If you’re a startup founder, or an employee of a startup, this exercise is for you. Think about the people who worked in your startup a year ago. How many of them are still here today? What about 6 months ago? How about 3 months? Now, how many of those talent were excellent employees whom you wish had stayed?

Turnover rates in startups are high and while you certainly don’t want to have unmotivated employees continuing their service simply because you paid them an extra $500 a month, you do want to be able to retain those who can work together with you to grow the startup.

While large enterprises have all sorts of monetary incentives to dole out, startups with limited resources are going to find themselves hard-pressed to compete. So how can startup employees be persuaded to stay?

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I. Pre-empt the Problem: Schedule Regular Meetings with Employees

Yes, we understand that startup life is hectic, and that your schedule may already be filled with business meetings, but we cannot stress the importance of taking the time to hear your employees out.

Schedule monthly meetings with them. Ask about their career goals and find out about their motivations for working. Understand the challenges they face on the job as well as the parts they enjoy the most. Find out how they see themselves growing with the company and what they need to complete their tasks more productively and efficiently.

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After you’ve listened to them, make sure you address their concerns and consider how the company can aid them in achieving their goals. Let them know that the company cares about their well-being.

Don’t give discontentment a chance to pile up before trying to address the problems your employees have. A commitment towards listening to your employees shows sincerity on the company’s part in creating a good work environment. It also ensures that your employees leave the company on a good note.

II. Offer Growth Opportunities

A survey done by JobStreet in 2017 indicates that employees of larger companies tend to be happier as such companies are more able to provide their employees with professional training and a “more defined organisational structure with with various departments” enables employees to explore their options within the company.

But professional training doesn’t always have to be expensive. Some courses can even be attended for free. Look out for free and inexpensive courses and conferences that your employees can attend and encourage them to go. For a start, Tech in Asia provides readers with a regularly updated list of events (both paid and free-of-charge) to check out.

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While it might be difficult for small startups without clearly defined roles to allow employees to explore their options, opportunities for talented and trustworthy employees can always be created based on roles that founders themselves normally undertake.

An employee interested in exploring HR duties can be allowed to take part in the hiring process, creating and posting job descriptions, sitting in during interviews and perhaps eventually conducting the interviews themselves. An employee interested in business development and growth could be allowed to sit in during meetings with angel investors and venture capitalists.

Such opportunities also go a long way in helping employees feel valued and trusted as they are involved with the intimate workings of the company.

III. Provide Non-Monetary Benefits

If you’re unable to provide monetary incentives to reward employees for their good work, whether in the form of pay raises or bonuses, consider providing other types of benefits.

Increase the number of paid vacation days they can take in a year or (if the nature of the job permits) increase the number of days a month they can work remotely. If the company is expanding, offer them a position of management. Offering them the growth opportunities they desire, as indicated in the previous point, is also a non-monetary benefit.

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If you’re afraid that employees might misuse their benefits and privileges, remember that these are the employees you are hoping to retain. If they’re performing so well for you now, there is no good reason to assume that they won’t continue to perform to the best of their abilities if you show them how much you value their efforts.

IV. Show Appreciation Regularly

Given that startup life can be extraordinarily hectic, it’s important to take some time to show your appreciation for your employees.

Organise company lunches or dinners once a quarter, or if you can afford it, once a month. These sessions can double up as bonding opportunities for your employees as well. Yes, these things cost money, but they’re probably going to be more affordable than raising everyone’s salaries if you’re tight on cash.

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If an employee has done a good job, if they’ve brought in a big client or they’ve successfully organised and carried out an important event, write a personal thank you note to them and make sure they are given due credit for what they’ve done. Acknowledge them for their contributions to the company and let them know that they’ve played an instrumental role in its operations.


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