Dedicated employees are essential to startup success. Anyone can say they are highly skilled, but if employees lack a congruent vision and determination, it can be detrimental for a startup.
To succeed in a startup environment, employees must have two qualities: enthusiasm and flexibility. They must be ready and willing to work in the trenches right next to you. Like the saying goes, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. As a business leader, I’d rather take a determined individual with some experience over an experienced candidate with no enthusiasm.
The startup battlefield involves a lot of sacrifices, hard work and important decisions. Talented individuals who believe in the vision — not just their paychecks — can make a tremendous difference.
Hire employees that love their jobs
It sounds simple, but my most reliable (and successful) employees love their jobs. Anyone can gain knowledge in a particular field, and it’s obvious when employees are doing only enough to get by. Individuals with a genuine love for the job pay attention to detail; they care and want to challenge themselves. They put in the time and effort, and aren’t just watching the clock.
In contrast, employees who loath or are indifferent toward their jobs breed negativity, which can overtake a company culture. Two employees who are excited about our mission and love their jobs are much more valuable than an office full of employees who have amazing talent but drag everyone down.
How to manage high value employees
I can look at my employees and know instantly who is dedicated (and who is not). Anyone can show up and be physically present for eight hours, but it takes someone who loves his or her job to do something meaningful in that timeframe.
Here are three ways to stay aware:
Schedule regular team lunches
We schedule mandatory lunches outside the office every other Friday, which gives us a chance to bond as a team and discuss our performance. Employees who regularly eat together have better work performance than those who consistently work alone. People tend to open up more and be themselves when they’re away from the office. The meetings have no time constraints, and as we eat together I recap what we have accomplished and discuss possible new initiatives. Regularly spending time together and bonding over lunch helps me see who loves what they do and who may be falling out of love.
Communicate the creative process
As a leader and innovator I’m tasked to provide direction, insight, and different approaches to business tasks that will keep everyone focused. Maintaining a transparent creative process helps employees stay in the loop and retain their enthusiasm. When my employees see me go above and beyond, they know I love what I do. Valuable employees will go to bat for their leaders, especially when the boss is fighting right alongside them. Leaders have to get their hands dirty and make sacrifices to get the best results from the team.
Be responsibly compassionate
Startup life will undoubtedly impact home life, and balancing the two can be incredibly difficult. When I take a personal approach at work and ask employees about their lives it helps me to stay aware of challenges they’re encountering — in the office or at home.
An unexpected death in my family a few years ago led me to closely examine my own work-life balance; I realized I was not spending enough time with the ones I love most. This experience gave me greater insight into my employees’ happiness: I give people space if I sense something is going on outside the office. I approach individuals only if the behavior is repetitive, disruptive, or interferes with deadlines. I owe it to my team to be supportive when needed and offer encouragement when they’re facing distractions outside the office.
Startup life can be stressful, but employees who love their jobs are committed to helping their company succeed. Looking for those employees helps keep that love — and your startup — alive.
Daniel Wesley founded Quote.com to provide consumers with auto insurance quotes from leading carriers. His work has been featured in Forbes, Mashable, Inc., and Fox Small Business.
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