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Lessons employee benefits professionals can learn from Silicon Valley

Team members at work in Silicon Valley enjoying table tennis as one of the perks of an employee benefits initiative

Silicon Valley is known as a hotbed of innovation, home to some of the world’s biggest, not to mention, fastest growing companies. It’s also made a name for itself as being at the forefront of modern business practice. From employee benefits, to office design, many Silicon Valley businesses are praised for their forward thinking approach to running a business. But are any of these ideas applicable to the world of HR? Here’s 5 lessons that employee benefits professionals can take from the valley:

1. Empowering team members
‘Agile’ is a buzz word amongst Silicon valley startups that refers to a project management style focussed on empowering team members to make decisions, whilst at the same time breaking projects down into small chunks. This emphasis is on communication and coordination rather than top-down management and is all about empowering employees to have more control over their own work. There are many parallels that can be drawn between this and best practice in employee engagement. For example, giving team members ownership in reward and recognition – such as the opportunity to nominate high performing colleagues for public awards – encourages engagement and conveys a sense of trust.

2. Encouraging collaboration
From Marissa Mayer to Steve Jobs, the belief that collaboration encourages creativity has been a strong one in the some of the world’s most successful tech startups. Steve Jobs designed the offices of Pixar with this very concept in mind, encouraging random encounters amongst workers to spark creative ideas and collaborations. Team collaboration is also crucial to the success of employee engagement strategies and empowering team members in planning and implementing is an effective way of achieving this.

3. Creating company culture
Free beer and ping-pong tables have become a cliché of Silicon Valley but they convey an important message. These companies value workplace culture, both in terms of attracting and retaining the best people, and also in terms of creating an environment that is conducive to hard work and creativity. As a result the Facebooks and Googles of the world value employee benefits and the importance of reward and recognition in fostering an engaged and motivated workforce. From offering on-site childcare to unlimited paid leave these organisation go above and beyond what is expected of them because they realise that it is important get the best out their workforce.

4. Take happiness seriously
Google famously employed a ‘happiness guru’. Chade-Meng Tan joined the company as a programmer but quickly became involved in fostering company happiness where, amongst other things, he implemented a company-wide mindfulness programme. This type of focus on employees’ mental and physical well-being is becoming increasingly popular in the employee benefits world where professionals understand the benefits of tailoring voluntary benefits, salary sacrifice and concierge schemes towards giving employees a happy and fulfilled life outside of the office.

5. Embrace tech
Tech has been at the forefront of Silicon Valley’s success. Using modern technology to realise their intellectual and counterculture ideals is at the heart of the Californian tech community’s philosophy, from revolutionizing the way we communicate, to how we order a taxi. It also has a vital role to play in fostering better employee relations. From facilitating the collection of hugely insightful management information, to encouraging social recognition of hard work, tech has an important role the play in any modern employee engagement strategy.

Learn how Anglian Water leveraged technology to increase workplace engagement: 

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