Employees are a company’s greatest asset. Finding new business for your first product is a thousand times easier than making your first few hires. In the beginning especially, you and your founding few have to be engineer, biz-dev, and janitor all at once. This is the honeymoon phase of your company! The pivotal first moments that shape the company culture to come.
In essence, your company becomes a family. Some fledgling start-ups enjoy going out to bars. Getting drinks, hanging out, doing non-work related things and bonding. By doing this together, you establish a closeness that pays dividends back in the office.
Handling growing pains
As your company grows, though, this is where culture’s true strength is tested. Depending on your success, you could double from 50 to 200+ employees in two months. It’s a lot more difficult to reserve a table at Yard House for several dozen than for five.
You can ease your company through growth spurts by devising activities that preserve your initial values and culture. Think of fun games, competitions, and events that will bring your employees closer together. A few involved examples include:
Games matching employees names to faces and trivia facts
Moving desks 'round every few months, so employees mingle with different teams
Bonding events such as costume contests or group luncheons; nonwork-related fun!
Whatever you come up with, bonding is a crucial part of promoting camaraderie and making employees want to work at your company. A sense of belonging makes people feel at home, happy, and full of potential.
Always encourage growth
Another thing that keeps employees around is providing avenues for personal and professional growth. Brad Hendricks, CEO of Blind Squirrel Entertainment, designates one person in every team of his company to be the “mentor” to the other members of each team. For example, one engineer is willing and able to help the other engineers in the organization learn, discover, and develop. It doesn’t matter whether its growth in their job or their personal lives. People may resist these growth opportunities, but sooner or later something comes along that piques their interests. And thus, the learning begins!
This opportunity means so much to employees. It’s an investment of time and belief in those working with you. You take away the glass ceiling, and your employees will believe they can do anything. And that's not all -- even giving them the smallest opportunity for growth pays dividends back into your organization. These emboldened individuals are now looking for new problems to solve. New methods of solving current ones. They’ll showcase an aptitude for upward mobility that, until now, you never knew they had. As the saying goes, “The more you give, the more you shall receive.”
Jacks of all trades
It’s never a bad idea to encourage people to be generalists. They can stay focused if they like, but leave the door open for people to stimulate their intellectual curiosity. Engagement keeps people around, and at the end of the day, people are number one. When you empower people like this they become autonomous-even at the lowest level, empowered employees will take the initiative, solve problems and want to contribute to your success.
Finally, playtime is an excellent way to relax tensions, take a break from stressful workloads, and promote bonding and idea-sharing. Google’s Google X is precisely this: the company offers resources for employees to tinker around with ideas and create something new. If it ends up being a new Google product, great! If not, that’s great too. This mental break allows your employees to recharge. Once they’re mentally rested, they’ll jump back in with even more enthusiasm for their work. Better yet, their gratitude will continue an upward spiral of productivity, engagement, and improved output.
Innovate unique ways to maintain and encourage employee growth and achievement. Take an interest in their personal goals, offer opportunities to learn more or have a more significant impact on your organization. The more you invest in your employees’ hearts and minds, the more they, in turn, will invest in your goals.
Brad Hendricks is a Serial entrepreneur/business development specialist who started up Blind Squirrel Entertainment in 2010, a AAA game studio that creates original content and provides full game development services to various publishers and developers. Under his leadership, BSE has quickly become the top collaborator for industry leading titles such as Disney Infinity 3.0, Bioshock: Infinite, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Borderlands 2, Sunset Overdrive, and Evolve.
About Rick Girard:
Rick Girard is the Managing Director and Founder of Stride Search, an engaged talent search firm. While not running a School for Gifted Mutants, he hosts Hire Power and creates valuable and tactical content for entrepreneurs to utilize to successfully build an outstanding team.