They say that good help is hard to find. And while that is very true, it is even truer that good help is hard to keep. It becomes even more true when it is referring to startups. And that is just one of the challenges startups have to face. By its very nature, a startup is an unproven venture. Quality help will want certain assurances such as:
- There will be ongoing work tomorrow, and into the future
- They will be paid adequately, and on time
- There is room to grow with the company
Startups can’t really promise any of that. They are surviving on venture capitol, one round at a time. If you are going to convince a top engineer working for one of the major tech companies to jump ship and work for you, there are some things you will need to have in your favor.
You will need a big idea that feels like an inevitable sure thing. Or, you will need an important idea that makes other jobs seem trivial by comparison. And even with those things, you are going to need a heck of a sales pitch that allows your prospective employee to catch the vision you have for the future.
To keep them, you are going to need at least three more things:
Regardless of the amount of money you pay, no one wants to feel their efforts are being taken for granted. Trophies are just one form of recognition that is used from youth sports events to awards for top entertainers, and everything in between. There is no reason your company shouldn’t use them as visible tokens of recognition for a job well done.
This type of recognition takes the guesswork and anxiety out of the age-old question, how are things going with this job? Visible signs of recognition and achievement are tangible ways of knowing that things are going well. And when a person knows for certain what it is they did right, they will be eager to repeat the action, and do it even better the next time.
There are things more important than money. Many people quit high-paying jobs to strike out on their own. They might even work for someone else for lower pay if it gives them the responsibility and authority over an aspect of the job they really care about.
To keep your best employees, you are going to have to give them some amount of authority over an aspect of what they are doing. Authority is about trust. It is about independence. When you give a person authority, you are saying that you trust them enough to make sound decisions about important things.
There are few draws more enticing than authority. The one in authority also is the one with the responsibility. We do our best work when the work really matters. Many people thrive on responsibility. And they will work harder and stay later to prove themselves worthy of that trust. If you want to keep great talent, give them authority.
No one wants to think they are stuck in a dead-end job. Doing the same job year after year is not especially stable nor comforting to the one stuck doing that job. For one, the world changes. And you have to change with it. If you never expand your usefulness to the company beyond that for which you were hired, you will have nowhere to go when that job is eventually reduced or eliminated.
Second, if the company never sees you as worthy of more responsibility, that is a problem. And it usually ends badly. Don’t leave your best workers languishing in a state of stagnation. Make sure they understand that they are not only appreciated, but that they can advance within the company. If they have no chance of upward mobility, they will opt for outward mobility.
Good help is hard to find. But when you do, be sure to keep it by offering recognition, authority, and advancement. If you don’t, your competitors most certainly will.
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