How to build an amazing startup culture... Startups are amazing place to be- new ideas, energy, growth, innovation and many more exciting things

By Swati Sinha

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For people looking from the outside, a startup means funding, investors, exciting news and a roadmap to success. But people on the inside know, it's not always about parties, and hangover does subside.

There comes a time when the initial team outgrows in numbers, when company slowly moves beyond the founders and eventually faces challenges in terms of performance, motivation and sustaining values.

A startup is a place where majority of things are happening for the first time and we cannot afford to learn everything in a tough way. Your team is the biggest asset and if not treated well, it may give you the worst nightmare of your life.

We have recently heard news of startup founders being captivated for hours by their own employees. It can be the worst nightmare for any startup founder. As an HR consultant for dozen of startups where my firm has assisted in placing hundreds at various levels of responsibility, we have also interacted with the stakeholders, investors and employees on regular basis.

On the basis of many such conversations, I can sum up on few things which are of prime importance to build that amazing people's environment.

Set your values right

A founder when sets on the journey of building a company from an idea, he learns the tricks of trades at every stage. He learns on this journey what basic necessities are and what is that extra we can manage without.

On this journey of growth, most important thing is building a set of values in the most comprehensible language we can. We can decide cabins to work from or a common work space. We can decide if employees can come in casuals or formals are a must. If every employee should follow a biometric attendance or they can manage their timings and work independently.

Independence, trust, gratitude, timeliness, helpfulness, honesty are simple but basic values we may want to imbibe in our team. And those set of values can be decided by the founders or with collaboration of employees. Setting these values in a startup binds the team and it helps the employee know what is expected out of them.

Few days ago I hired somebody for an entry level position in a newly funded company and after 10 days of joining that candidate was searching a new job. It definitely meant loss of business for my firm but what she shared with me was far more enriching. She narrated several incidents where she was required to stay back at office till late hours, which was not conveyed to her on the day of joining.

She managed her transportation at midnight but what was more upsetting that nobody even checked with her next day, if she faced any problem in reaching home or finding a cab. An employee would need some time and care from your side during this attachment process. This is the period when attrition rate is highest.

Hire right talent

Hiring for a startup is a Herculean task and many founders stumble here due to their own blunder. I often get emails where hiring managers focus mostly on stable candidates from premier institutes. They justify their demand with the compensation they are offering. They also end up poaching their immediate competitors. But does this help? My experience says No, it does not.

Every startup is unique. Even if your ideas may resemble but it does not mean you can manage your work with employees trained in some other environment. You will have to invest time and money in training your own employees, poaching is never a solution even for similar looking products.

I would insist hire people who have infectious energy levels, are willing to learn and ready to fail. Hire people who are jack of all trades, who can dirty their hands doing stuff and not just superficial leaders.

Startups can never have defined job roles when it comes sharing Job description but still employees should be given some specifications about what is expected from them to avoid burnout.

Develop an appreciative environment

A successful startup always has a team which is content, they enjoy their success and bond well over failures. We should enjoy moments like investment rounds and getting business deals but we should also enjoy small milestones. We should build an appreciative environment where we take pride in our small successes, where we acknowledge efforts of others and recognise good work.

We can do small things like a shout-out for employees who have shown remarkable work, or even if they portrayed some values through their work. It would instil faith of others in those values.

We can send a weekly mail where we can acknowledge efforts of employees. We can keep an interactive session where owners can address the team and cheer them up for visible growth at the company.

Big things are appreciated by all but what matters is recognition of small efforts which everyone does on regular basis. Anyone coming to office despite of weekend and completing some urgent work does need some kind of recognition.

Train your team

If you ask a fresh graduate his reason to join a startup, he would always share he wants to learn. We need to provide them ample learning opportunities, training and motivation to go ahead and scale the heights.

In the beginning when the team is small, founders are the immediate leaders who influence them, but as the size grows we need to channelize our own energy through them. We also need to bring in new leaders and they should be equally entrepreneurial by nature and not somebody who would like to impose a "big corporate process' in the business.

It's equally important to provide a platform where these employees get an opportunity to showcase their strength and leadership quality. An employee who is engaged in self development, and enriched in terms of knowledge tends to be more loyal towards the company.

Be open to new ideas

Best part of being in a startup is flow of fresh ideas and also appraisal of good efforts. It is something which keeps transparency in the whole system and also bonding between employees. Salary and incentives always come secondary in terms of motivation in comparison to recognition.

Entrepreneurship is a journey and people especially new hires would have fresh set of eyes for your processes. Their suggestions would definitely help you in evolving towards betterment.

Swati Sinha

Founder & Principal Advisor, Savanna HR

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