When the pandemic kicked off, my company only had 10 employees, and like most other small businesses, we were worried about Covid-19’s potential impact on the economy. Other companies were firing good people left, right and center. Despite the instability, I tried to show our employees that they meant as much to us as we meant to them.
We made it through the entire pandemic without letting go of anyone. The renewed sense of mutual loyalty we’ve fostered is just one way we’ve managed to get more out of our team by giving to them. We know the fierce loyalty of those 10 people who make up our now 90-person team.
If you’re a startup, or even a larger enterprise, here are a few ways to get more out of your people by giving more.
1. Let employees lead the company’s future.
The growth and direction of a company is usually led by members of the C-suite. While traditionally this made sense, it can also run the risk of isolating your employees from having an impact on the future of the company.
Employees will only commit to the company if they care. In our startup phase, we made it clear that not only did we want opinions from the full team, we wanted them to take the reins and initiate change and growth themselves.
Now our employees are given the opportunity to create and run programs. In this area, our number has grown from one to four: we now have an environmental committee, an employee experience committee, a wellness committee, and a B Corp team. Just recently, the B Corp team ran an employee satisfaction survey, one of the required metrics that will allow us to become a certified company—something our employees wanted our business to be recognized for.
The key to getting more out of your people is by showing them you value them, showing them they are special to you. Do you have to implement every idea your team suggests? No. But by providing a platform for individual voices and initiatives to be heard, you’re more likely to grow a loyal and committed team. Consider sharing certain C-suite responsibilities with the wider organization. And if you aren’t sure what exactly they want to be a part of—ask.
2. Get down in the trenches with your team.
When psychotherapy company Spill decided to pay all their employees the same salary, chaos ensued. How could a software engineer and a clerical worker earn the same? While the actual plan didn’t work out, the thought behind this initiative remains valid. But there are better ways to make everyone feel like they’re all on the same team.
In the early days of a startup, there is a lot of heavy lifting to be done. Too much separation between different departments and levels can leave teams or individuals feeling isolated. But by getting down in the trenches, you’re able to relate and connect with your teams.
This relates to the well-known adage: Treat others the way you want to be treated. From day one, for example, we chose to be flexible with our employees when it came to time off and sick days.
While you don’t have to knock all bureaucracy out of your company, you can find ways to connect and relate to your employees and show you understand them better. Start by speaking to individual employees or teams and understanding their day-to-day. What’s something they’re doing that’s new to you? Is there a challenge they’re facing that you can help alleviate?
3. Define your mission.
People perform best when they love what they’re doing—or when they love why they’re doing it.
Having a sense of meaning also helps employees feel a sense of ownership. Ownership fosters commitment, which in turn helps motivate and engage individuals. A high salary might work in the short-term, but this extrinsic motivation doesn’t always inspire high creativity or passion.
As awareness of the climate crisis has grown, we’ve seen people’s passion for making a change grow as well. Our company’s enabling of them to take a personal stake in the climate crisis has employees feeling they are fulfilling their chosen purpose.
Again, the task here isn’t just to define your company’s mission statement. It’s to ask how that mission relates to your employees. Start by ensuring your team knows how their work relates to the mission. You’ve talked the talk; now walk the walk. For your team to believe in your vision, you as a leader need to believe it and show it. Create a clear mission statement and vision that aligns with every decision and every task the company makes—including the C-suite.
The Value Of Trust
Creating this two-way street of loyalty and respect does more than earn money for you. It creates a solid team that is reliable—a trait that is more valuable than ever.