Morgan Norman is the Founder and CEO of WorkSimple, putting an end to performance reviews by providing a better way for coworkers and teams to share goals, work together, get and give feedback, and make each other shine. Connect with him and WorkSimple on Facebook and Twitter.
Startups provide a unique and exciting atmosphere for employees because they have a more hands-on approach to building a company and a brand. Instead of working for an established company, startup workers have the chance to be a part of a team that shapes the brand through every part of its development and launch. The team must possess a more entrepreneurial spirit as they are not always large in size or have big budgets to fall back on.
At many startups, every employee is a partner. It’s normal to help outside of the traditional role they were hired for. They get to dive into areas that aren’t necessarily part of their job description, and because of this lack of titles and hierarchy, being a part of a startup is a feedback culture. Startup employees have to be flexible and knowledgeable in several different industries, and possess a variety of skills, while the employer must work even harder to hire and train the right employees because he cannot be in constant hiring mode.
Entrepreneurs often fear losing employees to competitors and larger corporations. Workers today often see more job security with established companies, and if given the chance to work for a well-known Fortune 500 company, will likely accept the opportunity.
So, what can employers do to retain hired talent and show the benefits of staying with their startup company?
Proper Orientation and On-Boarding
While many startups hire people who know the job, you still need to help new employees understand your vision, values, direction, gaps and product. As with a new company or product, there is a greater need for employee education and that can only come at the beginning of the job.
Startups tend to have more work cut out for them (and less staff to get it done), so a new hire may not always feel comfortable asking questions or being trained on the job. Block off a few days at the start of a new hire’s week and have someone teach that person the ins and outs of the company and position. Giving employees the tools to succeed from the beginning should be seen as a necessary investment.
To understand how they can make good decisions on the job, startup employees need an orientation of what every team is trying to accomplish. This can help new employees assimilate into their new environment quicker and start making real contributions right away. Once you have given new hires all the tools and resources at your disposal, it will then be up to them to succeed at the job. If you do not train them, there is the risk they will feel lost and get fed-up quickly, which can lead to employee dissatisfaction and turnover.
Being recognized for a job well done may seem trivial and unnecessary — after all, that’s what you’re paying your employees for, right? Shouldn’t they always go above and beyond for a project and blow everyone’s expectations out of the water?
Unfortunately, always expecting employees to kill it may be pushing your luck. Encourage employees to set personal goals. Start with lightweight goals with no firm end dates. Ask new workers, “What do you think we should do?” Then, work on prioritizing these goals as a team. Once these goals are set, an employer can monitor and recognize an outstanding job on an as-needed basis.
This does not mean check up on your workers every day. Instead, when you do come across an exceptional project or proposal, take the time to send a quick email or stop by the worker’s desk and personally thank them for their hard work and dedication. Employees appreciate recognition for their hard work and it means a lot coming from supervisors and managers.
In addition to recognizing achievements of candidates, offering more feedback for employees in startups is necessary. Startup workers tend to have higher responsibilities. They are expected to be self-starters, so helping them improve and learn from mistakes is important.
This can only be done when sufficient feedback is given on projects and overall employee traits. Instead of simply fixing their mistakes — and not offering some light into the decisions made — tell the worker what worked and what could use improvement. Employees will have a hard time growing and becoming independent without learning where their work stands in the company.
Ditch performance reviews until you have hundreds of employees. They have limited value in your startup culture, and can’t keep up with the pace of the work that is going on. Instead, feedback can consist of a quick email or chat on a project-by-project basis. When offered in a constructive manner, criticism from supervisors and co-workers will be appreciated by employees as their expectations will become more clear.
A good employee will give 100% to work hard and fit into an organization, but also turn to outside resources for connections and learn about the industry. Being perceived as an all-star is important to most, as a strong professional reputation will open many doors for employees.
Provide employees with the resources to better their professional reputation by endorsing additional reading, joining relevant groups and participating in forums to keep them informed.
Encouraging (or paying for) relevant seminars, networking events and literature can help guide employees to professional success. Local industry and professional groups, along with startup-specific groups, are a great way to learn about industry trends and success stories. It also gives workers the chance to participate as speakers, positioning themselves as thought leaders in the space. Whether an attendee or speaker, investing in seminars for employees will give them a chance to grow and help advertise your company’s name.
Similarly, providing books about your company’s industry and general self-help or career books are also good ways to invest in employee growth.
What are some things you have done to retain your startup workforce?