How to Boost Employee Satisfaction and Retention in Your Startup

Andrew Buck's avatar Andrew Buck October 17, 2022

Employee satisfaction and retention is at the core of how you build a high-performing team, and a profitable business. If you’re running a startup, this should be as big a consideration as your product ideas or marketing strategy.

People are the heart of every business. You can only get so far in business before you need to start building a team. And the performance of that team is crucial, if you want the business to grow.

Read on to learn more about why job satisfaction and employee retention are so important, and what you can do to improve both your startup.

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Why It’s Important

As long as the work gets done, is it really that important that people are happy at work, and that they stick around?

The answer to both is yes. Here’s why employee satisfaction and retention of your employees should be something you make a priority.

Job Satisfaction

Happier employees are almost always more productive. Not only that, they’re more likely to produce a higher standard of work.

When you care about and enjoy what you do, you’re going to put in more effort. You’ll be more focused. You’re going to put all your energy towards helping the business reach its goals, rather than just showing up and going through the motions every day.

Even more important still, is that happy employees breed other happy employees. When team members are happy and satisfied with their work, it creates a positive atmosphere that helps everyone else feel the same way.

Employee Retention

The other half of the equation is employee retention. How well can you hold on to your employees? Do you constantly have people jumping ship, having to hire new employees?

You always want higher retention. It means stability. People know their roles, and know how to work together, if staff aren’t constantly turning over.

In addition, the cost of losing an employee comes, on average, to 1.5-2 times the employee’s salary. This is because of the cost involved with hiring someone new, training them, and any disruption caused in the interim.

That means companies with lower turnover have more financial freedom, with less of the related expenses. For early stage startups, the difference this makes can be huge.

Finally, retention also means holding on to your most talented people. These are the real difference-makers in your business. The high-performers. It takes real care to ensure we don’t give these people a reason to jump ship for a better opportunity, as it’s not as easy to simply replace them with a new hire.

How to Achieve Higher Employee Job Satisfaction and Retention

There are many ways to increase the overall happiness and job satisfaction levels in your business, as well as to increase retention rates.

The two generally go hand-in-hand. Happier employees are more likely to stay in the job. While unsatisfied employees will constantly have an eye on the job market.

Here are some tips to increase your startup’s performance in both categories.

Give clear goals and feedback

To a large degree, satisfaction is correlated with progress and achievement. We want to know that we’re achieving something at work, rather than just coming in and breaking rocks every day.

That’s why goals are important. It gives us something to work towards, and a burst of motivation when we reach these goals.

We also need feedback on our work. It’s natural to want to know where you stand, and how you’re doing. Uncertainty is a big cause of job dissatisfaction, not to mention the negative effects on productivity.

Related: Productivity vs Efficiency: What’s the Difference?

Celebrate wins

It’s all too easy to focus on what we need to do better, and ignore positive moments at work. Putting a spotlight on more positive moments can be huge for employee morale and company culture.

Wins don’t need to be huge. Of course, make a big deal when you hit a big milestone. But there are many smaller wins you can celebrate.

Find some way to recognize big and small wins. Ideas could includes a “wins” channel on Slack, or a regular email sent out to staff. People will appreciate the effort you put into recognizing all the little things that they do well in the job each day.

Focus on the “why”

One way to greatly improve employee satisfaction and engagement is to share with them the “why”.

We usually look at the “what”. What we’re doing, as well as how we’re doing it. But also sharing why we do things really helps employees develop a sense of meaning in their work.

The “why” could be the long-term goals of a project, as opposed to just the success metrics. What does this project ultimately mean to the business?

It might also mean talking about why the company exists. Is it to solve a problem for a niche group of people, or perhaps to, ultimately, make the world a better place?

When people know they’re working towards a bigger goal than just, say, traffic and sales metrics, you’re going to see greater employee engagement, and ultimately increased job satisfaction (which then translates into increased job retention).

Give people time to rest and recharge

Overwork is a common cause of unhappy employees. It leads to physical and mental fatigue at work. and eventually, to burnout.

It also robs employees of the chance to maintain a happy personal life, which just makes things at work worse.

This post looks at the importance of taking time off from work. Paid vacation time gives people the opportunity to rest, recharge, and come back to work fully motivated and driven (without worrying about missing out on pay).

Offering paid time off is essential. Don’t think of it as an unwanted expense. It should be an asset.

It’s something you can use to attract new talent, improve employee retention amongst your existing team, and keep your entire crew happy and performing at their best.

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Provide a pathway for learning and growth

More than half of US employees say that gaining new skills and professional development are in their top wellness-related priorities in the workplace. 

We’ve touched on people needing a sense of meaning and accomplishment in their work. Part of that is knowing that you’re improving your skills and moving up in your career.

If you’ve ever been in a dead-end, stationary job, you’ll know how draining this is. Give your employees the opportunity to learn new skills, take on new responsibilities, and achieve both personal and professional growth through their job.

Make sure your benefits and compensation are good enough

Money can’t buy happiness. But it certainly helps. It’s a no-brainer that offering more money and better employee benefits will lead to increased employee satisfaction.

On the flipside, short-changing your employees is going to mean a much shorter time before they become disgruntled.

Benefits and compensation also have a huge impact on employee retention. If there are other opportunities out there for your top talent, offering more money, perhaps more vacation days and other perks, it’s going to be hard to hold on to them.

Create a positive company culture

Positivity is infectious – and so is negativity.

Put effort into creating an overall positive environment in your startup. You want this to be a fun and rewarding place to work.

Even if you offer great pay and benefits, a working environment that people don’t enjoy working in will lead to high turnover rates and poor performance across the organization.

You need to build company culture from the ground up, and in everything you do. Remember, energy is infectious. One or two unhappy employees can easily have a negative effect on other employees, which then spreads throughout the company.

Reinforce positivity in everything you do, while still pushing people to work hard and achieve more. Building company culture is easier said than done, especially in remote and asynchronous work environments, but the benefits of being successful in this are well worth the effort.

Final Thoughts on Employee Satisfaction and Retention in Modern Startups

Workers today are well aware of their worth. We’re in the midst of what is known as the “great resignation“, a situation post-pandemic where many employees are waking up to the idea that better opportunities can be had elsewhere.

Organizations that don’t make employee retention and job satisfaction are going to be in for a rude awakening when they realize they’re not able to attract or hold on to good people.

Treat your employees like human beings, and work with them to improve employee satisfaction. Doing so will translate to a team that performs at a higher level, and stays together, reducing turnover costs and providing more value to your business.

Andrew Buck's avatar

Andrew Buck

Andrew is the content manager at Flamingo. He has managed teams in multiple industries, for both physical and remote businesses, and has experience dealing with the ins and outs of HR and leave management on a daily basis.

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