Tips for Startups and Their Employees

By Max Woolf

Picture this.

You’ve just hired your dream employee — Debra.

She’s a rockstar who can do the work of three people while juggling balls.

You really want Debra to stay for the long haul.

The problem?
You’re on a bootstrapped budget — you can’t pay her top of the market.

Worse, she sees job listings from Fortune 500 companies on LinkedIn every day.

Take heart.

With the right strategy, you’ll make Debra feel valued and keep her from jumping ship.

Guide Toward Empowered Decisions

Why did Debra decide to join your startup?

It’s not the paycheck or freebies in the kitchen.

She’s in for impact — high-risk, high-reward opportunities that a startup can offer.

Now, as a leader, you want to have the ultimate control over your brainchild —

You want to micromanage Debra to make sure she sticks to your goals.

The problem?

You’re creating a disengaged environment —

Debra starts to feel like a day-time order-taking zombie whose input is not valued. And that manifests in attrition.

Need proof?

Here’s a study that says there’s a link between decision making and job satisfaction.

So what’s the solution?

  • Introduce OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) to empower Debra to make decisions aligned with your company’s vision. You can learn more about OKRs here;
  • Ask Debra for her input on important issues related to the department during dailies;
  • Encourage Debra to improve upon her day-to-day processes and let Debra figure out her workflow.

Often, you want to make a call yourself — resist the urge.

If you empower Debra to act like an owner, she’ll feel valued and will help your startup reach its true north.

Do One-On-Ones Every Week

Here’s some food for thought:

The third key driver of employee dissatisfaction is lack of feedback according to Harvard Business Review.

Debra deserves regular 1:1s with you as much as Dorothy deserved a pair of ruby slippers.


Because 1:1s can help you discuss Debra’s professional development, get feedback, and deal with potential issues before they grow.

As a result, Debra will feel valued and engaged.

On board so far?


So how do you run a killer one-on-one session?

First, make sure your 1:1s are recurring and take place once a week. This will help you create a continuous feedback culture.

Pro tip: As a leader, you spin a lot of plates. You might not always have time to meet with Debra. Don’t cancel the meeting altogether but reschedule it for a different time.

Timing wise, make sure 1:1s one-hour long. This will help you explore potential issues, get feedback, and provide coaching if needed.

Third, and this is a big one.

If you want Debra to feel valued, you need to drive action from the things you discuss.

Set up a shared Google Docs and document what’s planned and what needs to be done.

At the end of the day, 1:1s are your ultimate weapon to making Debra glow in the workplace.

Introduce Peer-To-Peer Recognition

Research says Debra feels valued when her peers recognize her achievements.

But you don’t need research to prove it.

Debra spends eight+ hours with her colleagues. They know the ins and outs of her job. And peers can even help Debra climb the ladder.

And when they give kudos to Debra, it feels authentic. And that makes her feel valued.

How do you implement peer-to-peer recognition?

There’s lots of tech you can leverage.

But if you don’t feel like tinkering with software, you can ease into a #kudos channel in Slack. Source

It’s super simple to set up, but the ROI is massive.

Invest in Growth

Another way you can make Debra feel valued is by offering personal development opportunities.


Because Debra will plateau and get bored if she stops developing professionally.

And when that happens, she’ll walk out of the door.

Need proof?

Here’s a study from Gallup.

A whopping 87% of millennials consider professional development opportunities among the top three factors that keep them with the company.

So how can you invest in personal growth to make Debra feel valued and engaged?

You don’t have the money to send Debra to Germany for some bigshot workshop. And frankly — that wouldn’t benefit your company much.

So here’s what you can do instead:

  • Introduce a small personal development fund;
  • Ask Debra what skills she wants to improve and how that would benefit the company.
  • Send her off on a coaching session.

When Debra starts to feel that you care about her growth — she’ll feel valued and reciprocate.

Final Words

Getting A+ players on board is tough.

Competing with deep-pocketed companies and keeping your talent onboard is excruciating.

But if you set your best foot forward and make everyone feel valued —

Your chances of success will grow, 10x.

Max Woolf is a writer. He’s passionate about helping people land their dream jobs through the expert career industry coverage. In his spare time, Max enjoys biking and traveling to European countries. You can hit him up on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Value stock photo by garagestock/Shutterstock