How to keep employees happy at a startup

New / Mgmt
Trisis

New Mgmt

PRE
Palo Alto Networks, FireEye
BIO
Cybersecurity
Trisismore
Nov 1 16 Comments

Looking for some general guidelines here. As a leader, I often debate this question. I realize it can get complicated but for this question, take money out of the equation and assume it's fair. (It is)

Some thoughts are....

1. Consistent open door policy.
2. Asking and tracking career pathing opportunities.
3. Showing appreciation for their time and efforts.

Feel free to expand on the ones I mentioned or add your own!

And for background, consider a Series B or C Startup with sub 150 employees, in a very niche area of cybersecurity.

comments

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TOP 16 Comments
  • Transparency on company priorities. Let them question and scrutinize the decisions that are being made. If it is a tech company you most likely have very smart people, listen to them even if they're not part of "leadership".
    Nov 1 1
    • New / Mgmt
      Trisis

      New Mgmt

      PRE
      Palo Alto Networks, FireEye
      BIO
      Cybersecurity
      Trisismore
      OP
      Great advice! And so true! Makes hiring tough because we have to vet for very smart, talented people that have a smallish ego.
      Nov 1
  • Google iGwnYd6
    Be very open with financials, goals, and issues. I worked at a startup that was essentially failing and over the course of 6 months the leaders only gave positive news. Never asked for ideas to save the downfall and never was told there was a PR disaster until it had been floating around for a year. By then layoffs and ultimately the end of the company came within about a month.
    Nov 1 1
    • New / Mgmt
      Trisis

      New Mgmt

      PRE
      Palo Alto Networks, FireEye
      BIO
      Cybersecurity
      Trisismore
      OP
      Ouch. I can never envision a situation where the communication is that terrible. But your experience is noted. Thank you for taking the time!
      Nov 1
  • Transparency and being passionate about your mission. Be an example of a passionate, dedicated and caring CEO. People will dedicate themselves to a cause worth fighting for.
    Nov 1 1
    • New / Mgmt
      Trisis

      New Mgmt

      PRE
      Palo Alto Networks, FireEye
      BIO
      Cybersecurity
      Trisismore
      OP
      Absolutely. 👍
      Nov 1
  • Oh, and if you are not the CEO, which rereading, you probably are not... Team culture. How does your team feel like a unit? What is your teams mission? How are y'all making progress towards the mission?
    Nov 1 2
    • New / Mgmt
      Trisis

      New Mgmt

      PRE
      Palo Alto Networks, FireEye
      BIO
      Cybersecurity
      Trisismore
      OP
      I am the Founder so your culture questions hit home. Probably should make sure I'm clear before answering....1. Not sure what you're asking on how do we feel like a unit? 2. Teams mission- In regards to culture or the business? 3. Can answer after I understand #2. : )
      Nov 1
    • Culture should be everyone's priority, but as the founder, you set the tone.
      1. You need something everyone can rally around and contribute to as a team that's cultural. They'll often be asked what the culture is like at your company. What do you hope their answer will be? Work hard, play hard? Diverse, friendly and hard-working? Listen more than you talk? Ideally, pick 3 sentences that would descibe the culture you want to build, and then ask yourself how do I engrain these values in my day to day business? Look to bring people onboard who embody those characteristics. Retention starts with hiring the right people.
      2. Company mission - people work hard for a cause they believe in. That's part of your culture. Why do we get up early and stay late? Literally, what is the point? How will the world be a little different if we succeed at that mission?
      3. How are you proving to your teams that you are making forward momentum towards your mission? Are you celebrating success as a company? Do you celebrate shipping or impact? How are you queuing up the next big challenge and getting your team excited?
      Nov 1
  • New tcKh74
    Two key things that will cause lack of trust and accelerate burn out:

    1) you are going to move fast, but track priorities and decisions as openly as possible. Everyone works long hours / hard but there is still a limit to what can get done. Keep focus, be honest and clear with the plan, keep track of how it changes and why. Continuous pivots to meet shifting targets leads to low motivation.

    2) be open and honest on financials. What’s the runway? When are we getting revenue? How many shares are there, what are they worth, etc. what’s the dilution going to look like? If you think it’s fair to know what your paycheck will be and what bonus structure is, then equity should be the same way.

    Treat employees like partners and adults
    Nov 1 2
    • New / Mgmt
      Trisis

      New Mgmt

      PRE
      Palo Alto Networks, FireEye
      BIO
      Cybersecurity
      Trisismore
      OP
      Thank you for this thought out feedback. Sincerely appreciated.

      I go back and forth on this level of transparency. Especially with sellers. Things like options and their value are discussed during the offer so that is clear. But I hesitate to get too in the weeds on specific financials. I want them in a positive mindset and not worrying about that when they have a job to do. For example, what if we investors were calling for a layoff based on slower revenue....This was disclosed so people start looking for another job and maybe some leave out of fear...But then three monster deals close that give us another 3 years in revenue....See what I mean?
      Nov 1
    • New tcKh74
      I totally get there are things that you are not going to share. Some things you legally can’t. But people have lives. If they joined they are risk positive, but people make big financial decisions (kids, housing, marriage, etc.) and it sucks getting the call into the boss’s office on a Friday telling you not to come in on Monday when you have a kid on the way (trust me). Real leadership is hard because it models the hard to do behavior we want to see in others. Your messaging can be positive even sharing tough news and gives the team more motivation to focus and grow together. Radio silence means people will speculate and fill the void with conjecture, even fixate on it more. They may be even more distracted/committed to leaving because of the lack of clarity from leadership.
      Nov 3
  • New / Product iwDl20
    You sound like a thoughtful Leader 👍🏼
    The whole open door policy can be a double edged sword if you don’t know what to do with the info you are given and think you can solve everyone’s problem. Have you read “The hard thing about hard things” by Ben Horowitz? Everything he lists is important.
    Nov 1 1
    • New / Mgmt
      Trisis

      New Mgmt

      PRE
      Palo Alto Networks, FireEye
      BIO
      Cybersecurity
      Trisismore
      OP
      I appreciate this. I develop relationships with my team and their well being truly keeps me up at night.

      I know of Ben of course but haven't read that book. Funny enough, it's in the library but haven't read it!. It's now next on the list. Great share and thank you!
      Nov 1
  • Apple evd28:/;
    Team building events. Get the team to actually care about working with each other so that their focus is on helping each other out instead of trying to shine more than their peers. With that team cohesion it is easier to shift priorities as a team instead of having to motivate each person individually. As a start up there’s going to be some days/weeks/months that are going to be grueling. When your team values themself as a team and enjoys working together, it will feel less grueling to come into work every day and reduce turnover.
    Nov 1 0
  • Pls excuse typos. Sippin' coffee and Blinding at 8am 😅
    Nov 1 0

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