The Young Entrepreneur Council asked 15 successful young entrepreneurs to explain their secret for keeping their start-up employees happy and motivated. Here are their best answers.
1. Have a Little Faith in Hires
If you hired these people, you should trust them to do their job. Entrepreneurs like to keep everything close to their chest, but you can move quicker and more creatively if you give your employees the autonomy to complete their projects with direction, but without micro-managing. Don't overestimate the cost of small failures.
—Ryan Stephens, Ryan Stephens Marketing
2. Ask How They Are...and Actually Listen
A simple "How are you?" means so much. Employees will either smile and say "fine" or use the opportunity to express a concern. I've had jobs where my boss never asked that question, and I didn't feel valued. Asking such a simple question is a free way to show your employees that they are being heard.
—Nancy T. Nguyen, Sweet T
3. Concert Tickets, Anyone?
As a bonus for one of our employees, I decided to pull some strings and get her tickets to a sold out concert here in town. I think that giving them memorable experiences far outweighs any monetary gift you can give them. When she heard she got the tickets, I had never seen her light up as much as she did and she's kicked her work into high ground ever since.
—Greg Rollett, The ProductPros
4. Stretch the Flexibility
Everyone has a different work rhythm; some employees are most productive early in the morning while others prefer burning the midnight oil. Other than our daily 10-minute meeting before noon, our employees can work whenever they'll be most effective, as long as they communicate their schedules and meet their deadlines. This freedom shows we have faith in our employees, and yields amazing results.
—Bhavin Parikh, Magoosh
5. Too Cool for School? Think Again.
Everyone wants to learn more and improve their skill sets, so one of many favorite ways to keep startup employees happy and motivated is to provide them with opportunities to learn. Whether its enabling them to take time to attend an interesting conference or paying for a niche networking event, learning keeps people engaged and shows you care for their long-term personal and professional success.
—Doreen Bloch, Poshly
6. Freedom in Fluidity
In the startup world, it's not always about hiring someone to fill a specific role. Rather than defining explicitly what your new hire should be doing, let them act as a partner in the business in defining their role. This allows them to focus on what they're passionate about, while still contributing what you need for the business.
—Matt Cheuvront, Proof Branding
7. Light Up That Ladder!
Unlike large corporations, startups have the true ability and flexibility to empower their employees and make them feel like they are a part of the bigger picture—simply because they really are. Every single employee is incredibly valuable because they have such a deep impact on how the business grows. Make your employees understand that they can grow with you as they help the company grow.
—Justin Beegel, Infographic World
8. Tailored Rewards
One thing that a small start-up can do—that a large corporation has a tougher time of doing—is asking employees how they'd like to be rewarded. Attend an upcoming conference? A more flexible schedule? The newest iPhone? Your employees will feel good that you've actually taken the time to get to know what they'd like in exchange for a job well done. Oh, and they'll actually work for it too! —Caitlin McCabe, Real Bullets Branding
9. They Don't Call It Happy Hour for Nothing!
Once a quarter, I take everyone out for dinner and drinks. After a drink or two, people start to feel more relaxed and give you feedback that they wouldn't otherwise share. It's not a trick its sort of our system. Everyone knows these events are say what ever you want to say and I'll listen.
—Roger Bryan, RCBryan & Associates
10. Team Transparency and Collaboration
Every Monday, we have a meeting to define goals and go over the schedule for the week. This is not just a time for people to report what's on their list, but more importantly, it is an opportunity for everyone to get involved in all of the projects. We give the whole team an opportunity to give their input, and allow them to add value. The result is a stronger company culture and better products.
—Bobby Emamian, Prolific Interactive
11. Create Intrapreneurs
Let your employees work on a project of their own choice, but one that will benefit the company. You will quickly realize the unidentified talents of your workforce, create solutions to problems you may not even have known existed, and improve employee morale.
—Benjamin Leis, Sweat EquiTees
12. Give Promotions When They're Earned
When someone has really impressed you, promote him or her with a title change or increased or different responsibilities. If you can afford it, give them a raise or bonus. Showing that you recognize their achievements and dedication in some way is important in retaining talented employees and keeping them happy.
—Heather Huhman, Come Recommended
13. Invest Beyond Business Matters
I recently offered my employees an extra $100 cash to read a book I picked out for them. The book was entrepreneurship/productivity related, and I know that reading that book will make them better employees. They get some money and a feeling of empowerment, while I get smarter, more productive employees.
—Lucas Sommer, Audimated
14. A Good Ol' Gathering at the Grill
There is nothing like kicking back and firing up the grill with a great group of people. When things are laid back, everyone is at ease and it gives you a chance to learn more about them outside of work. A company is one big family, and when an employee feels like they have a second family during the day, they then look forward to coming to work.
—Ashley Bodi, Business Beware
15. Are You Happy and Motivated?