When a startup closes its latest round of funding, three words usually flash in a founder’s mind: hire, hire, hire!
But, once you take a second to catch your breath, shouldn’t the mantra instead be engage, engage, engage?
Employee turnover takes a huge toll on companies, but it’s especially hard on startups: high costs, diminishing morale, and wasted time. Your funding will goes towards a ton of different investments, and younger companies may not be able to compete on salary and platinum benefit offerings. Engagement is the silver bullet when it comes to startup retention.
Engaging employees can be a simple and inexpensive process as long as managers recognize what motivates human decision-making. According to Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices, human decisions are driven by four core emotional needs: need to acquire, need to bond, need to defend, and the need to comprehend. Below are some low-cost tips keyed into those very needs, so you can ensure employees stay put during the time you need them to most.
1. Map an Employee’s Plan
This first tip combines two drivers from Driven: the need to comprehend and the need to acquire. One of my colleagues is an HR rep at a startup financial firm on Wall Street, and she sets a plan for every employee that comes onboard. Maybe it’s an outline for career advancement or some goals for a newly designed role. But with every employee, it’s a two-way conversation: employees share where they want to be and she helps outline what they need to do to get there. Furthermore, she allocates quarterly hours for mentorship by senior employees. Direct attention like this is a simple yet powerful way to make employees feel like meaningful contributors to a company. Everyone can see a clear path to potential bumps in salary, status, or recognition.
2. Lunch Roulette
The need to bond is human nature. In the office, this driver can boost motivation when employees feel proud of where they work. Some employees even view the office as their second family. A simple and inexpensive way to drive social bonding is a little game called lunch roulette. In the early days of Voxy, the English learning solution, the team of 10 would pick a number between pairs of 1 through 5, and the same numbers would head out for lunch together. This is a great way for different mixes of people to get together and start bonding.
3. Employee Recognition
Recognition can go a long way. All people are driven by a need to acquire not just money, but the feeling that they’ve accomplished something great. A simple whiteboard with quotas highlighting top performers or a shout out for a job well done at the next office meeting are both easy, simple, and very effective ways to boost engagement.
4. Happy First Days
Treating an employee like a VIP on their first day is a must, and if you were one of UBER’s very first employees, you were definitely onboarded in style. Just imagine its your first day and after being picked up by a private car, you find a welcome gift basket waiting on your desk. Noon rolls around and then you’re treated to a great lunch. Okay, so that all may seem a little excessive, but it would definitely hit an employee’s need to bond right from the get-go.
5. Random Thank Yous
Along with employee career plans, my HR rep colleague had one more trick up her sleeve: random acts of kindness. Every so often, management at her company will highlight a specific employee and give them a thank you card with a $25 Starbucks gift card inside. But the key here: it is absolutely random. It’s not given to a top performer. It’s not the birthday boy or gal. According to the company's HR, it’s a simple way of saying “Hey, thanks for being with us. We appreciate you daily.” When fostering a growing bond with every employee, you may tap into an unlikely human—the need to defend. A star worker, when faced with poaching from competition or aggressive peers in the industry, will defend your brand and stay loyal. When an employee is willing to defend their employer, especially during a period of growth, you can be certain they’re engaged.