Keeping employees can be difficult for any startup, but that’s especially true in emerging markets like China, where young people often expect to work jobs for a short time before moving on to the next one. So how can a startup keep its employees happy enough that they stick around? Sun Qingxin, the founder of travel website Daoyou Tianxi, recently wrote a blog post sharing his advice on how to keep startup employees.
The full post is worth reading if you can read Chinese, but for those who can’t, here’s a summary of his eight main points:
1. Values are important.
If you use money to entice and hire people, those people are likely to leave again as soon as a better offer comes along. And you’re a startup, so you probably don’t have enough money to entice people anyway. But if you can convince people that what you’re doing is meaningful and that there is value in it in the long-term, the money becomes less important and you’re less likely to lose people to better financial offers.
2. Be clear with everyone from the start: doing a startup isn’t a short-term prospect.
Doing a startup means lots of hard work, for little pay, over a long period of time and then there’s the probably that you might still fail despite your best efforts. Be sure that your employees understand what they’re getting into up front, because if they don’t, they’re going to bolt for the doors as soon as they figure it out, and then you’ve wasted a lot of time and effort on hiring and training someone you now need to replace.
3. Make people feel like they’re personally progressing and growing.
You probably can’t offer vast sums of money, but if employees feel like they’re learning and bettering themselves, they’re more likely to stick around for the long haul because there’s value in it for them (even if the value isn’t financial). If they’re not learning anything, why should they stay?
4. Let people see the advancements and plans for the project as it progresses.
Similar to the previous point, people want to know where the company is planning to go, and how close it is to getting there. Share important milestones with everyone and communicate about the company so that employees understand where they stand and where they should be striving to get to.
5. Make people treasure the team.
Foster a “family” atmosphere among the team. If people feel like a family that’s going on a journey together, they’re less likely to want to leave.
6. Make sure everyone knows their value and importance.
People want to feel like they’re doing something important. This is especially true in a small team that’s not getting paid a whole lot; most people need to feel like they’re making a difference. Be sure you’re giving them feedback that lets them know why they’re important to the team, or expect to have to replace them sooner or later.
7. Use the core team to set an example everyone can follow.
If your employees see that you’re working tirelessly and that you really believe in the project, they’re going to follow. Conversely, if they see you’re phoning it in, don’t expect them to do any better just because you’re paying them.
8. Ask unsuitable people to leave quickly.
Hiring the wrong people from time to time is going to happen, but don’t make things worse by keeping them on after you’ve realized it’s not gonna work out. Getting people who aren’t the right fit out of the way quickly is better for you and the employee you’re letting go in the long run, so don’t delay.
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