Photo: The Italian Voice via Flickr
When you work for a really cool startup that manages to stay alive for a few years, it’s a pretty cool thing. You watch the company grow from nothing to something, and friends no longer stare blankly when you tell them where you work.
A common problem many startups have is retaining talent. Even Google struggles to keep employees from branching out on their own. Working at a growing company takes a lot of time and energy, and employees are doing it all for someone else. It’s natural that they’d begin thinking of ways to do the same amount of work for themselves.
According to a Harvard study, Performance Persistence in Entrepreneurship, most entrepreneurs get their business ideas from former employers. The researchers found that “a substantial fraction of the Inc. 500 got their idea for their new company while working at their prior employer.”
So if you’re a startup struggling to retain talent, how do you keep employees from jumping ship, especially when your budget is tight? There are a few ways to keep them loyal besides throwing cash at them:
- Offer stock options: Make employees partial owners in the company and they’ll be likely to stay (at least until the options vest).
- Keep them learning: If employees constantly feel challenged and can see how their work is benefiting the organisation, they won’t feel like they’ve outgrown the company.
- Set benchmarks: Keep them working towards a goal so they feel like they’re always achieving something for themselves, as well as for the company.
- Reward hard work: Don’t skimp out when it comes to showing your thanks. Whether it’s giving them a bonus or sending an encouraging email, let employees know that you appreciate their effort and that it doesn’t go unnoticed.
- Let them innovate: If employees get to test out some of their own business ideas at your company, they’ll feel like they can be entrepreneurs within your organisation. Companies can always benefit from fresh insights.
If an employee still really wants to be an entrepreneur, eventually they will become one. In that case, it could pay to be supportive and ask for the first opportunity to make an investment.
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