5 ways to nurture and retain talent in a start-up

What I love most about being an entrepreneur is that no two days are the same. That’s the nature of start-ups – they move at lightning speed, growing rapidly and attracting ambitious people who want to be part of something dynamic, exciting and full of potential. But with so much focus on building a great product, testing it and raising investment – all while staying ahead of market changes -many entrepreneurs fail to focus on the most important aspect of their company – the people.

So how can entrepreneurs build, nurture and retain a solid team that shares their ambitions and improves the chances of start-up success?

1. Hire exceptional talent. It might sound obvious, but recruiting is difficult – particularly in tech, the space in which I work. There is a limited pool of skilled candidates and a far greater number of sexy companies who offer great benefits and perks, waiting to snap them up. That’s why it’s so important to have a clear mission and defined goals to appeal to people who will really believe in what you’re building.

When I decided to start hiring from Makers Academy, Europe’s leading web development boot camp, I knew I had to create an irresistible pitch. Fortunately it worked, time and time again. Many of our Makers’ graduates say it was the presentation I gave at the careers fair that sparked their interest in working for Mettrr.

2. Instil a culture of learning. Our policy at Mettrr is that anyone can take any course they wish if it is related to their work. And training isn’t limited to an external activity – we regularly hold internal workshops organised by team managers that focus on group learning around specific projects. Recently, one of our developers Julio ran a training session on productivity in the workplace. Not only did this offer the rest of the Mettrr team the chance to sharpen their soft skills, but offered Julio the opportunity to share his knowledge and build his confidence.

In my experience, one of the main reasons brilliant people leave companies is because they stop learning – particularly developers, 90% of whom are at least partially self-taught and have an innate desire to learn. We’re trying to ensure that never happens by creating an environment that encourages people to ask questions and exchange knowledge. This includes trusting our team to tackle uncharted territory by using new and disruptive technologies.

3. Make sure talent is challenged, but supported. It can be daunting to join a burgeoning start-up,
particularly when many of our recruits have only been making software for four months (at Makers). Part of my job is to install great technical managers and technical leads to make sure their transition is smooth, and this can only happen by them getting to know every member of staff and understanding what makes them feel valued.

One way of doing this is through a mentoring culture. At Mettrr, this goes above and beyond the junior – senior relationship, with other juniors and non-techies (from business development to marketing) able to contribute to building each other’s confidence.

4. Offer a sense of empowerment. Recent research found that employees who derive meaning and significance from their workplace are much more likely to stay with their companies. This starts by giving them responsibility to contribute from day one. At Mettrr, we know that our engineers learn best by doing, so we let them loose on new technologies to do just that.

Part of what makes this possible is our flat structure, which places value on everyone’s voice and includes all members of the organisation in strategic and creative planning. Every individual has the freedom to make a difference and is encouraged to do so. It’s about pushing employees to their full potential – our developers have gone from working on small programs to contributing to a huge codebase in no time at all. Lukasz, one of our graduate developers, had no experience of Laravel (a PHP framework) before joining Mettrr, and now he’s using it like a pro. Nothing excites me more than watching the team take on these initially intimidating challenges and flourish in the process.

5. Foster a positive atmosphere. Communication is key. We circulate regular company-wide updates through internal newsletters welcoming new starters, celebrating achievements and sharing exciting news. This reminds long-term employees what their hard work is for and immerses recent recruits into the company culture as quickly as possible, ensuring they feel a valuable part of the team from the get go.

Ultimately, employee satisfaction comes down to an atmosphere of inclusivity and trust. No decision is made behind closed doors – absolutely everyone is involved in the direction of the business and that only strengthens morale and productivity, the key ingredients to talent retention.

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