How Startups Can Keep Their Teams Swimming

Kimberly Lexow, co-founder of Sifted, recently wrote this post for the Nashville Business Journal.

When the pool is dry, how startups can keep their teams swimming

There are several causes for the apprehension in San Francisco and beyond. Venture funding is drying up. The tech-IPO market is freezing. The stock prices of tech giants like LinkedIn are falling.

This concern is causing startups everywhere to reevaluate their budgets. In striving to be anti-corporate and opportunistic, some startups have excessively financed a professional lifestyle that’s more about retro pendant lighting than innovation.

The biggest risk in tightened budgets is losing priceless talent. It makes sense to look to the peripheral, non-revenue-generating costs when budgeting. But investments that keep your employees under your roof also need to be viewed as inherently revenue supporting.

Startups must understand what attracted talent to their company in the first place, and seek to find what aspects of the work environment are most meaningful to employees. The kind of talent you want to stick around doesn’t walk out the door because your conference tables aren’t as trendy as Facebook’s. It doesn’t walk out the door because you cut the company-branded t-shirt this year. But they will jet the second they feel undervalued.

When evaluating what employee-related perks and benefits to keep and retire, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this perk round out an employee’s compensation package? It’s important to recognize what perks add a substantial value to an employee’s compensation package. Whether a workout allowance, trip allowance, free snacks or meals, unlimited vacation — overtime these can make any compensation package more robust. And when docked, it can feel more like a pay cut.
  • Does this perk create a burden on an employee to execute or on a team to participate? In an effort to create a fun-loving culture, many companies plan extra in-office and out-of-office events. What many executives fail to realize is that coordinating these takes time away from someone’s responsibilities, and while appreciated, the happy hour may feel rather mandatory. Also, event-based perks can be excluding. Pottery painting or go-cart driving may only appeal to a small fraction of the office, so it’s important to figure out what perks are inclusive and undemanding.
  • Am I getting the most out of my investment in this perk? Some perks for employees are tax deductible, so it’s important to consult your accountant. Also, ideas that are half-baked tend to fall flat. When professionally managed, perks often achieve what they were intended for – an elevated employee experience.
  • What company values does the perk promote? There are a lot of perks and benefits that could be interesting and fun, but do they reflect the mission of the company? It’s important to match your perk package with the standards set in your company. Find out what correlates best with your brand, whether personal development, wellness, experiences, etc.

When times are tough, one thing is sure — you have to keep your best talent around. This is possible with sincere, people-first thinking, creative cost savings and an infectious optimism.

Office manager? Culture specialist? Happiness Ninja? Reach out directly to kimberly@sifted.co to chat further about how to keep people at the center of perks.