As companies grow, staff policy grows, rules emerge. When Yoast was just a small company, we did not have any rules. Our thoughts about HR only contained one sentence: if you are good to your employees, they’ll be good to you. Nowadays, we have a proper HR-department, we do a yearly staff survey and we have pension-plans and sickdays-administration. And despite of all of our policies, rules and (let’s face it, some terrible) bureaucracy, we really try to stay true to our original HR policy.

This post is the second post in a series about company culture. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of knowing your colleagues. In this blog post, I’ll write about how to keep a friendly and personal approach in your HR policy as your company is growing.

Staying true to our original thoughts

It was rather daunting to me to stay true to the ideas we had when we first started out as an employer. In the beginning, we didn’t feel like we actually knew what we were doing. And talking to ‘big, established companies’ did not help us much. Let me tell you a little story.

Three years ago, we decided we wanted to become the best employer of the year (in the Netherlands). Michiel (one of our partners at Yoast) and I went to the award ceremony. We did not win. Not even by a longshot. And it wasn’t because we were a bad employer. But we were so very different from all of the other companies. One company developed an app that helped colleagues give compliments to each other. Another company wrote a book on how to help your employees grow and evolve in 5 simple steps. The CEO of that company spoke in acronyms the entire time. I did not understand a single thing he said. We were flabbergasted. All we had was: ‘if you are good for your employees, they’ll be good for you.’

Michiel and I did not stay for the drinks after the ceremony. I felt really intimidated. All these people were talking about HR as if it was rocket science. It seemed that in order to win the award, we at least had to write a lengthy essay with a lot of complicated acronyms. I already wanted to put pen to paper. Michiel brought me back to the real world. ‘These companies are different from Yoast. They do awesome things and they probably also are great employers. We just do it differently. Just because our words aren’t as fancy, doesn’t mean the HR policy is bad.’

Of course Michiel was right. He usually is. So, we decided to keep it simple!

What does being good mean ?

For Yoast, being good to your employees means that you treat them with kindness. So what does this mean? For starters, we think it is important to pay employees a decent salary. Equally important is to give them the opportunity to combine work and caring for children. Lots of people work part-time at Yoast. We provide a healthy lunch and fresh fruit everyday. We have our own gym and offer fitness-lessons with a professional coach. We have a budget (10 % of the salary) that allows people to follow courses or to get some coaching (internal or external). We try to discourage our employees from working late. Usually our offices are empty when the clock strikes 5.

We really want people to feel at home at Yoast. That’s why we organize parties, outings and events to which our employees are invited to bring their families. We try to get to know everybody. Within the first two months of people working at Yoast, everybody in the managementteam wil sit down and have a chat with a new employee. The chat doesn’t have to be about work, I usually ask people about their family, their hobbies and the thinks they like to do outside of work. I just want to get to know everybody. I want people to feel welcome.

And this works. Most people like working at Yoast. Few people leave. People are committed, loyal and willing to work the extra mile if needed. We actually benefit from it as a company. I am convinced that our employees work harder because we treat them well.

And then the company grew…

We now have 85 people working in the Wijchen offices. We want to remain the same employer. But it is impossible for me to know everything about everybody. I used to know when someone’s father was ill. I knew about every break-up and every sick kid. The number of employees changed that. We have middle-management now. And rules. Because if people get sick, our insurance companies pays their salaries. But we need to report and administrate and do all the things.

That doesn’t mean our HR-policy had to change though. Our middle-management just really needs to understand that HR policy. Luckily for them, it’s only one sentence :-). And, the people we hired as our managers are also kind. The have lots and lots of compassion and empathy. People are genuinely nice at Yoast. Kindness spreads.

Being good pays off

Lots of people think we’re crazy employers. Some even say we’re spoiling our employees. Others seem to think that having an HR-policy of one sentence is ridiculous. They believe that one needs to have some fancy acronyms for it to be a proper policy. But hey, it works for us!

Being good to everybody pays off. People like working for people that are kind for them. They’ll be kind in return. So, we may not have won the best employer of the year award. I don’t think we’ll ever win such a prize. Yoast has a strong legacy of coming in second. But in the end, happy and loyal employees is the only award we really want. The even agree to dance on stage. Yoast has THE best employees there are!

Team Yoast dancing on stage at the end of Yoastcon 2019

Published by Marieke van de Rakt

Marieke is partner at Emilia Capital. She is an investor, an entrepeneur at heart and a marketeer. She has a PhD in social sciences and is the mother of four kids. Next to that, she's a feminist, a ballerina and a diet coke addict.