You spend a lot of time finding, interviewing, and training your employees. So it’s not ideal if they up and leave 6 months after starting the job. You have to go through the whole tedious process again from the beginning, and there’s no guarantee you’ll find someone as good. For a tech startup, that can be the death-keel. We're all growing too fast with targets that are too high-pressure as it is, without losing precious months to finding and re-training newbies on our systems every five minutes.
So it makes sense to put a bit of effort in to keeping your team-members happy and engaged, so they stay around. If people feel that the company cares about them, they’re more likely to care in return.
With that in mind, here are our tips for improving retention. Or more accurately, looking after your people (so they look after you):
Get the right person in the first place
OK, so this is about hiring rather than retention - but it’s one of the most important things you can do to keep people happy. If you hire based on cultural fit, new employees are more likely to slot into your company culture without an awkward transition. They’re also more likely to feel comfortable and happy in their jobs (and therefore less likely to look for opportunities to leave).
Don’t push too hard
Of course you want your employees to work hard, but having unrealistic expectations about hours and deadlines can be disastrous. People are generally happy to work hard and even put in extra time when there’s a big project on, but the fact is, it's unsustainable to expect people to put in long hours every single day. Also, being selective about who you push and who you care about doesn't work here. If your engineers see you employing a "burn and replace" attitude to your sales people, while treating your product team like golden gods, it's not going to win you loyalty. Eventually they'll realise this is the 4th "Gary from sales" they've met this quarter, decide you're being a bit of a dick and start responding to those recruiters who are always hanging around the git hub forums.
Be generous with high fives and rewards
When you do expect people to stay late or work through the weekend, a little recognition goes a long way. Even something as small as a positive comment or pat on the back can make people feel appreciated - rather than hard done by. Find ways to reward employee contributions - awards and bonuses are the obvious ones, but smaller things like vouchers or celebratory cakes are good too. And remember, if your team's just pulled an all-weekender getting a new feature shipped and you start getting awesome customer feedback rolling in, share it with everyone.
Show you care (but actually)
You don’t have to hug everyone or bake personalised birthday cakes. You just need to truly care about your employees. Show this by being a bit flexible and sympathetic if they have a personal crisis, giving them the odd perk just because, and listening to and then helping them achieve their goals at work. And actually, birthday cakes do help.
Don't be afraid to challenge
Being happy at work doesn’t necessarily mean being comfortable all the time. People want to improve themselves, so push them to work on challenging projects, encourage and reward professional development and training, and help them set ambitious professional goals.
Help them with the boring stuff
Everyone has parts of the job they hate. Boring, repetitive admin tasks tend to be top of the list, along with the usefully vague "things I have to do heaps but are always hard and confusing" (read: bug fixes). Automating as many of these tasks as possible helps people enjoy the job more - and cuts out a lot of human error. Depending on your business, a CRM platform could be a good way to eliminate some of these tasks and improve your employee engagement stats. Having a policy of flagging challenges early and an openness to asking for help (in every level or department) embedded in your culture is useful here. Just knowing that your boss is totally open to pulling in someone on a short-term basis to help puzzle out an impossible challenge is often enough to give you the confidence to work it out yourself.
Do social media:workplace edition
An online platform can also be an easy way for employees to engage with each other, bond the team together and encourage collaboration. Slack is obviously good for this, but if you're prepared to commit startup treason you could use one of the hundred other options. Whatever you do, choosing something your teams actually find useful is key. A tool that helps streamline processes, share important data (eg. sales), and provides a bit of social stuff can make a huge difference to people's sense of investment in the company and each other. It’s also good for in-jokes.
In the end, it comes back to caring - and showing it. If you don’t give a toss about your employees, it shows, and people won’t wait around til you do. Investing time and money in your employees’ happiness is the right thing to do - and the best part is, you’ll improve retention with loyal employees who feel so invested in your business they're impossible to poach.
Want to find people who fit your business? Book a Weirdly demo and you’re halfway there.