Human Resources

Employee Motivation

Written by Ankur Hazarika for Gaebler Ventures

Talent attraction and retention is a hefty problem at all start-ups. Thankfully, there are some prime motivators that attract and keep start up employees hooked to the company. This article on employee motivation is a must-read for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Start-ups face a perennial talent crunch.

Employee Motivation

Even though they manage to recruit some bright minds, the threat of attrition always looms large.

Undoubtedly, working conditions and offerings are much better in well established companies. The best perks that a start-up can offer are hopes and dreams.

If the company makes it big, it carries with it everyone associated. Heard the story of the cook at Google? But till dreams become reality, it is a tough fight to retain and motive employees.

Thankfully, there are some intrinsic motivators that a start-up offers. There would be a host of motivators, but let us call the ones that attract most employees as the 'prime motivators'.

Based on a survey of the employees and entrepreneurs at an incubation cell, we compiled and ranked a list of these prime motivators. Here's the list of top ranked motivators :

  • Freedom to explore. A lot of people land up in a start-up feeling they are entrepreneurs themselves. They assume (and mostly find) that they can experiment with ideas and bring in a bit of their own. Make sure that the two bits of a start-up employee are always heard to let him retain this sense of pride.
  • Knowledge gain. The frequency with which start-up employees quote this as a prime motivator leads to a reasoning that this is one factor that has mostly to do with perception. An employee working in a big company feels lost in the huge spectrum of things that his company does, while a start-up employee generally knows the end to end of all that the company is into. Hence any incremental knowledge means a lot to a start-up employee. Typical big fish in a small pond perception.
  • Sense of responsibility and ownership. Being a small team everyone gets enough responsibility to handle. This could be a double edged sword, causing a high load burnout. However, it works in favor of most bright employees.
  • Achievement and exposure. Due to the absence of layers of hierarchy in a typical start-up, their achievements are well recognized and exposure to challenges is ample.
  • Close knitted group. Each of the few people that are there in a start up coordinates with everyone else. Any achievement is celebrated by the group as a whole. This leads to levels of office camaraderie that is much higher than in large companies.
  • Job flexibility. If some work in the company interests or suits you better, you stand a much better chance of jumping over to it than in large companies. Changing your job definition to include or exclude certain duties is also much easier in start-ups.
  • Guidance. Most of the employees work in close connection with the boss himself. Thus they get crisp statements about deliverables rather than vague directions.
  • Ease of getting a job. A sizeable chunk of people join start-ups because it's easiest to get a job there. It's fine as long as the demand supply equation remains in favor of the small companies.

Hence the entrepreneur too has quite a few factors to play with to attract and retain talent. It is up to him to highlight these to his prospective employees and to uphold them once they are in.

Ankur Hazarika is currently studying at the School of Management, Indian Institute of Technology (SJMSOM, IIT B), in Mumbai, India. He has been closely associated with a host of entrepreneurship networks like NEN, TiE and BarCamp, and has worked with the Indian business incubator, Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE).

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