From the Big Resignation to quiet quitting: employees across all industries are in the business of reevaluating their options.
As a startup, you’re looking to build a team that helps you build things from the ground up. You need people on board who are familiar with processes, clients, the history, and the product. In other words, you need people to stick around – and be proactive.
What you need for that, are engaged employees.
In this article, we’ll look at why this is important for startups, and how to actively work on employee engagement. We’ll give you some ideas for activities, and some tips to keep in mind all year round.
Why culture and engagement matter so much
The context we’re in heavily influences what we do. In a negative environment, it’s almost impossible to do positive things–and to do any truly great work without burning out.
That’s why culture is so important: it is the context in which your employees decide how to act–and since we’re all so heavily influenced by the people and vibe around us, it better be positive. Having engaged employees simply gives you a competitive advantage.
If you’re a numbers person, we’ll put that into perspective for you. Here are some stats:
- Highly engaged business units have 21% greater profitability. Need we say more?
- Disengaged employees can cost your company about 34% of their salary. That’s not money you can miss as a startup.
- When a disengaged employee leaves, it could mean trouble. Because on average, it takes six months to hire someone for a startup.
- Financial issues aren’t the only thing taking startups down. 23% of startups mentioned team issues leading to failure.
Employee engagement at startups
From older generations, startups and their cultures still get a bad rep. From chaotic to unreliable: when they think about working for a startup, they picture scenes from the Wolf of Wall Street and Office Christmas Party.
But is that fair? Not anymore–if it ever was. Startup founders nowadays are from younger generations, those who know how important it is to not just prevent burnout, but proactively make your employees happier. A lot of established big names could learn a thing or two from them.
That doesn’t mean employee engagement in startups comes out of nowhere: you will still have to foster a culture in which employees are challenged and connected in all the right ways. Let’s look at some ways to do that.
Before you host your first employee engagement activity…
Don’t post that event in Slack just yet. Here are some ground rules and tips to keep in mind to make sure your activities have the desired effect.
Have a great system to keep track of important employee info
What we’re trying to say here: create a system in which you can focus on what matters. Your employees, your customers, your product. In this case, employee record software is the sidekick you need. For example, if you use Agendrix to manage your employee records, its automation will take care of mundane tasks like tracking and updating employee info, you free up time and brain space to spend on connecting with your employees.
Make sure everyone is on the same page vision-wise and goal-wise
A vision board or vague mission statement might not cut it. Instead, use OKR software to make your startup’s goals more tangible. It helps align everyone’s efforts toward the company’s vision by setting clear, measurable goals. This leads to a sense of shared ownership and improved employee engagement. Plus, time tracking software and collaboration features keep your team focused and motivated.
Should these activities be mandatory?
No, but you should be creating a culture in which people simply want to attend. If your people ask: ‘umm, do we have to…?’, they’re probably not the right activities for them, and you should talk to them to find out what they’d like to do instead.
When should I organize employee engagement activities?
Don’t assume people want to do something ‘fun’ with their coworkers outside of their regular working hours–especially unpaid. Employee engagement is part of a good work culture, so make it part of the working day. Only for very specific events or parties can you consider doing it outside of office hours, and these events shouldn’t be mandatory.
How often should we work on employee engagement?
Employee engagement is something you work on every day, in every interaction with your employees. These activities and events are simply highlights to give engagement an extra boost and to foster more connection between your employees. They’re not a last resort or quick fix!
Employee engagement on an individual level
Boosting employee engagement isn’t about pizza parties and team events. Engagement deeply happens on the level of the individual, so here are some ‘activities’ to make sure every employee has their needs met–a must if you want any kind of engagement at all.
1. Monthly mentorships
For the most ambitious employees on your team, enable monthly mentorships. You can do this between employees even. Fostering a coaching culture really pays off. One of them gets to share their knowledge with someone else, picking up on leadership and teaching skills in the process, while the other gets to scale up their skills.
Let employees pick what they want to learn and teach. Encourage programs like this by making time free in the day for mentor sessions: this shouldn’t be done on their breaks or after work.
2. Mental health sessions
You can only be truly engaged when you’re feeling well. Give your employees access to mental health tools and look into mindfulness and other wellness activities that you can host.
Remote company? No problem! Plenty of companies have already traded their dreaded stand-ups with a few minutes of mindfulness over Zoom. Try it.
3. Professional development workshops
If you want to prepare your company for growth, prepare your employees for growth.
It’s been said time and time again: you need employees who are actively developing their own skills if you want to succeed. As an employer, you have the opportunity to offer them resources and time for this, and encourage them to pursue their goals.
That way, the workday isn’t just about doing things to better the company but also doing things to better yourself – which is a huge engagement driver.
4. Celebrating individual milestones–professional and personal ones
Take a moment every month to reach out to employees who have achieved something great, whether it was related to work, or their personal life.
Yes, finalizing that gruesome divorce or running an equally gruesome marathon is something you should acknowledge as a manager or CEO, even if it’s just a quick personal chat!
Your employees are humans, and they like to be treated that way.
Employee engagement on a team level
Let’s continue with building engagement by planning activities for your entire team. That way, you hit 20 birds, or however many employees your startup has now, with one stone.
5. Involve everyone in onboarding
The ‘let me show you around’ is a lot more fun if it comes from someone you will end up working with, not just someone from HR you may never speak to again. Instead, make employee onboarding a team effort. That way, everyone gets to know each other and they build connections to their colleagues easier.
Hackathons are perfect for startup teams and for employee engagement. They allow the team to work outside their comfort zone, but still use their skills.
You can even use hackathons to create products related to your startup, but don’t disguise actual work as fun hackathons–there should be room to experiment more, to approach it as a game and not just work.
7. Customer appreciation events
Knowing who you’re all doing it for can really boost engagement. Have special days on which customer appreciation is a central theme. Encourage employees to send personal thank yous.
Celebrate customers’ anniversaries, which also highlights the hard work employees have done to keep this connection going. It strengthens the connection between employees and customers, which is a vital part of employee engagement!
Work on engagement from day one
You may have heard it before: change your culture, or watch the culture change your business. Either way, your employees and the culture that is created will affect the success of your startup, so make sure you’re having a positive impact on both.