Dear Founder, Can You Make Your Startup A Great Place To Work?

If you’ve hired the talent crucial to your startup, making them productive and engaged is a vital next step. Retaining talent, however, has become harder for organisations during the pandemic, with many people feeling burned out and in need of a change.

A Microsoft survey of 30,000 workers in 31 countries shows that 41% of respondents considered leaving their jobs.

This article looks at some ways leaders can make their organisations a great place to work, even if employees work from home.


Understand your people

Why are your employees staying? Why are they leaving? What do they feel about the work they do and how it gets done? What do they think of your enterprise?

You need to understand your employees and how they’re feeling in order to keep them. Checking in with employees to find out how they are or conducting “stay interviews” are simple ways to get the feedback you need to make the necessary adjustments to improve retention.

In its Work Trend Index report, Microsoft notes that “leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call”. Nearly one in five survey respondents says their employer doesn’t care about their work-life balance. Worse, 54% feel “overworked” while 39% feel “exhausted”. Managers need to find out if such sentiments exist among their staff and take remedial measures.

Jen Holmstrom, head of talent at GGV Capital, says companies can increasingly use data to understand workforce sentiment across functions and horizontals. “There are different tools…where you can survey the employees on a regular basis and have a much better understanding and insight into what’s going on,” she says in an episode of Founder Real Talk.

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Get onboarding right

An employee’s first impression lasts and shapes how they view the company. That’s why startups must give new hires a great experience early on.

According to Gallup, the onboarding experience is key to retention. “Employees with an exceptional onboarding experience are 2.6 times as likely to be extremely satisfied with their place of work,” says the polling firm.

“Onboarding doesn’t just help people get up to speed fast, but also affects motivation and commitment in the long term,” explains Julia Hämäläinen, Inklusiiv COO and former global HR operations lead at in an article in Medium.

If employees leave within their first six months, it’s a strong indicator that a startup needs to work on its onboarding process, she adds.

With the pandemic, startups need to ensure that they can do virtual onboarding of employees at any time. While some firms may get employees to come to the office for the first day, that can easily change if tighter physical mobility restrictions are put in place to counter coronavirus surges or outbreaks.

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Train your people

Both Hämäläinen and Holmstrom stress the importance of providing employees with learning and development opportunities, particularly managers.

“Often managers in startups are first-timers in leadership positions, so they might not hit it out of the ballpark on their first go. That’s why it’s essential that startups support their managers and help them grow by investing in their coaching and training in areas like communication skills, the role of a manager, and giving feedback,” says Hämäläinen.

Holmstrom says that having managers prepped to manage remote teams is a key to hiring and retaining talent. “For new managers or those who manage big teams, there’s an added layer of complexity. Management training is critical. Developing and retaining great talent is now more important than ever,” she says.

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Hire carefully but with an open mind

While there may be much pressure to hire quickly to meet business goals, companies still need to be very careful about whom they hire. Not only is the cost of replacing a hire very expensive, but the selection of the wrong person can drag down morale and productivity.

For startups, the cost of a bad hire can be disastrous. Not having the right team is the top 7 reason why startups fail, according to a post-mortem of startups.

Being careful about hiring doesn’t mean you have to be boxed in by traditional hiring metrics. Someone who is less experienced may turn out to be a better hire because of their enthusiasm.

Apple, which does a better job of retaining employees than other tech giants, weeds out the unenthused from the evangelists as part of the hiring process.

On building a great team, Manu Kumar Jain, Global Vice President of Xiaomi and the Managing Director of Xiaomi India, says he always looks for passion and intelligence over experience.

“A large number of leaders who are very intelligent, very passionate, and have zero relevant experience, and that does not matter. In fact, I strongly recommend people to move different roles within the company and move roles radically,” he says

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