If you are reading this
it’s too late and you have ever experienced an exodus of talent from your startup, then you have come to the right Sensei for counsel. I have 100-years experience worth of advice for you worked at two types of places in my short life: places where I loved and was productive, and places where I didn’t fit in and couldn’t work my magic.
Retaining talent in your startup is one of the most difficult things to do in this era, seeing as millennials are so adventurous that they find it difficult to stick with one
partner company for a very long time. But if you are thinking about the long-term, then you will understand how important it is to keep the best talent with you, no matter how young they may be – especially if the person is an undergrad interning with your company.
Hiring and retaining the best talent at your startup is a process. It begins from the very moment you put up a vacancy. Take note of the highlights in this process. They will help you in the grand scheme of things.
1. Personality fit
I am an advocate of the importance of personality tests. Before you hire prospects, ask them to take personality tests and send you their results. The results will help you, and the prospect, know early if they would be a good fit. Personality tests are free and can be accessed easily on the internet.
2. Cultural fit
Look at the prospect’s background and see if they will fit or adapt to the startup culture you are trying to create. Steve Jobs taught Guy Kawasaki this vital lesson: A-class people should hire A-class employees. If they hire B-class employees, the B-class will eventually bring in C-class employees. Pretty soon, the company will be full of bozos. Yup, that’s what he said.
3. Soak them in your vision
Every startup looking to succeed is riding on the wings of a vision, a worthwhile vision. If you want your employees to enjoy working for you, you need to dip them (heels included) in the pool of your vision. They have to understand what you are aiming to achieve, and they have to be in full support of it.
4. Give them clear objectives
It’s not enough to wet your employees with your vision, you must give them clear objectives. Sit down with them, set targets and benchmarks for measuring their performance. You are a startup founder, not Apple CEO. You have the time to do this, don’t pretend you don’t. If you insist you don’t have the time, then make out time. Don’t assume they ‘get it’. Get it?
5. Balance work and play by trying to create an interesting workplace
I’m a playful person (as I’m sure a lot of other people are too). And all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. I know you’re not Jack, but you’re pretty close, don’t argue. As important as it is for your employees to be focused on their work, and act professional, it’s also important you allow them make jokes sometimes. After the work has been completed, not before; sometimes, they have to share jokes with each other to take the edge off.
This is particularly good advice for startups with boring products/services. The main thing that will get your employees to stick with you will be the atmosphere in the workplace. Encourage your people to be cheerful and interesting. Don’t be the boss who never lets anybody have fun.
6. Give them the chance to learn and grow
Sadly, there are workplaces that, by default, don’t allow their workers learn consciously and grow. By learning consciously, I mean the type of learning where a person can track their progress and know how much they have improved.
Some startups may require obscene work hours, but still, you have to find a way to let your employees read a book or watch TED videos or just learn something new, of their own choosing.
7. Buy their loyalty and sell it not
It is not a common practice in Nigerian startups for employees to be given stock options. And understandably so, the startup tree may not be mature enough for that. However, you have to offer your employees financial options that won’t make them feel like slaves. Because the thing about slaves is, they can turn on their masters once the chance for unbought freedom turns up.
8. Prove that you trust them
If your employees don’t feel that you trust them, if you don’t encourage them to embrace their own ability to get things done creatively, it won’t be long before they will find a place that will.
9. Emphasize and encourage teamwork
Everyone longs to feel like a part of something great. It’s why success has many brothers, while failure is an orphan. On the road to success, team work and collaboration are important (link). Encourage your people to work with each other, in teams. If you have noticed, people in teams tend to bond and they usually have each other’s backs.