Keeping Startup Employees Motivated

Working for a startup involves a lot of ups and downs. When the company is thriving, employees feel empowered and motivated to help it grow. When things get a little tougher – as they always do – employees may begin to feel dejected. They may begin to wonder why they took such a risky job, with its long hours and low salary. Here are some simple things leaders can do to keep employees motivated until the big gamble pays off.

1. Help employees feel valued

One of the best ways to make employees feel valued is to provide praise when they do something right. Angel investor and serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanis told Inc. that celebrating small victories is key to boosting morale. No matter what state your startup is in, holding gatherings to praise small milestones or successes will help employees feel energized to keep striving for more wins.

Anand Sanwal, co-founder and CEO of CB Insights, says his company holds Pitch & Demo meetings every quarter. These meetings allow anyone to offer ideas and try them out. They help employees stay motivated by making them feel that they play a vital role in the company and contribute to the company’s growth.

According to a survey by TechnologyAdvice, 31.8% of employees see a flexible schedule and the option to work remotely as the best perks a company can offer. Giving employees the power to get their work done in whatever way they choose helps them feel more in control and communicates that you trust them. They will also place a high value on this flexibility, making them more loyal to your company.

Equity in the company is perhaps the ultimate motivator. When employees have a stake in the business, they will be more determined to help it grow.

2. Build a community of trust

Don’t lie to your employees when things are not going well. Instead, be open with them about the state of your company. When things are looking grim, managers should communicate their plans for improving the situation. Employees will appreciate it when a leader takes measures to be transparent and protect employees as best she can.

In addition, team-building exercises, going out to dinner together, and other excursions that increase team camaraderie can help keep morale up through the peaks and valleys of a startup’s early years.

3. Communicate the goal

According to Entrepreneur, employees work harder when they are continually reminded of the company's vision. Because startup leaders typically can't motivate employees through large salaries or lavish perks, they have to help employees believe in the company's mission. Keep fresh reminders coming as the years go by.

In addition, make sure employees understand the risks they’re undertaking when they go to work for a startup. In a brand-new organization, the work will be hard and the payoff uncertain. Help employees go in with their eyes wide open, and make sure their expectations are realistic. 

When leaders communicate openly, honestly, and with appreciation, employees will give their best to achieve a startup’s goals. Take stock of your approach frequently, and make sure you are doing all you can to create a dedicated and motivated work force.