Many tech startup founders talk about company culture, but few know how to create and foster a culture that will best serve their organization.
In the midst of product development, customer acquisition, and cash flow management, founders often put culture on the back burner. Most business owners want to provide an enjoyable, motivating, and inspiring work environment for their employees. However, many startup founders forget to nurture that culture as they scale.
According to researchers at Washington State University, companies with strong cultures have a 13.9 percent turnover rate. Meanwhile, startups with a poor company culture experience a 48.4 percent turnover. Additionally, a study by Duke University's Fuqua School of Business quantified culture's impact on employee productivity, retention, and company growth. More than 50 percent of respondents revealed that corporate culture influences productivity, creativity, profitability, firm value, and growth rates.
If your team members are missing critical deadlines, feeling demotivated, or mismanaging projects, it might be time to reevaluate your startup's culture. Keep reading to learn how to reshape your company culture to increase employee productivity and drive startup success.
How to Build a Company Culture That Increases Employee Productivity
1. Put the Company First
As a leader, it's your responsibility to orient the startup towards success. Every decision should support your organization's mission, goals, and objectives. You must encourage a "we're all in this together" mentality from your employees and give them the tools, resources, and guidance to deliver exceptional results. Start by looking at your startup from the top down. How does the marketing and communications department communicate with your sales team? Do your product developers work well with your account executives? Are your designers feeling overworked?
As you analyze the effectiveness of your teams, look for ways to support them and their work. If your employees are struggling in one area, show them what's being done to remedy that particular challenge or barrier. Additionally, encourage other team members to pitch in and offer practical insight and guidance. This "all for one and one for all" mentality helps to build brand stewardship among employees. A team-oriented attitude goes a long way in building up a valuable and productive company culture.
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2. Hire the Right People
Once your entire team is working towards that shared vision, it's important to ask these key questions during the hiring process: Does this candidate share the company's values? Is he or she qualified to tackle the industry's biggest challenges? Will they work well with other team members? Will this employee be able to work with limited supervision and take on new challenges?
"The longer I’m involved in Codeship, the more other founders I mentor, the more I’m convinced that people and a great team is the lifeblood of a fast-growing startup," says Moritz Plassnig, founder and CEO of Codeship. "I would even go so far as to say that people are the foundation of every organization, big or small, high-tech startup or huge corporate juggernaut."
The first step to hiring top tech talent is to post your job descriptions online. Writing a clear and accurate job description is critical to attracting the right talent. Additionally, startup teams can prioritize diversity in the workplace by incorporating strong language and requirements in the job description. Teams can also use specialized job boards like GitHub, Unicorn Hunt, and Angel List to find qualified hires. Consider volunteering to participate in university panels, mentorship programs, and networking events to meet fresh talent. Finally, by attending tech industry events, you can meet potential hires and build up your personal network.
3. Provide Professional Development
Productive, collaborative, and mission-oriented employees are key to leading company cultures. According to Gallup, disengaged employees cost the United States an estimated $483 to $605 billion each year. As such, an increasing number of startups have invested heavily in professional development programs.
The world's top professional development programs can be classified into three categories — technical, interpersonal, and problem-solving. Investment in these areas is advantageous to both the employer and employee. In fact, the best startups utilize professional development to give their teams the resources, skills, and knowledge needed to perform at their best. With the right professional resources in place, employees are more productive and startups are more profitable.
4. Reward Hard Work
The world's leading tech startups use employee recognition and rewards programs to cultivate a highly effective work culture. Recognition for a job well done is a great motivator for employees. For others, bonuses or rewards are more effective. Understanding what drives each of your employees is requisite to pulling the right levers to motivate your employees. The best tech startups will even do some digging to find a reward that's less generic than a standard gift card. In fact, several software programs now make unique employee incentives easier to implement than ever before. For example, solutions like Blueboard allow employees to choose from hundreds of curated experiences including private martial arts training, voice lessons, and more. These tokens of appreciation create more fulfilled and validated employees.
“At Zignal Labs, we foster a celebratory environment in order to motivate our employees. The DoF (Department of Fun) makes it a priority to organize regular events for the office, including happy hours, lunch adventures, and team outings to reward employees for work well done," says Josh Ginsberg, CEO of Zignal Labs.
5. Encourage Self-care
According to the American Institute of Stress, occupational pressures are the leading source of stress in adults. The best startups infuse self-care into their company culture. As such, employees are encouraged to take coffee breaks, power naps, or quick afternoon strolls whenever they're feeling overworked. When a startup introduces self-care into their work culture, the company is telling employees that health is just as important as output. When employees feel less pressure to produce, they'll put their best foot forward on every project or task at hand. In fact, The Global Benefits Attitudes survey found that high levels of workplace stress will lead to "higher instances of disengagement and absenteeism — clear indicators of low productivity in the workplace."
Intuit encourages employees to spend up to 10 percent of their working hours pursuing activities that they're passionate about. Unsurprisingly, Intuit is one of the most successful financial software companies in the world and ranked as one the best places to work.
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The world's leading tech enterprises including Spotify, Uber, and Zappos utilized these and other growth opportunities to achieve massive acceleration and success. Is your startup next?