really enjoy working for?

There are the obvious things like a good allowance of annual leave, flexible hours, health cover and office perks. But these only go so far. Is it time to totally rethink your relationship with your team? Is there a better way to do business that would benefit the whole company?

In a recent Ted Talk Patty McCord, former chief talent officer for Netflix, outlined 8 lessons on building a company people really enjoy working for and there were some great nuggets in there. Here are a few of our favourites:

Your team are adults

It’s easy to get caught up in layers of guidelines and processes that you can end up treating people like children – not the fully formed adults they are. Regardless of their experience each one of your team has grown-up responsibilities and you should treat them like that. Start from an assumption that they will make good choices and do an amazing job.

You’re not there to control people

The responsibility of overseeing a team can tip over into control. But your job is to build a great team that can deliver outstanding work. Judge your team on their results – how happy your clients are, how many new referrals you get. They are the measures that matter, not questions like ‘Did you ask for permission?’, ‘Did you follow the rules’, ‘Did you put in your daily hours?’.

A career is a journey

People want to do work that means something to them, and when they have, they might want to move on. Instead of thinking about your team as captives that you want to keep hold of forever, think about creating a business that it’s great to be from. Everyone who does choose to leave will become an ambassador for the business and that will attract more of the right kind of people to your team.

Take people with you

Everyone in your company should understand the business. It brings better collaboration and agility and makes everyone feel part of your success. Teaching each other what we do, what we measure and what matters to us will us all drive towards the same thing.

Create a culture of honesty

Everyone in your business should be able to handle the truth. Feedback is hard because we don’t practice enough at it. Having a culture of giving open and honest feedback regularly lets people know what they are doing well and what could be going better. Doing it in the moment is much better than 5 months down the line in an annual review when either they might not recognise that as the ‘truth’ or they can’t build on good things they’ve done.

Live and breathe your values

Anyone can write some company values and stick them on the wall. But if you’re not living them in every aspect of your business, from the top down, they are meaningless. Championing sustainability? Make sure you’re doing more than recycling your paper waste. Committed to diversity? Make sure your board is truly representative.

Be excited for change

Nostalgia is not your friend. Harking back to halcyon days won’t make the people working in your business now think it’s a great place to be. Think about what’s next, what the dream future is, what if all bets were off you’d change about the business. It’s an ever-changing world out there and it’s exciting to be able to respond to it. Share your ambition to embrace change with your team and have some fun with it.

Patty McCord spent 14 years at Netflix experimenting with new ways to work.  Your people are your business, but do they see your company as a place they like to be or a place to be endured? Take some time to reflect on how you could switch things up to make sure you’re building a business that people want to work for.