Well, to start with, what is a start-up? Some schools call it a phase in the journey of an organization, while others call it a mindset because of agility, creativity and growth opportunities which are synonymous with start-ups. Coming to your question, culture development of an organization starts from day one, and leadership teams in start-ups must be aware of it, therefore, they must not create the culture of playing favorites. It kills many startups in their infant age. On the contrary, do the following to retain your best employees –
1) Culture of flexible working hours – Give him a task, tell him the outcome you want, by when do you want the task to be completed and then leave it to him to complete the task howsoever he wants to. Make effective use of technology for task allocation.
2) Open and honest communication – One good thing about start-ups is – Visibility. Everything is visible – average performance, bad performance, favoritism, lack of direction, lack of integrity, etc and all of these withdraw a good employee. Therefore, as far as possible, create an environment of open and honest communication. Involve your employees in decision making. If there is a rule to be followed, let everyone follow it, do not make an exception. Avoid private talks.
3) Acknowledge and appreciate the good work – Do not wait for six-months or one year to acknowledge and appreciate the good work of an employee. Do it immediately, on the spot. One doesn’t need to give salary increase all the time, however, public appreciation and a small gift, goes a long way to retain an employee.
4) Flexible Benefits – Don’t be rigid with your employee benefit plans. Be flexible to accommodate needs of every employee. For example, some employees might need flexible working hours and others might need the option of working from home; a married man might like to cover his wife and kids into the company sponsored medical insurance policy but a single man might like to cover his parents into it, etc.
5) Charismatic leadership with integrity – Your employees have believed in your idea of start-up and that’s why they are with you – making that idea into a reality. They will be looking up to you for your guidance and clarity. Provide them with clarity about what you are expecting out of them and how you are going to measure if the task has been overachieved or underachieved. If they happen to find that you yourself do not have any direction and you are not a man of integrity, they are unlikely to stay with you. As mentioned previously, it’s different in big multi-city and multinational organizations, however, in start-ups, such leaders are visible. They have joined a start-up because they have skills and competencies and they are looking for exponential growth. First, talk and talk and then walk the talk.