How to Incentivize Your Lean Startup Team

For people who want to avoid the monotony of the corporate grind, startups can be a great option. And as long as you offer the right incentives, you can make those people want to stay.
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Incentivize Startup Employees and Build a Dream Team

Entrepreneurs create startups for a reason: They don’t want to be stuck in a cubicle performing the same mundane tasks every day like cogs in a bigger machine. Startup employees typically have the same goals, and working for a startup provides experiences corporate America simply can’t offer.

However, because they have deeper pockets, larger corporations can tempt top-notch employees with a wide array of financial incentives that the average startup can’t afford. So you need to make sure you’re providing employees — and potential new hires — with attractive benefits they won’t find elsewhere. In other words, incentivize them.

The key to incentivizing the best startup candidates is to understand the intrinsic value that working at a startup offers. These include:

  • Broader Responsibilities: Although a corporate worker often is restricted to a small set of job responsibilities, the unstructured nature of startups allows employees to gain valuable knowledge and experience above and beyond their corporate counterparts. As a result, startup employees are much more capable of thinking outside the box, and they are versed in multiple disciplines, making them more desirable to other companies later on.
  • Real and Perceived Ownership: Many corporations offer employee stock purchase plans, but startups can offer real equity. Employees can actually own a piece of the business they’re helping to build while taking on real tasks that directly affect the bottom line. This shared purpose and heightened sense of responsibility often motivates startup employees to work harder and more passionately than the average corporate drone.
  • Flexible Schedules: Startups aren’t limited to bankers’ hours like many corporations. Without huge bureaucracies, startups can accommodate workers’ personal lives with split shifts, compressed schedules, and other creative scheduling techniques. This helps workers stay happy and productive.

Before incentivizing your small team, you need to make sure that each person you hire shares the startup mindset.

Finding Your Dream Team

Entrepreneurs live and breathe their startup — it’s often the sole focus of their lives. Hiring people who share this vision and can help the company thrive is vital. Corporate workers enjoy the comfort of consistency and often need to be told what to do, so many probably wouldn’t make a good fit for your startup.

Startup employees are creative and adventurous, able to thrive without constant oversight. These people like variety and aren’t discouraged by the uncertainty that comes with working for a startup. They also aren’t afraid to bring up new ideas and work to implement them.

Self-starters perform best in a startup environment, where the ability to make out-of-the-box decisions is equally as important as doing grunt work. Look for people who enjoy thinking on their feet but aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves when necessary.

Finding the Right Incentives

Although the intrinsic benefits of working for a startup often will attract the right pool of candidates, it’s important to train and retain top talent whose goals are aligned with the organization.

Start with baseline incentives, and build on those over time by adding perks such as profit sharing. An employee who knows his financial incentives are tied to his performance will naturally perform better.

Giving out equity in your company also creates a direct link to personal performance. When the company does well, so does the employee. When an employee performs exceptionally, he can receive a larger stake in the business. If the company is bought for a large sum, all employees share in that success.

Working for a startup has its ups and downs, and it’s not for everyone. Those who can handle rapid change and more responsibilities find it to be a rewarding career choice. To attract and retain top talent, you have to please go-getters with incentives that large corporations can’t match.

For people who want to avoid the monotony of the corporate grind, startups can be a great option. And as long as you incentivize them right, you can make those people want to stay.

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