Tides are shifting in the minds of employees and in the actions of the leadership of today’s top organizations. The fight for top talent has become less about who can offer the best salary than who represents the best ideological and cultural fit.

J.T. O’Donnell recently wrote a piece for Inc highlighting Clif Bar as an example of the kind of company everyone wants to work for. That is, a “lifestyle” employer that extends the flexibilities generally enjoyed by the founder to every employee in the organization.

So, what does a “lifestyle” employer look like, in practice?

An admission of change. Lifestyle employers recognize that the dynamics of the workplace have changed. People no longer expect to be treated like family by their employer. The idea of unconditional loyalty (and all the baggage that goes along with it) is expired. Companies like this understand that freelancing, side-gigging, and personal passions are normal, accepted parts of the work life today.

Incentives, rethought. Beyond having the right attitude, policies need to change as well. If employees aren’t working for a yearly raise, vacation, and a fancy watch after 10 years, what are they working for? Despite popular notions, it’s a lot more than a ping pong table and casual attire. It means building in incentives that match your workforce and your company’s ethos. Is remote working an option? Is there room on-site for games or physical activities? How about a place to nap or meditate? How you approach these incentives is up to you, but know that casual Friday isn’t enough anymore.

Community, not culture. Let’s face it. Even in the new world of work, people spend a lot of their time at work. So employees want the workplace to be a place that fosters them as people, not simply one that pays the bills. They want to get home from work feeling as if they’ve done something meaningful and been personally enriched in some way. It’s a subtle shift away from the attitude of finding people that fit your mold towards defining your own community with all the various shapes at hand.

A new work-life balance. Ultimately, the rise of the new lifestyle employer is about creating a new sense of work-life balance wherein people don’t necessarily work more or less than before, but where the policies are in place that empower employees to feel good about what they do at work and at home. Today’s top talent are looking for prospective employers that recognize these changes and are willing and ready to accommodate them.

Have you made a similar organizational change lately that has resulted in net benefits for you as well as your employees? I’d love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments below.

photo credit: Ping Pong Balls via photopin (license)