In recent years, many Information Technology and Software firms in the Silicon Valley area have been implementing innovative Human Resources (HR) policies that are aimed at creating an engaging workplace culture and actualizing a work environment that is fulfilling and rewarding. Starting with flexible work and employment arrangements and including, among other measures such as allowing employees to work on their pet projects for a few days every month, to the recent policies wherein they can bring their children and even pets to work as a means of de-stressing and unwinding.
While Silicon Valley firms were always known for their employee-friendly policies, what is different in recent years has been the business need to be competitive and productive in a market landscape that is cutthroat and extremely difficult without their employees contributing the fullest. Indeed, the IT and Software Industry is based on a business model where employees are sources of sustainable competitive advantage and are viewed as assets and the key intellectual capital that the firms possess. Thus, it makes sense for the Silicon Valley firms to implement HRM policies that are known to be people-centric as defined in the theoretical model of SHRM or Strategic Human Resource Management.
Apart from that, with intensifying competition between the Big Five of Tech, or the five firms such as Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft that dominate the tech industry, these firms have to have human resources that are optimally used. Indeed, given the fact that technology is accelerating exponentially, it is indeed a dire necessity for these firms to stay ahead of the technology and innovation curve. Thus, this calls for extremely innovative and inventive practices in the workplace which is what the Silicon Valley firms are doing.
For instance, Google allows its employees to work on projects of their choice every month for a few days which means that the creative and innovative pursuits that employees have are nurtured and encouraged. Moreover, it is sometimes mentioned that important breakthroughs such as Chrome Browser and other plug-ins have been the result of these initiatives which place Google in a strong position to compete with other tech firms. In addition, Google also has a policy wherein employees are encouraged to bring their children and even pets to work wherein the offices have crèches and pet holding areas which create an atmosphere of familiarity and congeniality for the employees.
Indeed, Silicon Valley firms have been the pioneers in creating a workplace culture that is collegiate in nature wherein the atmosphere and the workplace are akin to that of campuses and colleges from which the youthful workforce is drawn from. It can be said that given the composition of the workforce which is predominantly under thirty, there is a business need as well to ensure that free-flowing ideas and innovation thrive among the employees. Thus, this has resulted in a situation where most Silicon Valley firms pride themselves on their ability to attract and retain top-tier talent from campuses and universities.
Further, the dress down policy that allows employees to come to work in casual attire has been another feature of Silicon Valley firms in their quest to create a workplace culture that is informal. Also, employees are encouraged to participate in a creative dialogue about the workplace culture and the organizational policies as well through Electronic Bulletin Boards and Town Halls where the founders often interact directly with the employees to understand their grievances and needs as well as to seek feedback on how the workplace can be made better.
In recent months, Silicon Valley has been shaken by controversies about gender discrimination and harassment based on minority categorization which means that maybe it is time for them to rethink some of the assumptions that underlie their belief that all is well as far as workplace culture is concerned. What has ignited the debate about these issues is that after the election of President Trump, most organizations and not only the Silicon Valley firms are finding it difficult to create a workplace that is not ideologically polarized and which is free from partisan debates.
Thus, it is imperative that the Top Management of firms such as Google and Facebook along with Apple address the issues raised by some employees and ensure that they regain the tag of being organizations where creativity and innovativeness thrive. Indeed, as mentioned earlier, organizations across the United States and elsewhere as well are finding it hard to control the partisan debates and politically loaded comments from employees and this means that maybe it is time for HR Managers across Corporate America and especially the Silicon Valley firms to engage with others in the industry on ways and means to detoxify the workplace.
Lastly, Silicon Valley firms also operate in a “bubble” meaning that it is easy for employees working in those companies to be divorced from the realities of the majority of Americans who are not as well paid or as well looked after like them. Thus, it is our view that Silicon Valley firms should take the lead in anticipating future societal challenges in the same way it is known and famous for being ahead of the future. To conclude, with the Smartphone and Computing revolution, the Big Five have a golden opportunity to reshape the workplace of the future and ensure that they remain innovative through their HR policies.