How do you keep your staff happy, productive, and loyal?


Figuring out how to keep your workforce happy and productive is a skill. It’s one of those things that seasoned CEOs will instinctively know how to do over a fresh-faced counterpart.

You’ve just got a startup though, maybe it’s even your first company, so you don’t have the 30 plus years of experience at the helm that your father has.

Don’t fret, looking at what drives people (money included), can help you create a work environment — your company culture — that fosters a productive, happy and, most importantly, loyal staff.

It’s lonely at the top, as the saying goes, and keeping a core team can help alleviate that. First you have to avoid a high staff-turnover though, and that is difficult for startups with larger corporates waiting to snatch up their best with larger salaries. Luckily incentivisation goes far deeper than just salaries, so let’s take a look at some avenues worth considering.


There are various ways to provide your workforce with compensation, and that’s not just with your basic salary-system. Consider how compensation can work in your favour, in terms of aligning your employees’ vision with your own… after all, you are asking them to embark on your [entrepreneurial] journey and that journey will be a whole lot easier with a team that shares your goals and ambitions.

The most obvious example would be profit-sharing, a system by which employees get salaries or bonuses derived from the financial performance of your company. The power of this tool is that your company’s success will mimic an individual employee’s feelings of success — you want them to identify that feeling with your company. Formulating the right staff compensation plan is tricky, but give this a read for a start.

Another option which could amplify alignment of interests would be to give key employees equity shares in your company. This may be more effective to retaining staff than a simple profit-share, as it has a longer-term horizon, and a ‘locked-in’ mentality.

If you were to compare the two, a profit-share which would be given on say a monthly, quarterly or annual basis, can be pocketed without the employee feeling incentivised to remain in the company — cash is liquid after all. Equity, on the other hand, is not that easy to get rid of, putting it in the employee’s best interest to stick with the company and work to ensure that what is now also their company’s share price value increases over time.

Those are methods of compensation, but it is also important to decide how to allocate compensation amongst staff with various degrees of seniority, experience and qualifications.

It all comes down to what it is you are trying to reward: is it the PhD? Being at the company from the very beginning? Or perhaps, a rare aptitude or skill for the job? It is a bit of tightrope, you want to reward skill but also loyalty. There is no strict formula, but a solid incentivisation-scheme takes into account the various factors that determine an employee’s value.


An average working person spends 40 hours a week in the workplace. Making this place comfortable and enjoyable to be in is a great way to incentivise your staff beyond the monetary.

That’s not to say that it won’t cost a little bit to create the optimal working environment, but it doesn’t mean you need to go crazy and kit the place out with pinball machines and faux-fur seats… a few small luxuries can go a long way.

Don’t be afraid to ask your staff what they would like, you’ll often find it’s something as simple as “real coffee.” The costs you may incur for introducing perks to your office-space are in fact much lower than those of losing staff, and having to find and train replacements.

You can also use the physical space of your office to reiterate your brand in a way that is fun and encouraging to your employees. Especially for a web startup, having something physically representative of the brand can bring home an abstract idea. Think giant Android Gingerbreads on Google’s Campus.


Every company has a hierarchy, in terms of seniority and responsibility, no matter what the “cool boss” tells you. These exist for a reason, every team needs a leader, and effective role allocation is key to a successful growth-strategy.

Not all hierarchies are top-down. You may find that a horizontal structure, particularly if your company is young and in an early phase such as product testing, is more conducive to creative thinking and team-building.

Consider a marketing meeting that is attended by everyone from the CEO to the junior designer – you never know where the best ideas will come from. This is one of the perks of being a young company versus a large corporate where staff members can easily dissolve into numbers and no one feels like their say is of any importance.

Another source of incentivisation can be achieved by creating a structure which promotes from within.

A company that prioritises current staff to fill new or vacant posts over an external candidate can instigate a greater sense of loyalty and performance by junior staff who feel that they have room to grow professionally within the company and don’t have to look elsewhere. This is the power of both a monetary-incentive (salary increase), and one that taps into the career ambition of each employee.



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