Dedicated employees make or break startup success. Anyone can say they are “highly skilled,” but if employees lack the same vision and determination as their leader, it can be detrimental to the startup.
To succeed in a startup environment, employees must have two qualities: enthusiasm and flexibility. Like the saying goes, hard work beats talent when talent won’t work hard. As a business leader, I will take a determined individual with some experience over someone with years of experience and no enthusiasm. A positive drive allows people to adapt when roadblocks arise.
Employees must also be ready and willing to work in the trenches right next to you. The startup battlefield involves a lot of sacrifices, hard work and important decisions. Talented individuals who believe in the vision — not just their paychecks — can make a difference for the startup.
Hire For Love
It sounds simple, but my most reliable (and successful) employees love their jobs. Anyone can gain knowledge in a particular field, and it’s obvious when employees are doing only enough to get by. Individuals with a genuine love for the job pay attention to detail because they care and want to challenge themselves. They are the ones who put in the time and effort, and aren’t just watching the clock.
Not hiring for love of the job breeds negativity, which can overtake all the positives you have built. Two employees who are excited about our mission and love their jobs are much better and more valuable than an office full of employees who have amazing talent but drag everyone down.
How to Spot Employees Who Love What They Do
I can look at my employees and know instantly who is dedicated to the company (and who is not). Anyone can show up and be physically present for eight hours, but it takes someone who loves his or her job to do something meaningful in that timeframe.
Here are three ways to stay aware:
- Schedule regular team lunches. We schedule mandatory lunches outside the office every other Friday, which gives us a chance to bond as a team and discuss our performance. It’s known that employees who regularly eat together have better work performance than those who consistently work alone, and my team is no exception. People tend to open up more and be themselves when they’re away from the office. The meetings have no time constraints, and as we eat together I recap what we have accomplished and discuss possible new initiatives Regularly spending time together and bonding over lunch helps me see who loves what they do and who may be falling “out of love.”
- Communicate the creative process. My job as a leader and innovator is to provide direction, insight, and different approaches to business tasks that will keep everyone focused. Maintaining a transparent creative process helps employees stay in the loop and retain their enthusiasm. When my employees see me working at the office after almost everyone else has headed home, they know that I love what I do. Valuable employees will go to bat for their leaders, especially when the boss is fighting right alongside them. Leaders have to get their hands dirty and make sacrifices to get the best results from the team.
- Be responsibly compassionate. Startup life can majorly impact home life, and balancing the two can be incredibly difficult. Taking a personal approach at work and asking my employees about their lives helps me be aware of any challenges they’re encountering — in the office or at home.
An unexpected death in my family a few years ago led me to closely examine my own work-life balance; I realized I was not spending enough time with the ones I love most. This experience gave me greater insight into my employees’ happiness: I give people space if I sense something is going on outside the office. I approach individuals only if the behavior is repetitive, disruptive, or interferes with deadlines. I owe it to my team to be supportive when needed and offer encouragement when they’re facing distractions outside the office. Ensuring them that their job is secure gives them one fewer thing to worry about.
Startup life can be stressful, but employees who love their jobs are committed to helping their company succeed. Looking for those employees helps keep that love — and your startup — alive.