By Kayla Matthews
Keeping good talent is tough for any business, but when you’re an emerging startup, it can be a make-or-break matter. Losing the person who drives innovation or puts the whole team at ease can cripple a promising operation in its youth, and as a leader it’s your job to stop that.
So what can be done?
Sometimes you have to think outside the box when you can’t throw money at people. It won’t surprise you to hear that the world of startups relies heavily on flexibility and the attraction of new ideas to retain talented people who value their stake in the company. Here’s how you can realize these ideas at your own startup.
1. Be Choosy About Management
When you’re a startup, every member of your team is critical, but for you to do the job of leading the company you can’t always spend your time overseeing each individual. Stressors are high in this environment, and while many startups enjoy a high-energy culture that lends itself to breakthroughs and rapid growth, that takes a toll on employees. This is why you need excellent management.
Managers who know how to motivate and encourage their direct reports are essential for your company to succeed. Think of them as an extension of your own role and empower them as your direct reports. A strong management team will go to any length to shape procedures and policies in a way that lends itself to productivity by listening to their employees, understanding what works and acting when change is needed.
2. Encourage Personal Growth
Speaking of listening to employees, a startup is often attractive because of the opportunity for growth that a startup presents. Workers have to push themselves and wear multiple hats. In doing so, they pick up valuable resume builders. If you’re not careful, they’ll take those new skills and walk right out the door.
But many people don’t. Startups that succeed in keeping good people understand why their people are learning these new skills, how they plan to use them in their career and what the next challenge is after an employee has advanced.
If your management team can stay one step ahead and continue to provide learning opportunities other places can’t, employees will remain engaged. Run out of new skills in one area? Throw a rockstar employee into something a little foreign to them and watch them thrive on new challenges.
3. Be Social
The company that hangs together, stays together. And in a startup environment you might just be hanging together working twelve hours into the day because the team is small and things need to get done. We’re not saying that should be an all-the-time thing, but the flexibility of a startup environment should allow you to make the workplace fun and less rigid.
That means you need to spend some time putting work down, too. Get the team out on the town, or even have a gathering at someone’s home if it’s small enough. The opportunity to create strong bonds that a startup presents is unique to this size and type of business. Don’t waste that opportunity. Build strong relationships with your team.
4. Incentivize with Vesting
Vested options are perhaps the most drastic, but also very effective means of ensuring that people stick around. Many startups offer stock options as part of their compensation package. If the options mature too quickly, people are encouraged to take their money and run. So create a plan wherein their shares increase across multiple years and employees can only keep them if they stay with the company.
Companies in the San Francisco area where tech startups abound have been said to use a four-year strategy that vests after the fourth year and then restarts at a higher quantity of stock.
However you choose to do it, the only way you can go wrong is by not realizing the importance of your employees in a startup. Hiring the wrong people can completely sink your operation, so you’ve got to choose wisely. The best selected employees can’t help you if they all leave, so give them every reason to stay with cool workplace perks, a friendly culture that embraces productivity and some exciting alternative compensation!
About the Author: Kayla Matthews writes about communication and workplace productivity on her blog, Productivity Theory. Her work has also appeared on Talent Culture, MakeUseOf, The Muse and Fast Company.