Love what you do, and where you do it.

Person seated in front of high rise windows with back to camera and arms raised in a 'V' at desk with laptop

Some are calling it the Great Resignation. American workers are quitting and moving into new positions at a rate not seen in 20+ years. According to an article from The Atlantic, April 2021 set a record for people quitting their jobs, July set a new record, and August broke July’s numbers. Additional reports and surveys show that up to 95% of Americans are considering making a move away from their current roles. Those statistics are terrifying. Retaining talented people is a top priority for any company, and Tamman is no different. The people I work with are the company. They are brilliant and creative, and care deeply about their practiced craft.

The truth is, the time it takes to identify great employees, invest in their development, and grow with them professionally is gargantuan. When a talented and creative person becomes a part of our company, they add not only tangible value, but also intangible value through their buy-in of our culture and the sharing of their knowledge. Conversely, when they leave, a deficit is created. Recovering from one person’s exit is challenging, but recovering from the loss of a succession of professionals can take years. As a recent Forbes article wrote, “Ultimately, the Great Resignation isn’t a problem for employees…[it’s] a problem for employers to decide for themselves how much they value their people.”

Tamman is not a unique company for what it does. In fact, there are many IT firms or software design and development firms that do great work. Sure, our commitment to digital accessibility and inclusion sets us apart, but there are firms across the region and country that do incredible work in design, development, and digital accessibility too. However, from its founding, owners, Jeff Tamburino and Mike Mangos decided on a central ethos that they would build a company that valued the individual, and was a caring and inclusive place to work.

Together, they established a balanced, people-first focus, not merely in the services Tamman offers and the language we use, but on the ground in people’s lives. For a professional services company that earns revenue through hours worked, developing a comprehensive work-life balance approach where individual needs and the hours with family are of equal importance to billable hours is no small matter. Yet, Jeff and Mike knew that if they could formulate this chemistry; a thoughtful mix of meaningful benefits and flexible time, combined with work that demands quality and velocity, that the technical and creative professionals they hired would be more engaged and productive over time. It’s a virtuous cycle, rather than a burnout one. Jeff Tamburino has written that, ‘everyone has a right to love what they do and where they do it.’

This balanced and people-focused approach is a delicate mix to be sure and it wasn’t right for every Tamman team member over the years. The owners themselves often struggle with getting this balance right to this day. But over time, we have laid out a core model that includes hard benefits like:

  • High-quality medical plans with the base plan paying 100% of an employee’s monthly premiums
  • Wellness resources like an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  • Flex-40 scheduling that asks employees to work a 40 hours week, but gives them the flexibility to shape their schedule
  • Real investment in people’s tools and their own professional development

[I]t remains at the very core of the company to constantly examine how we can better support our people.

As well as soft benefits like:

  • A really strong on-boarding process built around relationships with co-workers and taking the time to develop understanding
  • Mission-driven work that focuses on accessibility and inclusiveness
  • Commitment to consistent communication and a ‘no wrong door’ policy that encourages questions and dialog
  • A workplace climate and culture that listens to employees and embraces humor and joy

Possibly the most important factor not listed above is Tamman’s history of breaking our own rules or policies to support an individual with their specific needs. As they are private to the individual, they’re not broadcast or made public, but the sheer number of times this individualistic approach to supporting someone has occurred I think means that folks know they can come forward and that speaks volumes about our culture.

An astute reader may have noticed that a competitive salary was not on that list above. We certainly offer that, but we also know that in our field, which prizes knowledge-based and technical professionals who are already making well over family sustaining wages, (as opposed to more entry-level and lower wage positions) there will always be a larger company who can outbid us on talent. In a salary arms race, we have no hope of winning. If someone is motivated by money first, they are probably more transactional in their approach to work. Tamman looks for professionals who want to contribute to our community and grow our shared culture.

This blog article is not a manual for others to follow. We have not come close to perfecting this model, and I doubt we ever will. But, it remains at the very core of the company to constantly examine how we can better support our people. We are constantly trying to figure out where and how we can offer more. We want to get even more personalized in our approach to benefits. A recent innovation that we are excited about include bonuses that are not cash-driven, but rather experiential and tailored to what the employee wants to do. Identifying how to do this takes more time and is more collaborative than the traditional top-down recognition, but we are finding it’s totally worth it as the outcome is so much more powerful, lasts longer in the mind of the staff person and just means more than a cash bonus.

For companies struggling through this new paradigm where workers are demanding a new way to work, there is no one policy or benefit that can be put into place. People can smell BS and reactive measures from a mile away. So, the bad news I have for my colleagues looking to retain great talent is that it will take time and effort. Developing real, tangible and thoughtful work cultures that are committed to the needs of their teams is an investment that provides returns far beyond the bottom line.

Mike and Jeff laid down the ethos and vision, but real company culture must be owned, cared for, and nurtured by the community of people at work. Our culture continues to thrive precisely because of the people at Tamman. If we love what we do, then it is our responsibility to shape the place where we do it.

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