Startups are often associated with long working hours and small wages, but that’s far from true.
In the millennial age, I’d suggest that startups need to look beyond ping-pong, bean bags and free food to unearth what motivates their key talent demographic, millennials
With millennials (or Gen Y) set to become the most dominant generation in the workforce, it’s safe to assume that the majority of startup employees fall into this category.
Working with millennials offers a new and interesting challenge for employers. For one thing, they look at the job market with a totally different perspective to their Gen X and baby-boomer predecessors.
Where Gen X and baby-boomers may have been lifelong servants to one organisation, the employment world no longer works this way.
Instead, millennials look to explore different jobs, in new industries, at a rate of knots.
In fact, it’s estimated that your average millennial will change jobs every three years.
Simply put, for startups to survive, they must foster a culture that aligns with the motivation of the talent they’re trying to attract.
Since we founded HealthEngine over ten years ago, through a process of trial and error we’ve identified these as: working with purpose, an environment where learning is actively encouraged,and a flat hierarchical structure.
It’s what ensures we remain a great place to work while also attracting the brightest and best talent in the country and from overseas.
We’ve taken a look at what each of these mean in real terms.
Work with purpose
The most talented individuals aren’t just looking for a job. They want to challenge the norm, and do work that is meaningful to them.
Many startups are founded on the principle of changing the world for the better: that can be by making it easier to save funds for your first home, or helping small businesses find office-space in their first few years of conception.
Whatever it is, no matter how big, for startups to retain the best millennial talent, there needs to be purpose to their work.
Clearly, the mission of your startup isn’t going to get everybody excited.
But to give your startup culture a kick, your employees need to be passionate about your vision. This is particularly important to discover in the hiring phase.
When a company’s culture is aligned with its values, it attracts those who feel comfortable in that culture, which in turn helps companies to motivate people, leading to a higher level of employee engagement.
By taking what I would term an ‘authentic’ approach, we have been able to build a culture of highly motivated individuals who believe passionately about the work that they do, which one of the greatest achievements of our company.
Yearn to learn
Increasingly we’re seeing people becoming focused on enhancing their personal development.
It goes back to the premise that this isn’t just a job, it’s about bettering yourself.
According to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital report, 84% of employees said that learning is a key priority when looking for a new job.
This focus on learning seems appropriate, as learning opportunities are among the largest drivers of employee engagement and strong workplace culture — they are part of the entire employee value proposition, not merely a way to build skills.
For me, it’s important that startups share knowledge in both directions.
I’m not your average tech startup CEO — for one thing I’m not at all technical — I’m a physician by trade.
Every day I’m learning more about the tech ecosystem from my colleagues. It’s one of the many reasons why I love coming into the office every day.
No hierarchy, no problem
Very few people want to work in a company with a strict hierarchy.
Research has shown that reducing hierarchy can lead to more satisfied employees, and some companies have concluded that flatter structures work better in terms of output.
Due to their size, startups generally live by a flat structure.
This will help obtain talent, but maintaining that structure as you grow — while it is challenging — is a game-changer and one that will help you to retain good people.
We employ a flat business structure at HealthEngine, which helps ensure employees can work alongside colleagues who have different backgrounds and experience.
Not only does this help build the company culture, but also helps with enhancing skills across the company as employees have the opportunity to learn from their peers with different professional backgrounds.
If startups can make all of these part of their culture, their talent should stick.
If their talent sticks, that’s the first step in establishing a business built for long-term success.
Dr Marcus Tan is the medical director and chief executive of HealthEngine.