01 Sep How To Keep Employees Excited About Working At Your Startup
It can’t be about salary—so what do you do?
In the beginning stages of your business, you can’t always offer competitive salaries. So as you’re trying to get off the ground, you have to find other ways to structure your business so that early-stage employees have a different reason to be excited about their jobs.
To find out how successful entrepreneurs were incentivizing, I asked a group of founders from YEC what they build into their company’s DNA that would attract, and keep, top talent.
1. Build in Learning Opportunities
Many early-stage companies can’t pay competitively, and we were one of them. However, you can provide your employees with big projects that offer tremendous learning opportunities. For example, one of our early customer-help employees took on a lot of responsibility for support processes and frameworks, learning a lot along the way, and now leads a team of 20. This change happened in less than two years from his start date. While employees may not be able to optimize for salary in the short-term at your company, they can optimize for learning if you give them the chance, and that will not only make them happy but also improve their long-term salary potential. —Bhavin Parikh, Magoosh
2. Offer Everything but Salary
While you might not be able to financially compensate just yet, that doesn’t mean you can’t offer good benefits. Try to build in features that make coming to work enjoyable: free lunch, a library of business reading, flexible summer hours, “Feedback Fridays” for one-on-ones, etc. You can also give incentives like $50 gas cards, train passes, “Idea of the Month” awards, or beer-pong competitions. Do not, however, embellish on what’s to come. Nothing is worse than a golden carrot; employees wise up to this very quickly and know that you’re actually handing out empty promises. To be a great leader, try to recognize everyone and make them feel valued so they remain loyal to you, even when the money isn’t there yet. —Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now
3. Create an Exceptional Community
The long hours and high stress of startups means that people get to know each other very well—for better or for worse. In the best-case scenario, this leads to a team that cares about one another and will go the extra mile to help the company succeed. However, cultures like that don’t happen accidentally. It’s crucial to invest in building the type of culture where people feel connected, heard and valued. Taking the time to learn about each employee and discover what motivates and challenges them is imperative, as well as proactively encouraging employees to form healthy, collaborative relationships by creating opportunities for them to share experiences outside of work and stepping in to mediate when conflicts arise. —Martina Welke, Zealyst