Frustration in the workplace should be fleeting. A company with a listening culture is more likely to attract and retain great people. The message is clear: if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business. What employee well-being means in a start-up ? On the surface, start-ups are perhaps the least likely places people would consider for discussions about employee well-being. After all, these enterprises are often characterized by people working insane hours within incredible resource constraints.There is little organizational slack, and offering perks and privileges that can deliver long-term benefits are expensive. Successful start-ups, however, are the ones where employee well-being is hard-wired and embedded into the culture and this can create exceptional business results.
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Start with the right people
In my experience, great start-up teams are made up of individuals who are passionate and engaging people who believe in the issue/product/service. This makes them relentless in their pursuit for making a mark and being a part of the culture of success for the business. While co-creating something from nothing can be terrifying and stressful to many, for these individuals this is the opportunity where they are finally released to use their skills, work with a team and use their gifts in dynamic ways. The job becomes more than work, it is a life calling. Their work will have inherent meaning and purpose if they are passionate and believe in the business mission – which are critical aspects of well-being.
Use time to motivate
Employees in start-ups also often have a clear time horizon. A clear beginning, middle end date for phases of the project can be highly motivating and beneficial to employees especially when they have opportunities to directly influence the strategy. At Mindset we operate a “spend down” of endowment policy – we start with a set amount of funds for a particular time and then my team is invited to make significant choices in how to leverage those funds for maximum social impact. This sparks incredible creativity and focus about what is important.
Consider the individual
While small organizations don’t have the financial capacity to offer a suite of well-being options, they often invest in employee well-being by accommodating for each individual’s work preferences. It’s possible to be flexible over hours (e.g. so individuals can take their kids to school and miss the rush-hour), place of work (e.g., home working) and reward people in unique ways that reflect their personality. These tailored approaches emerge organically over time – reflecting job performance and work efforts – and they play a critical role in building the culture.
I don’t think employee well-being happens by accident. Small start-ups are intense places to work and more often than not individuals have to learn to deal with failure – which can be doubly painful when the work is so closely tied to personal identity. Entrepreneurs have to ensure that they recruit people with entrepreneurial temperaments who are committed to the business mission and then find ways to tailor the working environment to enable these employees to feel valued and achieve their potential. Creating this culture of meaning and purpose can help support employee well-being in the unique start-up environment.
Having launched hundreds of companies across a number of different industries, we’ve learned so many valuable lessons. One that always rings true, regardless of the industry, is that the best way for a company to succeed is to listen to its people. Making money or moving up the corporate ladder is no longer considered the be all and end all of career success. Today, one of the biggest indicators of success is purpose. And, in a world where purpose reigns supreme, it’s only natural for people to want to be heard and have their opinions valued. More and more people are leaving their jobs out of frustration. If their ideas are not being listened to, or if they feel that their voice doesn’t count, they are likely to go elsewhere. Employers often shrug this off, making the excuse that they were simply not the right person for the role – this, in my opinion, is lazy thinking. If companies gave their people an outlet to express their ideas, it may just give their staff a sense of purpose, but also give their company a better chance at success. It’s a win-win. Who knows, one suggestion could be a million dollar idea!
Overall by supporting and encouraging the ideas of our people, we have been able to focus on staff well-being, and in turn create open working environments where people feel valued and thrive. And, if people do leave, they often move within the Group to a different Zeons company, or re-join us later down the track. At Zeons, we encourage all of our companies to seek feedback from staff and implement great ideas where possible. Zeons Realty and Zeons Energy have a long history of listening to their employees’ ideas, and as a result have a proud record of innovation and staff retention. Wonderfully, a quarter of the original cohort that joined Zeons nearly 2 decades ago are still with us today.