Startups have been the talk of the town in the business space for almost a decade now. “Startup life” is a brand that companies are eager to embody – especially when it comes to attracting top talent. They also have highly engaged workforce (compared to the average workforce, where only 25% of workers feel engaged in their work). This increased employee engagement comes from the qualities that these startups foster. But you work at a well-established business that’s been around for decades. So how what can you learn from small, new companies? Here are 7 startup qualities we think every company should implement.
1. Hearty Benefits
To draw in top talent, many startups provide a host of incredible benefits. Specifically, robust healthcare packages, generous vacation policies, parental leave, and wellness initiatives are those that really make employees happy. You’ll notice – all of these policies work to encourage employees to be healthier, physically and mentally. When a company takes care of their own, employees notice. They’re also less likely to leave a workplace that appreciates them and has their best interests at heart.
Healthier, happier employees have a positive impact on your bottom line. They are considerably less likely to get sick, suffer from burnout, or quit. In a tight labor market, great benefits package have another super power: referrals.
2. Work Perks
One of the most coveted startup qualities is their fun atmosphere. Startups tend to embrace the mantra “work hard, play hard.” As such, they make their offices more casual – dare we say fun? – places to be. Relaxed dress codes, free snacks, and game rooms reign supreme. And they have their benefits! These things help employees take a mental break from the daily grind, improve camaraderie, and keep the corporate stodginess at bay. Employee productivity and engagement increase when workers feel comfortable at work.
Consider rolling back your button-down & slacks dress code and allowing jeans & tees or athleisure at work. If your work environment requires a high level of professionalism where formal attire is necessary, offer a rotating casual day, or double down on finding ways for your employees to disengage from work for a short period of time.
3. Relaxed Structure
Rigid rules and a strict chain of command will kill a startup. Startups need to be agile – able to adapt and pivot in a competitive and ever-changing environment. As companies get more established, structure becomes an essential part of stable operations. But it can also lead to the dreaded silo-ing – where there’s not much interdepartmental cooperation – and lower-level employees feeling unheard and disconnected.
We’re not suggesting that you ditch your org chart. Instead, implement policies that allow for quick response to advances in technology or changes in the market. To avoid silo-ing and improve interdepartmental relationships, encourage cross-pollination with company bonding events. They don’t have to be lavish affairs. Volunteering, book clubs, and happy hours are all easy ways to foster positive relationships between employees.
4. Professional Growth
At a startup, workers are frequently learning on the fly to meet the needs of their growing company. In larger corporations, employees can sometimes get stuck in a rut with their work routine. This can lead to disengaged, bored employees. And disengaged employees who aren’t gaining anything but a paycheck are more likely to leave. So what can you do to avoid turnover?
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to combat this! Match junior employees with strong mentors. Use yearly performance reviews to understand your employees’ professional goals and discuss how to help meet them. Fund their continued education in the field – their with tuition reimbursement or with paid seminars. Finally, promote from within! Doing so reassures your employees that there is a future for them at your company and they won’t be locked into a role forever.
5. Close-knit Culture
At a startup, everyone is working towards the same overarching goal. Lots of time is spent at the office, collaborating and sharing ideas. Additionally, startups tend to be made up of younger-than-average workers, with the majority of employees under the age of 40. These small, nimble teams tend to foster vibrant, fun company cultures. Altruistic behavior is common, with everyone pitching in for the greater good.
At scale, it’s important to retain that healthy company culture. While you can’t completely replicate the cohesion of a 13-person company, you can create a work environment that fosters employee happiness. Maintain transparency with open-door policies. Host fun, company-wide onsite events like office cookouts. Weekly or monthly company meals are a great way to help employees take a break from work and enjoy the folks that they work with.
6. Work-Life Balance
The best startups recognize that work isn’t meant to be prioritized over everything else in life. Family, friends, and recreational passions are, at the end of the day, more valuable than being in the office 50+ hours a week. Even though many startups do have to hustle and grind, at the end of the day, the good startups value their workers lives holistically. Respect for true work-life balance is one of the most valuable startup qualities. It also reduces the risk of stress and burnout in your employees.
Fortunately, it’s not to difficult to strike this coveted balance! Encourage your employees to actually use their vacation. Increase the number of sick days you provide. And if you’re noticing frequent overtime, consider additional hiring to take the burden off your staff.
7. Remote Work Policies
Most companies consider themselves tech companies first and foremost, from finance (FinTech) to fitness (FitTech). In fact, for the overwhelming majority of modern-day companies, workers by and large use computers to work. And, thanks to the internet, all computers can be connected. Startups recognize this and often provide remote work options for their employees. Others – like Basecamp – opt for a fully remote workforce, saving money on expensive office space and allowing their employees to work from anywhere in the world.
Implementing a remote work policy requires some upfront investments in both security and sometimes call routing software. But allowing employees a remote work option – even if it’s just a day or two a week – can increase productivity and help employees stay more focused.
Embrace the Future
As an established company, it can be hard to bring all of these startup qualities to life. But they are necessary to stay competitive! So take a page or two out of their playbook to start. Coordinating an office potluck and creating a mentorship program are simple ways to get the ball rolling. Work up to the big-ticket items, like a company-paid healthcare deductible, fully remote employees, or generous parental leave. But once you do, you’ll find that it’s easier to attract and retain quality candidates. Plus, you’ll find that employees old and new will benefit from these startup qualities – and so will your bottom line.