Retaining and nurturing talent in a startup

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Retaining and nurturing talent in a startup

Retaining talent is amongst the key concerns for most businesses. It becomes even more critical in case of a startup since there are anyway limited team members owing to scare resources.

In such a scenario, losing even a single person can disrupt the work and become a big hindrance in the smooth functioning of the startup.

One of the major reasons for attrition is that employee’s feel that their contributions are not valued and their roles not challenging enough. Rewarding them and recognizing their efforts from time to time and developing them to take on larger roles can help change this mindset. Here’s how:

1. ESOPs

ESOPsor Employee Stock Ownership Plans are the most effective way of retaining employees. Since startups usually cannot match the big salaries that larger and more established companies offer, ESOPs are a great bet in attracting the best talent owing to the ‘big buck’ in store over a period of time.

Giving equity of your startup in exchange for excellent performance or as a part of the salary are excellent ways of motivating your employees. This way, you are making the employees part owners of the startup and linking their potential earnings with their performance, thus compelling them to push themselves harder…

By aligning the employee’s financial interests with the company’s performance you are ensuring that they are committed to your organization’s success. Since your company’s stock is bound to go up as you move ahead and grow, the employees are bound to reap huge gains eventually.

They even stand a huge chance to win a once in a lifetime jackpot and turn into millionaires overnight in case you decide to sell the startup or get funded. A study done shows how employees with ESOPs had 3 times the retirement funds than employees with no ESOPs.

2. Inclusion in brainstorming/ strategic discussions

In startups where the average age of employees tends to be less than 25, including them in strategic discussions is the thing to keep your young guns engaged. Who wouldn’t like to be a

part of a high level committee or an empowered group of executives where you can influence the direction of the company?

The young and bubbling minds could serve as change agents by providing ideas that are more in sync with the changing times, thus helping the startup stay relevant in the dynamic environment. Moreover, since the suggestions are coming directly from those lower down the rung, the acceptance will be much higher, if implemented.

Including your team members in important discussion makes them feel important and keeps them motivated. Such discussions are also an opportunity to identify the right people for larger roles and eventually groom them to succeed there.

3. Regular training and development

It’s common to see employees worrying about their skills becoming redundant after some time. This is a major reason for high performers to leave, so they can pursue further studies/professional courses. The best way to prevent this is to ensure constant learning and development on the job.

You could allow them to go on a sabbatical or offer flexi-time/work-from-home option, so they can pursue a course of their choice. By helping them grow academically and professionally you are acknowledging their aspirations and letting them follow their path, thus endearing your startup to them.

If you are helping them fulfill their personal aspirations while simultaneously helping themgrow at work, you’re giving them no reason to quit. Moreover, when they use their newly acquired skills at the workplace, it’ll boost their performance as well as the startup’s. This way, you can successfully retain them and draw a path for their future growth in the company.

4. Build a sense of camaraderie and ownership at work

In the midst of all those performance pressures, most businesses fail on one vital aspect – team building. Remember, with good teamwork, you can derive far greater synergies and surge ahead faster because all the efforts are directed towards a common goal.

What better way to connect and bond than over weekend trips or alunch/dinner with colleagues?This not only breaks the ice, but also helps them open up and connect on a more personal level.

If the work environment is conducive and you feel a sense of belonging, then there will be greater work satisfaction. And today’s millennials are particular about being generally happy at work rather than simply chasing big bucks.

5. Reward and recognition

As per a survey done by Sirota Consulting, over 51% of employees are more satisfied about their work when it gets recognized.

Remember, no matter how humble and grounded an individual is and which part of the startup’s corporate hierarchy he belongs to, a little appreciation from time to time can work wonders to boost their morale.

By acknowledging their efforts you are pushing them to keep striving for more and creating a more conducive atmosphere where they feel their contribution is valued. They will soon be the go-to people for a lot of new joinees and interns who want to make it big in your startup.


There are simple ways to motivate your team and make them feel valued without having to spend a bomb. Use them wisely to identify your star performers and bring out the best in them and also to create an environment where people enjoy working and feel a sense of belonging.

Remember, it is easier and cheaper to invest in making your current employees happy than hiring someone new.

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