What do you consider your company’s most important asset to be?
No matter what your answer was, wipe it from your mind. Now that you have decided to branch out and hire employees, your answer to that question should always be your team.
The reasoning is extensive. There are countless studies on the success of companies who put their employees and first. But consider this right off the bat: Anyone applying to a startup organization believes in the owner’s vision, and shares their innovative spirit. Otherwise, they would accept a job at a more established corporation.
That alone—the fact that your potential employees are willing to risk their livelihoods to help you follow your dream—should be motivation enough for you to reciprocate their commitment. The first step is to give them a proper onboarding experience.
Hiring Your First Employees
Not every applicant is a godsend, though. Really think about the type of team culture your business might foster as it operates day-by-day, and evaluate applicants based on how they might adapt, thrive, and contribute to that culture.
If you haven’t thought much about that aspect of your business, there is a tool called the Wealth Dynamics Test that can help you understand your leadership style, what kind of environment you will most likely flourish in, and critical steps to take to overcome some of your perceived weaknesses. This information will get you thinking of yourself as a team manager. A team culture, which we will talk more about later, will start taking shape from there.
During the interview process, focus on the potential you see in each interviewee, not just their work history. Does your own work history perfectly reflect your passion, creativity, and hard work? On a related note, were your own answers to interviews in your past mostly – how do I put this? – fabricated to appeal to the interviewer? Don’t let yourself be fooled. It’s not good for business. Have tasks prepared for your applicants to complete, so they can demonstrate the skills they speak so highly of. Have a variety of tasks, even. Present them with a solo job; have them take part in a collaborative task with you. Be imaginative with the interview process if you expect them to be imaginative too.
Onboarding Your Team
Forbes cited that in 2012, nearly 35% of companies invested absolutely nothing in onboarding. Maybe you don’t have any money to invest in a state-of-the art designed onboarding process, but you can certainly invest time and effort. Even your very first employee needs onboarding. It establishes expectations, takes care of legal concerns, and sets the tone of your team’s culture.
Some helpful tips for a smooth, welcoming onboarding:
- Create an agenda for their first week. Monday – introductions and form-filling. Tuesday – handbooks. You get the picture. Bullet each day with more specifics so there is never a dubious pause in the day’s flow.
- Have bright, comfortable workstations waiting for new employees. Stock them with basic supplies, handbooks, contracts, and other necessary legal forms.
- Welcome gifts. A mug, pen, shirt, or all three, branded with the company logo will show you care and help instill a sense of pride in your new hires.
Allowing your staff time to acclimate is essential. I understand you need their immediate assistance, but they won’t be much help if they haven’t been given the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of your business or are not used to your leadership. Traditional organizations have 30 – 90 day grace periods for a reason. It eases the stress of high expectations and gives both parties a fair chance at melding.
Your Team Culture
Further benefits of the Wealth Dynamics test: they help pinpoint your business role models and evaluates your current business decisions. All of this information comes together to help you figure out the answers to key culture-building questions:
What kind of company do you want to be? Is direct, hard work a priority, or do you place great value on creativity? Is a dress code necessary? Will it be a collaborative space?
A successful startup’s culture sets it apart from a startup only focused on graphically measurable success.
Determine the company values that are most important to you. Articulate these values in a mission statement; then, lead by example and encourage your first employees to mirror them every day. Each new hire after that will have an easier time catching the vibe, and your business culture and team spirit will just flow.
This isn’t without some maintenance, of course. This is where the more interesting part of “team culture” comes in – the part that brings visions of Google and Zappos to young entrepreneurs’ heads.
Both companies are lauded for their innovative employee structuring and perks that make the work day more enjoyable, including pets allowed policies, lax dress codes, office cook-offs and scavenger hunts, Google’s “nap pods,” Lego play stations, legendary wing-chaired libraries, Zappos’ trendy staff cafeteria, and family-focused events throughout the year.
Any of these ideas can be adapted by your business in its own unique way with little to no cost. Other great ways to enforce an inspiring team culture that will keep new hires (and you!) motivated and showing up to work religiously:
This is an exciting time for your startup! Make the onboarding and team building exciting too!