Startups and small businesses often struggle to attract and retain top talent. One reason for this is because they lack the financial means to pay these employees a very competitive salary. However, a strong and positive company culture may be just as important as salary, if not even more relevant. According to Forbes, companies with strong cultures see a 4x increase in revenue growth.
Regardless of your budget for employee compensation, there are many steps that you can take to establish and maintain a strong culture that fosters loyalty, commitment, and productivity.
Enable open communication
When employees feel unimportant or as though they lack a voice, they may easily become disgruntled and seek employment elsewhere. Each employee, regardless of their job title, may make positive contributions to your startup in various ways. Likewise, they may have legitimate concerns that can and should be addressed by you promptly.
A positive company culture is one where everyone feels heard and appreciated. Create an open-door policy and take the additional step to schedule individual meetings with your employees on a regular basis.
Your employees generally are not showing up each day simply to get a paycheck. They want to know that they are contributing positively to further the growth and profitability of the company. Likewise, they want to know that there is a progressive career path available through the company.
Transparency begins by regularly communicating with your employees about the current state of the company and plans for the future. More than that, employees need to receive regular updates regarding their current and hopefully progressive role within the company. Ideally, they should be able to see that they will grow or advance professionally as the company grows.
Create a pleasant work environment
Your team may spend the better part of their waking hours in the office. While they are at work and have legitimate responsibilities, they should also be content during these hours. To create a pleasant work environment, bring free food in from time to time, or hire a masseuse to provide chair massages monthly. Create a game room with foosball or ping pong tables. You may even consider allowing your workers to bring their pets to work one day each week.
There are many ways to reward hardworking employees. Beyond financial compensation, employees want to know that their efforts are noticed and appreciated. A positive word that acknowledges their work and shows appreciation can have a greater impact than you may think. You can also publicly recognize your employees, such as by creating a write-up in a company newsletter or having an “employee of the month” program.
In a startup, you understandably need each employee to pull his or her weight, and you need your team to remain as motivated as possible during the hard struggles. Actively look for hard-working and great contributions, and regularly offer thanks and recognition. In addition to words of thanks, consider performance-based gifts, privileges and even awards.
Be clear on your company’s values
Many people enjoy working in an environment where they feel as though they are making a positive impact in some way. Your company should have clear and defined values as well as a solid vision for impacting the world in a positive way. This may not be an impact on a global scale, but it nonetheless will make your company a strong contributor in the community.
Define your company’s values and goals. Spread the word, and repeat those values and goals regularly. All members of your team should be able to easily recall what your company stands for and what they are working for.
Encourage creativity and adaptability
Employees understandably need structure, but your workplace also needs to foster creativity and encourage outside-the-box thinking. According to a study by LinkedIn, when CEOs were asked, “What is the skill you most value in your people?”, they said creativity, the ability to solve problems, come up with new solutions, and use brainpower to figure things out.”
Adaptability is essential for any startup’s growth and survival. Accept creative ideas for change. Then, take the next steps to test, experiment and validate those ideas. You will be able to see what works and what does not. In addition, your team will take note of how you respond to different types of trials, failures and successes.
Have fun together
The adage about companies that “play together, stay together” holds true in many instances. Team bonding helps your group to feel connected, and it fosters an atmosphere of acceptance and open-mindedness. More than that, your employees will learn to adjust to each other’s strengths and weaknesses overall to be more productive.
There are many ways to bond, such as by throwing cheap Friday popcorn or pizza parties or hosting a game night once a month. Group crafts, escape rooms, intramural sports teams, and more can all be thoughtful bonding activities as well.
Company culture in a larger business or corporation is often firmly established and difficult to change. In a startup or a small business, you can easily improve culture through the implementation of new practices. Begin practicing some of these thoughtful ideas to foster an open, positive startup culture.