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How to Retain Your Startup employee?

Shradha Sharma
21st Sep 2012
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Someone I had huge respect for and thought is a good well-wisher of my venture (afterall building an online media business is really not easy in India), recently called a key employee in my team and asked him to join his venture. Honestly, this is not something new, though it pinched me a bit because I know this gentleman quite well and believed that he will respect if not support the hard work I am putting in to grow YourStory. But this is a hard fact of life, especially as a startup, some people whom you will value will not value you the same way. Coming back to the story, my colleague refused this gentleman and instead promised to look for a person for his team.

Now I am writing this to share with my fellow entrepreneurs on how you could safeguard yourselves in this competitive marketplace and most importantly retain your precious employees, trust me as a startup our team is our biggest asset. Some things that I have seen working for some startups and myself.

1. Put the biggest value on Transparency - Most people who will stick with you or will decide to leave you will somewhere have this on top of their mind, how transparent are you as an entrepreneur? Have you built a team which is completely insync with all that you are doing and plan to do? Do they know what is working for the venture and what is not? Do they know that they can trust you and know you are completely honest with them?

2. Honesty works - Most days as startups are difficult, most days you will also have to face disappointments, sales pitches may not yield results, their will be insecurities and heartburns. Is your team member aware of all the challenges you are facing to make things work? As you share your successes do share your failures. This will create a real bond between you and your team, they will know that we are all in it together and its our journey.

3. Importance - As an entrepreneur you will have the most limelight on you, are you sharing the attention and appreciation with your team members? Are you making them also a Star? Everyone loves their spot in the sunlight, don't deny it.. in all ways try to encourage it.

4. No power like Empower - Empower every member in your team to take decisions and take complete ownership of what they do.. I believe empowering an employee is one of the key ways to ascertain high performance and loyalty. As entrepreneurs we are mostly control freaks because we started alone and rely on ourselves to do most stuff, as we get smart people coming in the venture, its not easy to let go and give freedom from day one, but the sureshot way to grow is to ensure that we do exactly that, empower in true and real sense.

5. Invest time - As an entrepreneur its a crazy life we lead with endless things to do and manage, we are actually on a treadmill all the time, in this mad rush, do take out time to cultivate a genuine relationship with your team members, I believe that some of the people who are with you today might not be there tomorrow, but the relation that you build with them should not go away when they go away from your venture. Its easier said then done, but try it out. It's actually not that difficult.

6. Mentor or Get a Mentor - In a time where knowledge is the key to personal and professional growth, are you providing an environment to learn and grow? Maybe someone who does sales well in your team wants to get into research, do provide the flexible environment for your team to try out new things and learn constantly. I know someone in my team who came for a social media role and moved on to do events and eventually content. See how you can align the personal motivations of your team member with your startups growth plans. Also if you don't get time to constantly check on these (though I would strongly recommend that you make time), do get an external mentor and guide.

It's not really money that motivates young people to shift from one startup to the other, it's the lack of purpose and growth, if you ensure that the right purpose is there coupled with a clear growth path, you will have your colleague for a long time. Also, most often not discussed are the softer aspects of a job that motivates many young employees - respect, heartfelt appreciation, ability to take criticisms and a belief that we are all in this together, try it out and see how 'calls of poaching your team members' won't matter :)

Tell me some of the things that has worked for you as an entrepreneur? As a startup employee what keeps you going in your startup? Look forward to hearing from you. 

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