What is your secret for keeping your startup employees happy and motivated workers? Name one thing that you do. Fifteen entrepreneurs weigh in.
Have a little faith in hires
"If you hired these people, you should trust them to do their job. Entrepreneurs like to keep everything close to their chest, but you can move quicker and more creatively if you give your employees the autonomy to complete their projects with direction, but without micro-managing. Don't overestimate the cost of small failures."
Ask how they are …and actually listen
"A simple 'How are you?' means so much. Employees will either smile and say, "fine," or use the opportunity to express a concern. I've had jobs where my boss never asked that question, and I didn't feel valued. Asking such a simple question is a free way to show your employees that they are being heard."
Concert tickets, anyone?
"As a bonus for one of our employees, I decided to pull some strings and get her tickets to a sold out concert here in town. I think that giving them memorable experiences far outweighs any monetary gift you can give them. When she heard she got the tickets, I had never seen her light up as much as she did and she's kicked her work into high ground ever since."
Stretch the flexibility
"Everyone has a different work rhythm; some employees are most productive early in the morning while others prefer burning the midnight oil. Other than our daily 10-minute meeting before noon, our employees can work whenever they'll be most effective, as long as they communicate their schedules and meet their deadlines. This freedom shows we have faith in our employees, and yields amazing results."
Too cool for school? Think again
"Everyone wants to learn more and improve their skill sets, so one of many favourite ways to keep startup employees happy and motivated is to provide them with opportunities to learn. Whether it's enabling them to take time to attend an interesting conference or paying for a niche networking event, learning keeps people engaged and shows you care for their long-term personal and professional success."
Freedom in fluidity
"In the startup world, it's not always about hiring someone to fill a specific role. Rather than defining explicitly what your new hire should be doing, let them act as a partner in the business in defining their role. This allows them to focus on what they're passionate about, while still contributing what you need for the business."
Light up that ladder
"Unlike large corporations, startups have the true ability and flexibility to empower their employees and make them feel like they are a part of the bigger picture – simply because they really are. Every single employee is incredibly valuable because they have such a deep impact on how the business grows. Make your employees understand that they can grow with you as they help the company grow."
"One thing that a small startup can do – that a large corporation has a tougher time of doing – is asking employees how they'd like to be rewarded. Attend an upcoming conference? A more flexible schedule? The newest iPhone? Your employees will feel good that you've actually taken the time to get to know what they'd like in exchange for a job well done. Oh, and they'll actually work for it too!"
They don't call it happy hour for nothing
"Once a quarter, I take everyone out for dinner and drinks. After a drink or two, people start to feel more relaxed and give you feedback that they wouldn't otherwise share. It's not a trick, it's sort of our system. Everyone knows these events are say whatever you want to say and I'll listen."
Team transparency and collaboration
"Every Monday, we have a meeting to define goals and go over the schedule for the week. This is not just a time for people to report what's on their list, but more importantly, it is an opportunity for everyone to get involved in all of the projects. We give the whole team an opportunity to give their input, and allow them to add value. The result is a stronger company culture and better products."
"Let your employees work on a project of their own choice, but one that will benefit the company. You will quickly realize the unidentified talents of your workforce, create solutions to problems you may not even have known existed, and improve employee morale."
Give promotions when they're earned
"When someone has really impressed you, promote him or her with a title change or increased/different responsibilities. If you can afford it, give them a raise or bonus. Showing that you recognize their achievements and dedication in some way is important in retaining talented employees and keeping them happy."
Invest beyond business matters
"I recently offered my employees an extra $100 cash to read a book I picked out for them. The book was entrepreneurship/productivity related, and I know that reading that book will make them better employees. They get some money and a feeling of empowerment, while I get smarter, more productive employees."
A good ol' gathering at the grill
"There is nothing like kicking back and firing up the grill with a great group of people. When things are laid back, everyone is at ease and it gives you a chance to learn more about them outside of work. A company is one big family, and when an employee feels like they have a second family during the day, they then look forward to coming to work."
Are you happy and motivated?
"Lead by example by being happy yourself. Be caring of your team, demonstrate pride in the company, acknowledge achievements both big and small. Put forth the same positive attitude that you want others to have."
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab , a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.