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After last week’s focus on talent acquisition, we will continue this week and look at startup culture and talent retention.

The company’s culture can play an important role in why people might leave a startup quickly. There might a lack of a culture to identify with, or too strong a culture linked to the founder(s). Yes, the founder team is important for exposure to investors, especially during early funding rounds, but the startup has to be allowed to grow beyond that. Do not let your strong influence within the company restrict the culture’s development, nor try to enforce a culture which is not authentic. You can give it a nudge here and there, but other than that, nurture it, let it grow and let it take its natural course so people will feel part of it.

However, do make sure to foster a culture of open and constructive feedback. This also helps to stay on top of new ideas or opportunities. If you fear staff members have difficulties providing direct feedback or sharing ideas within your startup, do not hesitate to ask your board members to conduct one-to-one or group sessions to provide for a neutral setting. They can act as your sounding board before little things turn into bigger frustrations and tensions start to rise, or worse, people start leaving.

Founders, and entrepreneurs in general, often have a drive and work ethic that is truly impressive and admirable. However, most members of the team are likely not as invested into the company as the founder(s), personally nor financially. Therefore, do not try to impose your extended work schedule on your employees. Obviously, you are not a charity and even with funding, cash flows are not endless and you cannot afford to tolerate slacking. All hands should be on deck and everyone should be expected to contribute, but do not fail to take their motivation and personal life into consideration. What purpose do they pursue at your company? Do they have an equity stake? Do they have a family and want to see their kids in the evening? Make sure that those willing and able to go the extra mile can, but do not end up simply celebrating long hours. Appreciate everyone’s efforts and celebrate results, both quantitative and qualitative.

In case you are running a startup without previous people management experience, actively seek feedback from your staff as well as from others. Taking part in people management courses or workshops is not a sign of weakness and is worth allotting time to: it helps developing your skills in this area and shows your employees you take them serious. Your startup is built on your idea and vision, but welcome other ideas, lead as opposed to delegate and encourage employees to develop. If you are not sure where to start, involve your board in management, strategic and personnel decisions. They can provide a different perspective and have a wealth of experience and knowledge, all at your disposal to help you retain those highly sought after talents.

Should you wish to discuss your startup culture’s impact on talent retention, or talent management in general, I would be happy to have a conversation around this:

(Note: various recommendations mentioned are not necessarily limited to startups and could be applied within more established companies as well.)