Your startup has built a fantastic product. But what about the workplace that goes with it?
Big players like Uber, GitHub and SheThinx somehow missed that second part (although they did muddle through their nightmares of workplace harassment). Other startups, however, haven’t always been so lucky, even if they didn’t take it to the extreme of these companies. No entrepreneur wants to have the company where employees say, “Ugh, do I have to go to work again today?”
Here are some things to think about:
We say one thing, do the other. The company SheThinx went through some major growing pains by having a corporate philosophy built on women empowerment — while having a CEO who verbally abused the staff and forgot to ensure essentials like sufficient maternity leave. Want to be sure your company isn’t doing the same? Take a hard look at how you and your managers interact with everyone and invest in manager training.
The work you do? It may not really be a fit. There’s not a startup founder who hasn’t had to answer phones, restock the breakroom and oversee hiring at some point. But if you’re growing and still asking people to step in and take on tasks that they’re uncomfortable with, the staff isn’t going to stick around long. We all want to do our jobs and do them well, but there are only so many hats a person can wear!
We’ll get to that … eventually. Say this happens: John, the junior developer, is finally ready to move out of mom and dad’s house, but he needs copies of his paystubs going back three months. How quickly can you respond to his request? If you’re doing everything yourself or overloading the person on the team who should respond to these requests, John may be living in his parents’ basement even longer.
Is it really a problem? Remember Uber’s highly publicized sexual harassment problems? It all started when a female employee raised a complaint with an inexperienced HR manager, and the situation progressively got worse when that employee was informed that her harasser was a valuable contributor so, um, never mind. Whether you’re fielding employee complaints and concerns or you have a team member doing it, ensure you are (or they are) empowered to make the right decisions and that they know the law, too. If you’re small, just bring in an expert: you can outsource this pretty easily.
We have a foosball table AND lunch on Friday. Just don’t get sick. Perks like free food and a PlayStation are great, but I’m talking about basic needs. Insurance is a must, so is PTO and a retirement plan. And be sure they’re documented and competitive. I know of one workplace that kept changing its PTO policy — it went from “unlimited” to “how about two weeks?” and would change with the owner’s mood. The better route is to create written policies, ensure employees know where and how to find answers anytime, and if benefits sound expensive, shop around to find options that make them competitive and affordable. Yes, they do exist.
Payroll? Is it that time again already? Just outsource this task so you and everyone involved can stop worrying about payroll. You need to get this one right every time. There are two things you never EVER mess with: time and money. Mistakes happen, but if they’re happening on a consistent basis, that’s not cool.
You wanted something else? Every workplace is different, so what it takes to motivate your staff can wildly vary from another business down the street. Want to know what’s right for your business? Ask your employees (i.e. survey them) and then actually do something with the responses.
Your workplace doesn’t require a culture of harassment and bullying to be un-appealing to great workers. The small things matter just as much. You are asking employees to give you 40+ hours each week, so be sure you’re building an environment where they truly want to be.