Having worked with various start-ups for the last 12 years I have seen different strategies employed by such young enterprises to ensure the average employee tenure stretches beyond two years. The first challenge is to attract the right talent. All the right people seem to only want to work with established organizations, not wanting to risk a start-up.

Those that do take the call join for various reasons. Most use such appointments as a stop-gap until they get a suitable opportunity. There are others who join a start-up to enjoy the advantages of being one among few, where their contributions are expected to have significant impact leading to quick recognition and rewards. Some join to get that entrepreneurial experience and high and also in the hope of making mega bucks in case the start-up achieves a successful exit.

But a couple of years down the road fatigue sets in. Always having to work against time with limited resources and most times having to don multiple hats, with constant doubts about the company’s ability to fulfil its employee obligations, all slowly tend to take their toll and most people decide to move on and join more established organizations. As a result most start-ups are forever hiring, training and losing employees before they get productive.

How do you ensure these people stay? What needs to be done to make employees consider your company as a long term option? The key elements to being a successful start-up employer are involve, share, listen, recognize, reward and rejuvenate.

Recognize the real motivations for an employee to continue working with you. They want to be involved in the company’s plans, have a clear idea of the road-map that you have charted for the company and contribute their own knowledge and ideas to improve chances of success. Recognizing their contributions and rewarding any significant contributions are critically important. Ensure you have a tight knit team through various team building exercises – impromptu lunches, planned dinners and outdoor activities. Let it not be all work and no play. Make the office a fun place to be in without losing the seriousness of what you have set out to do.

In most young organizations the problem is in sharing and listening. The CEO/Founder/Co-Founder are all too busy with their own set of issues and do not give employees much thought other than when they have to discuss some specific problem or when they decide to conduct a few extra-curricular activities. Most do not share their ideas, views, apprehensions and challenges with employees, thinking they may not be able to help or mistakenly thinking that it might create the wrong impressions about the company. Wrong. You will be surprised at the level of concern that employees have for the company and the number of innovative ideas that people can come up with, one of which could be that killer idea. Create forums and special events where such honest employer-employee interactions can take place. Quickly address employee concerns with a clear timeline and follow it up with concrete action. Non-action with erode your credibility. Reward every good idea. A free lunch for two, a gift voucher or cash awards are all very welcome. We humans like to be appreciated and a timely pat on the back goes a long way in creating that special bond.

Last but not the least, stick to promises made. It may be compensation, designation, skills enhancement or bonuses. Anything. A promise made should be a promise kept. If you have any doubt in being able to meet your commitments, please do not make it. Even worse, do not give commitments with caveats. I have a seen a lot of organizations take pride in paying employee salaries on the last or first working day of the month and whatever the circumstances ensure this is met month after month. But performance bonuses get an entirely different treatment. Bonuses are kept pending for very frivolous reasons. Something I have never been able to understand. If you have promised and the person has performed and is entitled to the bonus, please pay it as soon as possible. Preferably at the end of the performance appraisal period and not until the employee raises the issue.

Ofcourse, even after all this you may still have people deciding to move on. But atleast you will know that you have done your bit.

The author, Srikanth Vasuraj, is a Business Consultant who Mentors and Advises start-ups and mid-sized companies. He can be reached at +91-98454 78585 or srikanth@nodiva.co.in . For more information please visit www.nodiva.co.in .