Startup culture is the invisible force that shapes the values, behaviors, and relationships within a burgeoning company. It serves as the bedrock upon which ideas are nurtured, teams are built, and resilience is forged.
In recent years, the importance of fostering a positive and dynamic startup culture has come to the forefront of discussions among entrepreneurs, investors, and industry experts.
As the startup ecosystem evolves, so too must the strategies employed to cultivate a culture that not only attracts top talent but also nurtures innovation and adaptability.
A strong, thriving, growth-oriented startup culture is built on the foundation of core values you set for the startup and the employees.
Here are some steps you can take to nurture a growth-oriented startup culture:
How to Improve Startup Culture
1. Pen down startup’s principles and values.
“We believe that it’s really important to come up with core values that you can commit to. And by commit, we mean that you’re willing to hire and fire based on them. If you’re willing to do that, then you’re well on your way to building a company culture that is in line with the brand you want to build.” – Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos
A startup can have a strong culture only if you can unite all the employees under common principles, goals, and values. This is the first basic step to fostering a great culture.
Your team must be in tandem with your idea of a great startup. The best way to achieve this is to explicitly state the core values that you want your startup to have and what your vision for the startup is.
So take a paper and pen, and give words to your values and vision. In fact, go as far as create a manifesto if you must and let everyone, including yourself, know what your business should stand for.
Here are some steps you can take:
- Say an employee’s actions violated the values your startup stands for, make sure to have a talk with them, and tell them why you don’t find it acceptable.
- On a similar note, if an employee complies to a particular value, make sure to convey your appreciation publicly.
- Put a list of your core values on display – maybe get some posters?
- Delegate the responsibility of upholding values to the seniors in the team.
2. Choose people with the right attitude.
Startups typically have relatively small workforces, given that, the effect each employee has on the startup and it’s culture is going to be significant.
Picking the right people to work with you is crucial to keeping your startup’s DNA intact.
First, you must form a list of attributes that you think are important for an employee to fit well with your startup culture, and when interviewing a candidate, you must evaluate based on these checkpoints.
For example, if constant innovation is one of the core values of your startup’s culture, then choose someone who is eager and comfortable to break stereotypes.
Companies such as LinkedIn conduct a rigorous selection process in order to discover people whose attitude fits well with theirs. Keep in mind that a skill can be taught, attitude cannot be.
3. Be incredibly honest and transparent with your employees.
A culture that is authentic and transparent is necessary to foster growth and achieve success.
Some startups divulge the salary information of their employees to everyone in the company and some other startups organize meetings/product discussions that are open to all. This is the kind of shocking honesty I am talking about.
At Buffer, a startup, the founder not only keeps the salary information open but also divulged the salary decision formula. The great thing about this kind of incredible authenticity is that the employees will deeply trust their founders to have their best interests in mind, resulting in a positive startup culture.
No one feels wronged about anything, everything is genuine and everything is out in the open. A transparent culture results in a ‘We’ concept rather than an ‘I’ concept in your employees.
4. Let your employees get a first-hand taste of victory.
At my startup Hiver, when an employee comes up with a great idea, we appoint them as the ‘CEO’ of the idea and give them all the rights to plan, execute, delegate, and monitor the project. All the employees report to the person in charge, including the founders.
After speaking with some of my employees who left MNCs to join a startup, I realized that one of the major reasons for their job shifts was that it is almost impossible to get important work in such MNCs and that there is no autonomy at work in these overpopulated companies.
I understood that deep down everyone wants to do things that matter and so the best way to keep employees motivated and push them to take initiative is by letting them play the big game from time to time.
Here are some examples:
- Start including them in client meetings.
- Take the time and explain the company’s strategy, plans, future goals, and the vision to your employees.
- Give them ownership of tasks and encourage balanced healthy autonomy.
- Encourage an employee who wants to take up more challenging work by letting them.
5. Make your workplace happy and inspiring.
Make your employees feel a tad bit excited to come to work every day instead of having to drag their feet. For example, if you want your employees to feel creatively inspired at work, fill the place up with vibrant colors, fun and artistic designs, etc.
Help your team/employees de-stress and recharge from time to time, by organizing fun and engaging activities, dinners, outings etc.
Given its small size, one serious advantage startups have is that all the employees can get to know each other well and really bond. Make this happen by organizing extracurricular team activities.
Most of us think that a growth-oriented culture is not about having an all-work-no-play culture. Wrong! A stress-free and upbeat work environment makes employees want to root for the startup and feel motivated to work for you.
As Richard Branson says, “There’s no magic formula for great company culture. The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated.”
What do you think? And what’s the startup culture like in your company?
About The Author
This is a guest post by Niraj, founder of Hiver – an app that turns Gmail into a powerful customer support and collaboration tool.