By Kirsty Senior
As a startup, it can be tough to compete with the bigger businesses out there when it comes to offering attractive salaries and incentives to keep employees on board. But while you may lack big budgets, there’s still a lot that you can leverage to help you hold on to your startup staff.
Play to Your Strengths
One advantage of working for a startup is that it’s often easier to feel like you’re making a real impact within the company. Thanks to a smaller workforce and relatively flat hierarchy, employees can feel like they have more of a voice within the company and can contribute towards decisions. So, make sure they’re listened to. Provide opportunities for everyone to contribute their thoughts.
The bigger the impact people feel they’re making, the more invested in the business and committed to its success they’re likely to be, making them far more likely to stick around.
Say Thank You
Appreciation goes a long way. Feeling undervalued has a huge impact on employee morale and job satisfaction and can be a fast track to a resignation. So regularly thank staff for their hard work, both verbally, and — where budgets will allow — with small tokens of appreciation, be that drinks on a Friday afternoon, a monthly staff lunch or gift vouchers for stand out achievements.
Hire Good Managers
As well as bringing skills and experience to the table, you need your managers to bring excellent leadership skills. If they can encourage and motivate their team, support them when they encounter difficulties and help them to develop, you stand a far better chance of retaining your staff.
Encourage Relationship Building
If you can create an environment where friendship can develop, your staff are likely to enjoy work so much more. Organizing social events, away days and getting involved in charity fundraisers together can all be ways to help your staff get to know each other better and form stronger bonds.
The other side to this coin is recruiting for cultural fit, not just ability. It can be hard to get a strong feel for a person in the artificial setting of an interview, but asking questions about how they’d approach certain situations, what motivates them, or how they’d define success can start to reveal elements of their personality and values. Do these align with your company values and the personalities you already have within the business? Can you see your candidate gelling well with your current team?
Encourage Autonomy and Allow for Flexibility
Empower your staff to make decisions for themselves and avoid a culture of micromanagement from setting in. The more autonomy someone feels they have in their role, the more motivated they’re likely to feel and therefore the less likely they’ll be to turn their attention to other opportunities.
Also think about how you can build in greater freedom and flexibility for your employees. For example, if it’s viable, consider allowing your staff to work remotely a few days of the week. Not only does this show that you trust them enough to get on with their work unsupervised, but it can help them to build a better work-life balance if they can avoid a stressful commute a day or two a week.
Which leads us on to our next point…
Show You Care
Working for a startup can be tough. It can be a lot of hard work, uncertainty and long hours, and if people feel passionately about the company’s success, it can be easy to start prioritizing work above all else. Yes, it’s great to have a fiercely committed workforce, but you also need to be aware of burn out.
Encourage your staff to be mindful of their wellbeing – physically, mentally and socially – and think about what you can do to help. What flexibility can you offer to make things easier for parents to juggle family commitments alongside work, for example? Would a mental health policy be a good way to demonstrate that you understand people can struggle with mental ill health, just as they can physical, and that you want them to feel that they can be open about these issues.
By showing you care about your team as individuals, you’re far more likely to be rewarded by their loyalty.
You Don’t Need Big Budgets
Respect, good communication, offering support and giving thanks; they don’t cost a thing. And as a smaller, more agile business where everyone knows each other, it can be easier to excel at these compared to a larger business where legacy processes can feel restrictive and demoralizing. So, while you may not have the budget, you’ve got a great opportunity to foster a culture that people love to be and stay a part of.