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How to Build a Positive Startup Culture in 5 Steps

What does a positive startup culture mean to you?

For many people, the term “startup culture” elicits images of pool tables, comfortable sofas, and feel-good quotes in an office. While these perks are definitely great, they don’t necessarily mean that your workplace isn’t toxic. Sometimes, the most toxic workplaces have the best feel-good quotes.

As a startup founder looking to attract new employees and boost employee retention, it’s essential that you make your work environment a fun, positive one where employees can thrive and grow together. Wondering how to do this? In this guide, we’ll explore the best tips for building a positive startup culture. 

But first, let’s start with the basics.

What Is Startup Culture?

Wondering what is company culture? As we mentioned earlier, fun games and quotes aren’t necessarily startup culture. The term is deeper and much more complicated than that. To put it simply, startup culture means a set of shared company values and beliefs which could shape team members’ relationships with the company and amongst themselves.

A positive startup culture involves not only placing the customer/user at the forefront of the company’s actions but also centering the employees as well. This includes encouraging open communication, work-life balance, security, and work benefits. It also involves investing in employee growth. These factors can help you build a positive environment that employees love and are loyal to.

Why is a Positive Startup Culture so Important?

So we’ve established what a positive startup culture really means. But why is it so important in today’s world? Well, if you’re a startup founder, here’s why this set of values is important:

It influences your company’s image

Startup culture defines and represents how your organization interacts with one another and the outside world. As such, it reflects your company’s internal and external image. The more positive your company culture is, the more standing it will have within the outside world. Similarly, employees will view the startup as a happy place to be and work. On the other hand, a toxic startup culture makes your company a persona non grata amongst other organizations and even amongst team members as well. Remember: the public’s perception of your startup culture shouldn’t be the only thing you should worry about. Sure, you want external bodies to see your organization as a great place to work. But do your employees see the same thing? That’s a nugget to ponder upon.

It impacts productivity and performance.

In 2004, a comprehensive WebMD study revealed that happy workers tend to be more productive at work. So what does this mean for startup founders? Well, it’s quite simple, really. A positive work culture where employers invest in team members’ well-being will make them very happy and satisfied. But it doesn’t just end there.

Since employees are happy, they’ll feel motivated and more willing to put in the work. This doesn’t necessarily mean working extra hours without pay. However, it could mean putting in maximum effort to complete tasks, meet deadlines, and arrive at solutions for company problems. The happier they are, the more willing they’d be to make these sacrifices.

It helps with recruitment

More often than not, job seekers tend to carry out research before applying to any company or organization. Thus, most HR professionals and experts today often advise that a positive startup culture is the best way to attract these new recruits to your organization. Job seekers always want to work for companies with great reputations, especially if they’re looking for a permanent job, rather than a temporary place-holder. 

These recruits would always consider workplace culture to see if it aligns with their own personal beliefs and values. They want a company that not only feels like home but offers a positive environment for their growth. Some of these recruits have been burned badly by toxic workplace culture before and are certainly not looking for a repeat. Thus, by investing in a positive startup culture, you’d be giving your organization a competitive advantage within the recruitment sphere.

Bolstering employee loyalty

Apart from helping to recruit new hires, a positive startup culture equally helps founders retain top top talent by bolstering employee loyalty. When there’s a positive work environment for employees to thrive in, they’d feel more dedicated and loyal to the company. Think of it this way: you invest in employees’ well-being and happiness and they reward your investment with genuine loyalty.

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If the pastures within your workplace are green, there’d be absolutely no need for team members to go out in search of “greener pastures.”

How to Build a Positive Startup Culture

Now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, it’s time to delve into the main crux of the matter. How can you build a positive startup culture and create a safe space for your employees to thrive? Here are some tips that could help you: 

Define your values

Whether you’re building a tech startup or an educational Brighterly-style platform, it’s important to define your company values from the very start. Your values determine the kind of company/ environment you create and to a large extent, dictate how you run the day-to-day activities of the órganization. They also determine how you hire new employees, keep them in check and in unpleasant scenarios, fire them.

As such, your values should revolve around your goals, company mission, and employee expectation. To help you define them, it’s essential to first decide what type of environment you’re looking to create. This will then guide you through the rest of the process.

Follow the set rules and practice what you preach

It’s not enough to simply define values and  create rules for employees to follow. This is only a tiny percentage of what you have to do. You, as well as other top executives and managers, must set an example for others. Employees tend to look up to top management for direction and when they see you operating outside of the company values, it’s a subtle directive for them to do the same. It also breeds distrust and toxicity within the organization.

For instance, if you’re trying to promote a culture of work-life balance, you’d have to lead by example by not staying too late or contacting employees outside work hours. When employees see this happening, they’ll feel pressured to carry out company tasks on personal time and this would only lead to disgruntlement.

Promote inclusivity

As a startup founder looking to promote healthy workplace culture, inclusivity should be one of your founding principles. It isn’t an add-on or an afterthought to be considered for performativity. By ignoring inclusivity, you’ll not only inhibit diversity but create an unsafe space for employees who come from different backgrounds. 

But how can you promote inclusivity? Well, it’s less complex than you’d think. For starters, you can anonymize the hiring process in order to prevent bias from influencing your decisions. Another way to promote an inclusive environment is to ensure that marginalized employees get all the support they need from team members and the organization. This includes providing inclusivity orientations for every team member and ensuring that employees do not get harassed as a result of their identity, sexual orientation, race, or disabilities. 

Offer benefits to employees

If you’re looking to bolster positivity within your workplace, you can strengthen your culture by creating benefits for employees to enjoy. Putting employee benefits in place boosts their happiness and creates a sense of community among them. But what kind of benefits can you offer to employees? Well, here are a few you could try:

For starters, you could offer employees the opportunity to work from home on some days. In today’s world, remote and hybrid working are gradually becoming the norm. With this benefit, employees can improve their work-life balance and save themselves the stress of commuting to and from work.

Mental health initiatives are another benefit worth considering. With multiple deadlines and tasks to meet, startup employees are more likely to undergo mental stress than people who work in large corporations.

Constantly reassess and re-evaluate your workplace culture

Workplace culture isn’t static. It’s a dynamic element that should constantly evolve as your company grows. If your culture doesn’t grow with the company, it becomes stagnant, putrid, and toxic.

As such, it’s essential to constantly evaluate your company culture to see what needs to change and what needs to remain. A great way to pull off this evaluation is by listening to assessments straight from the horse’s mouth. Conduct employee engagement surveys and listen to how they feel about the company’s policies and culture. If there’s a problematic area that seems to negatively affect most employees, it may be time to change it.

Final Thoughts

Creating a positive workplace culture is necessary for any startup founder looking to attract and retain new talents. However, you’d need to put in the work and lay out vital strategies to do this. Define your values, lead by example, and ensure that you create a safe, inclusive environment for employees. You can create a healthy, positive startup culture by doing all this.

Good luck

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