4 Tips to Help Your Startup Attract and Retain All-Star Employees

If you want to build a great team that propels your business forward, you need to set a strong precedent for culture. All-star people need opportunities to thrive in an environment they feel attached to and a company story they can help shape.

At MOJO, that’s exactly what we’ve done, and how we’ve grown from only a handful of people in 2013 to a team of talented professionals quadruple the size across four offices heading into 2019. Here are four tips I’ve learned on my journey from turning the vision of MOJO into a living, breathing, dynamic company with a very bright future ahead:

1. Build a powerful culture that’s open, communicative and honest

When you’re a startup, you likely don’t have a proven track record of success to lean on yet. You’re asking employees to take a leap of faith with you. While you have to set the tone for company culture, make it clear that your employees play an integral role in defining it. Your role is to do everything you can to help them thrive, which often means connecting beyond the work. Make time for happy hours or regular conference calls with remote workers, and create multiple touch points throughout the day. At MOJO, we work hard to get our people together when we can, including hosting monthly ‘third-Friday’ videoconferences where we share company updates, big wins, creative trends, etc. that are followed by a team-bonding activity of choice (axe throwing and segway tours to name a few), as well as annually flying the full team to one location for an ‘all-hands’ to reflect on the year, plan for the future and celebrate our team.

It’s also important that everyone on your team feels heard, seen and appreciated. One way we do this is to reward and acknowledge employee growth on a rolling basis instead of being tied to an annual review and promotion cycle. We celebrate employees who are rockstars and achieving results at the moment the work is happening. We find this helps keep young talent hungry to achieve more because they realize they can grow without a predefined timeline holding them back. Managers at MOJO hold bi-weekly check-ins, along with project-completion and full-year reviews. These open lines of communication with leadership help everyone feel empowered to grow.

2. Know how you define and diversify your talent

Talent doesn’t have a cut-and-dry definition. Understanding how it fits into your company culture will help you get to your next level. Seasoned talent brings experience and invaluable know-how that every organization needs to help steer the ship with a “big picture” mentality. However, there’s no replacing raw talent with a drive that can be muted by traditional, more corporate structures that don’t have time (or too many politics) to clear the way for their steep climb.

At MOJO, we started as a completely remote team, so we knew it was important to hire driven self-starters who were suited to answer client challenges with holistic, 360-degree creative solutions. Now that we are spread across offices in New York, Cincinnati and San Francisco, these values are still important. We continue to prioritize finding people who are motivated and energized by achieving success together. They might not have held leadership positions before, but we see value in being the catalyst that helps them get there.

3. Your talent is a key resource for expanding your company with the right people

Many founders try to put all of the expectation of recruiting the right fits for their company on their own shoulders. When you trust your employees, not just from a day job perspective, but as the holistic value-adding team member they are, you’re able to bring more talent in the door that fits your needs.

I’ve found that it’s key to hire connectors — people who are collaborative themselves and either know other smart, collaborative, solutions-oriented people or know how to identify it during the interview process. These types of people tend to attract similar talent in their networks and can help validate your company to a potential hire as well as providing a trusted lens that delivers more than any job posting.

4. Always keep evolving

Because we’re so young, MOJO is still growing from a process standpoint, and the culture is evolving every day. That’s part of the beauty of this organization: we’re building something larger than ourselves. Each new teammate adds spice to the recipe and something new to our ‘secret sauce’ as a company.

You can’t be afraid to let yourself and your own original vision evolve and change. We chase things together – we may win and lose as a result – but we do it as a team. By embracing these changes, we don’t only chase our goals and handle our wins and losses as a unified front, but we also deliver the best solutions and results to our clients. If you end a year with the same outlook you had when it started, chances are you’re missing opportunities to grow your business as well as to let people on your team shine.


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