Advice for Bosses in Southern California: When You Can’t Pay Better, Be Better
Any good company will account for the investments it makes in its employees. The great ones also pay attention to the investments employees make to be part of the company. The local cost of living plays a big role in whether people join or stay at a business, and few parts of the country know this better than Southern California.
Zillow pegs the average price of a home in the Golden State at $507,700—up 7% over 2016. Prices are even higher in Los Angeles County, where more than 75,000 people left last year than moved in from other parts of the U.S. Companies have become acutely aware that more employees are willing to leave Southern California if their salary can stretch further elsewhere.
Employers can do little to tame housing prices. But they can make their organizations more fulfilling and competitive in a labor market that crosses state lines.
Look to the Leaders
At the Best Workplaces in Southern California, recently announced by Great Place to Work and Fortune, nine in 10 employees say they want to stay with their companies for a long time.
“These organizations mean a great deal to their employees because of the relationships, purpose and camaraderie they find there. Among people we surveyed at the winning companies, 94% described their workplaces as caring, and an even greater share said they have friendly co-workers,” said Chinwe Onyeagoro, president of Great Place to Work.
That kind of environment drives retention. Further analysis found that co-workers who said their company is fun and friendly were six times more likely to plan a long-term future there. At the same time, those who are proud to tell others where they work were 13 times more likely to stay.
Said one employee at Edmunds, the leading small company on the list: “The teamwork is like nothing I have ever experienced. If you need to take time off, your team has your back and is more than willing to step in and support. I also feel completely comfortable talking to my manager about anything that comes up. This place is all about the amazing and friendly people.”
The leading employers appreciate just how meaningful a job can be in a person’s life. Accordingly, their leaders do everything they can to build trust and credibility in the eyes of their teams.
“I have never worked with so many people that have a high degree of emotional intelligence, which leads to better collaboration, flexibility and respect,” said an employee at Ultimate Software, the no. 1 large workplace in Southern California. “I feel that my talent and contributions never go unrecognized.”
A greater share of employees at the Best Workplaces (87% versus 77%) said their managers genuinely seek out employees’ ideas; and there’s a similar split among those who say their bosses keep them consistently informed. The takeaway for Southern California employers eager to retain talent: Inclusive decision making and honest, consistent communication from leaders are essential for maintaining an environment where team members want to stay.
The Best Workplaces also offer buy-in in a more direct sense. Their employees scored them 27% higher than peer companies on whether co-workers feel they receive an equitable portion of the profits. Those who said they receive a fair share of the company’s success were twice as likely to plan a long-term future with their employers.
Making a meaningful investment in employees can be as straightforward as performance bonuses or retirement contributions tied to revenue. Or, it can take the form of more creative programs integrated into employees’ day-to-day work. At finance technology company BlackLine, for example, salaried staff receive $3,000 every year for seminars, conferences and training. People at this Best Workplace can take unlimited time off and also award points to their hard-working peers that can be exchanged for gift cards.
Working in a friendly and rewarding organization will only grow more relevant to California job seekers as their living costs continue to rise. Despite the challenge, the Best Workplaces in Southern California leverage a fulfilling career experience with the region’s quality of life to earn the loyalty of employees. As one co-worker at Patagonia said, “The location of the Ventura headquarters is two blocks from world-class surf, yet a short drive to the mountains, with hiking, camping and accessible climbing routes. … I can’t think of a better location. All the employees seem happy to be here. Everyone is so friendly and personable. It is a very welcoming campus. It is truly an inspiring place to work.”
Tabitha Russell Wilhelmsen is Certification Program Manager at Great Place To Work, the longtime research partner for FORTUNE’s annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For and other Best Workplaces lists, including the Best Workplaces in Southern California.