Performance Ignited

5 Ways to Hold Together Your Startup Team When the Company Is Growing

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As startups grow, the initial employees who helped to build the company can get lost in the shuffle. Some may be generalists who suddenly find themselves without a role. Others were once promising employees who got promoted too soon and then failed.

Sound familiar? Here’s how to reduce the risk that a startup’s first 20 hires will flame out:

1. Share the vision.

A 2013 study of more than 1,000 U.S.-based employees, conducted by Kelton, revealed that 40 percent of employees say they don’t completely understand the company’s vision, or even worse, haven’t even been exposed to it. Current and future employees alike must understand the company’s mission in order to feel engaged and motivated to contribute.

If the goal is to build a huge company, then be upfront about that with everyone interviewed. Not everyone can or wants to work for a large organization. Actively sharing the company vision will help to attract candidates who have similar career goals. Also, communicating that the company may be big someday helps prepare current employees for change, even if that change is months or years away.

Related: How to Sell Your Startup's Long-Term Vision

2. Don’t promise a big title.

You can’t break promises you don’t make. Usually, fast growing companies cannot afford to wait for inexperienced employees to become experienced managers, at least in the short-term. So when interviewing prospective employees, don’t dangle the promise of a future high-level title just to get them to accept the job. Hire for the needs today, not the needs for two years from now.

3. Provide feedback and coaching.

Running a small company doesn’t mean one is off the hook for helping employees grow professionally. If anything, they need it now more than ever since many are just beginning their careers. Both positive and corrective feedback play a large role in individual employee performance. 

Just this year, the Harvard Business Review collected data from 899 individuals, half (49 percent) from the U.S. and the remainder from abroad, and found that 72 percent of respondents said they thought their performance would improve if managers would provide corrective feedback. Regularly checking in with employees and providing performance reviews lets them know how they are doing and where they need to improve.

Related: Employees Yearn to Learn. Here's What Employers Can Do to Help.

4. Invest in training.

A five-tool player today who does a bit of everything can be left without a role tomorrow. So it’s essential to constantly assess each employee’s core skills, what they enjoy doing and offer the necessary training or mentoring to get them to the next level.

Even if the startup can’t afford expensive training programs, it can help employees network with others and find good mentors. Providing employees with the means to improve themselves will help them to better achieve their work goals and contribute to organizational success.

5. Be helpful if goodbyes are necessary.

Unfortunately, not every early employee will successfully make the transition to a larger company. Some may ultimately need to be let go, others may depart on their own. But assuming that they are leaving on good terms, it is important to provide them with as much help as possible, including finding them a new job.

Great early startup employees give their heart and soul to a startup’s vision. It’s important to prepare them for the future, even if the startup is still a work in progress.

Related: How to Hire the Right Employees for Your Startup