It's not hard to stir up excitement during the early stages of a successful startup. After all, is there anything more morale-inspiring than seeing a fledgling company gain traction and take off? In many instances, when resources and staff are minimal, employee enthusiasm is the fuel that propels the business forward. Without happy, invested workers, organizations can't develop the momentum necessary for success.
As your startup begins to expand, however, so do your challenges as they pertain to maintaining a fun, vibrant company culture. What was easy to cultivate in a cramped five-person office might prove significantly more difficult to create in an expansive, multi-city powerhouse. Fortunately, many startups have achieved their company goals without sacrificing employee engagement. Here are some helpful tips for maintaining a startup vibe as your operations continue to grow:
Keep things casual
A hallmark of the modern startup office is its casual dress code. This is especially true for businesses where face-to-face client interactions are minimal, or where the industry lends itself to a jeans-and-sneakers uniform. A major reason many young people – as well as people who are tired of tying ties and wobbling in heels – are attracted to startups is that they don't demand the business professional attire so often required in traditional corporate offices. When people are able to outfit themselves as they see fit, they're more likely to feel comfortable and authentic, which can positively impact morale and production. Of course, your company should have some common sense clothing guidelines in place, and require workers meeting with clients to sport meeting-appropriate clothing. But if wearing tee shirts and hoodies on a normal day-to-day basis won't result in lost profits, encourage employees to express their personal style.
"Learn everyone's names."
Maintain an emphasis on close relationships
One reason that working for a startup has a connotation of being fun, exciting and collaborative is that many of these organizations are run by small groups of friends – or groups of like-minded colleagues who, over time, become extremely close. As your business grows, it can be difficult to keep your business feeling like one tight-knit family as opposed to numerous individuals who spend the hours of 9-to-5 in the same space. As a manager, it's up to you to continue fostering a sense of community within your company. Inc. magazine recommended placing an emphasis on learning everyone's names, make sure upper-level executives mingle with all levels of staff at company meetings, and host office-wide social gatherings on a regular basis. When hiring people, evaluate them not only based off their professional qualifications, but also on whether they'd be a good fit for the family-style culture you're looking to maintain.
Check in with workers on a regular basis
Without even realizing it, your startup was likely conducting performance reviews and employee check-ins on a daily basis when it first got off the ground. When you only had a few employees, grabbing coffee with your product development assistant or discussing social media over lunch with your marketing guru were simple, organic methods of taking company and employee temperatures. Now that you're working with an entire product development team and have marketing professionals seated on every floor of your office, it can be far more difficult to pencil in the one-on-one face time with every worker under your supervision. Nonetheless, it's vital that you make space in your busy schedule to do so. Not only are performance reviews a great way to check that people are still happy and excited to come to work each morning, but they also foster that sense of community your startup doesn't want to abandon.
When conducting performance reviews while attempting to preserve a startup vibe, approach employee issues as if they're something to be worked on, not simply discarded. Be clear with workers about what may need to change, but remember to present criticism in a constructive and collaborative frame.
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Get everyone involved in giving back
Corporate culture used to be relegated to the innards of glossy skyscrapers, but more companies than ever before are getting involved with their local communities in the hopes of connecting with people and making a positive impact. As your startup grows, be mindful of the ways in which your city helped support your vision – and get the entire office involved in returning the favor. Not only is involving your business in volunteer work a great way to exemplify its core values, it's also a fun and rewarding way to work in some team bonding. Plus, as Business News Daily explained, today's in-demand professionals are more concerned with corporate responsibility than workers of the past. To attract top talent, you need to show that you're a top-tier business.
Infuse your office with plenty of fun
If you take anything with you as you ascend beyond startup status, make sure that it's keeping your office a fun place to be. Forward-thinking companies have moved beyond the drab, cubicle-filled work areas of the past 50 years and into open, colorful, and many times unconventional spaces that offer their employees far more than just four walls and a water cooler. Major startups-turned-corporations like Google, Facebook, and Groupon have combined work with play at their offices, encouraging workers to take regular breaks, commune with one another, exercise their bodies and brains, work on collaborations, and remain after hours for socializing.
According to Forbes magazine, Google's out-of-the-ordinary amenities include an adult-sized slide that employees can use in lieu of the stairs, while Facebook offers workers a video game room. Groupon's space includes amusement park-style "themed rooms," including a tiki-inspired meeting area. Any way you can improve the quality of life in your office without detracting from productivity, go for it. Whether that means offering free lattes and donuts every morning or making your office 100 percent dog-friendly – or both – your employees will appreciate that you didn't abandon the down-to-earth community feeling most startups naturally possess.