It is often when a startup hires that the trouble begins. As in any organisation, we must not forget that it is first and foremost the people who add value to a company. Small management errors can quickly jeopardise the dynamics of a company; as the founder you need to know how to build a team so you’re not alone, but also how to build loyalty and encourage your employees. Each employee is extremely valuable because they determine the development of the company through their work.
In a world where digital transformation is an everyday reality, where the amount of knowledge and information has dramatically increased (and with it the number of job offers online), it is important to make sure employees are happy and positive about their work. This competitive world of work based on salaries, healthcare benefits and holiday time has been the deal breaker when choosing one position or the other. However, things have been changing slowly with millennials aspiring to a different work-life balance, flexibility and experiences. They will join companies based on their values, culture but also look at purpose-driven ones with more attention.
Therefore, here are a few exercises that can greatly help your startup employees feel happier and more engaged in the company’s team-building process:
- Trust your employees to get the job done
If you have hired people, you should trust them to do the job you have chosen them for. Entrepreneurs sometimes tend to want to do everything themselves, thinking that they know how to do things better or that they know the market better. Learning to delegate, to trust, makes it possible to go much faster and above all to free the creativity of your employees. An autonomous employee will be much more committed to his or her work, and at the same time you will spend less time controlling him or her, which will also free you up to take a step back. For effective cooperation, think about giving your employees the means to do their jobs.
2. Ask if they need something – and listen
The seemingly obligatory 9am question of “how are you?” is used so often that it has become almost meaningless. Most of the time we just answer “Fine, and you?”. Rather than asking in the morning, try speaking during the day in a one-to-one. Your employees may take the opportunity to express a concern or difficulty. Such a simple question is a free way to show your employees that they are being heard and a good opportunity to answer their questions. Most importantly, don’t spring this conversation on your employees – give them a little time to think about if there is anything they need in advance, so they have time to consider their requests and questions. You could even schedule an ‘open door’ office hour once a week into your calendar and allow your employees to freely book in a slot to speak.
3. Offer experiences from time to time
Giving employees memorable experiences far outweighs any cash gifts you might give them. This can be a welcome bonus for your employees, especially when they have been hard at work on a project that has recently come to an end. Find out what your employees value, be it a voucher to see a live concert (when restrictions allow), a ticket to dine at their favourite restaurant, a seat at an outdoor theatre show or opera, an outdoors experience doing sport that they enjoy, etc.
4. Take into account the biological rhythm of each individual
Everyone has a different rhythm of work and life. Some people are more productive in the morning, while others prefer to work later in the day. While some people eat in 10 minutes at lunchtime, others will need a real break before diving back into work. To get the most out of your employees and ensure that they are happy, there is no point in imposing a rhythm on them that is not their own. You just need to set some limits, such as making sure that deadlines are met and that working hours are communicated.
5. Encourage them to keep learning
Continuous learning has become a competitive advantage in an increasingly competitive workplace. Everyone today wants to learn more and improve their skills. To retain your employees and allow them to grow professionally, provide them with opportunities to learn. This doesn’t mean sending them to a prestigious university for a year, but giving them the time to attend an interesting conference even if the event is paid for or give them access to a learning platform with courses. They will come back with new ideas and feel valued by your investment in them.
6. No skill limits
When starting a business, it is not always easy to hire someone for a specific job. Rather than explicitly defining what your new hire should do (although you will certainly provide them with the main objectives of the position), let them act as a partner in the business. This will allow them to do their best work on what they are passionate about, while contributing to the needs of the business.
7. Grow your employees along your company
Communicate to your employees that they can grow with the company, because they in turn are helping the company to grow. Unlike large companies, startups have the ability to show their employees that they are part of the company, that they are the company. When they are deserved, give promotions with a change of title or increased responsibilities, and don’t wait for the employee to ask for it. Showing that you know how to recognise their achievements and dedication is important to retain talented employees and keep them happy.
8. Consider their personal life
Sometimes private events may come up and overlap on the work life. It is important to think about natural events that will occur in your employee’s life such as health issues, moving house, birth, family related matter, etc. For example, incorporate parental leaves in your organizational management strategy to accompany employees and make them feel valued and show them you are prepared.
9. Help your employees move
Employees sitting on their chairs all day are more likely to suffer from burnout and depression. Moving is a great way to make your employees happier. Moving around throughout the working day is good for the cardiovascular system, but also helps mentally by relieving stress. Find out what works for your company, whether it is a yoga session before starting work, a partnership with a gym for your employees, a culture that supports a short walk around the office every hour, providing adjustable standing desks, and more; these are powerful solutions for employees to stay healthy and productive.
10. Organize out-of-work events
From time to time, invite your employees to a dinner party and don’t forget the drinks (in moderation). In a friendly environment outside the company, people will be more relaxed and available. It is an opportunity to exchange information that is not exchanged on a daily basis and to get to know each other better. This is a perfect moment to get people talking and to bring the team together.