Startup companies are moving away from the over-the-top Googlesque perks, the video game room in-house barista or everyday cocktails and towards perks that have a measurable impact in the lives of their employees. Here’s a roundup of the creative ways you can motivate, engage and show appreciation for your startup employees.
1. Equity Remains Key to Motivate
Stock option is a great way to supplement employees’ salaries. Giving your startup employee a stake in your company remains a big way to motivate, especially if there is a clear and realistic exit strategy in sight.
If your startup does well, the upside can be huge. A stake of your company makes them an owner of your business, which goes a long way towards motivating your team and aligning incentives. Be aware of the legal considerations though.
Stock options are subject to securities law. Make sure to consult a startup attorney. You can start by getting acquainted with the different types of stock options: ISO vs. NSO.
One of the reality of stock option is that too few employees end up exercising their options. One reason is that startup employees usually have only 3 months to exercise their options after resigning or getting fired. After that, the options expire. To remedy this issue, Pinterest and Quora, among others, are dramatically lengthening that period from 3 months to 7 years so that their former employees have more time to exercise their stock options.
Side note: This more generous exercise period does not work with ISO, which must be exercised within the 3 month period immediately after termination.
2. Mandatory Vacation Fares Better than Unlimited Vacation
Unlimited vacation has been a startup staple for years. One problem: startup employees don’t take their vacation days. That’s an issue because you get more out of employees when they’re better rested and happy.
“The research is clear: beyond 40–50 hours per week, the marginal returns from additional work decrease rapidly and quickly become negative,” Dustin Moskovitz, Facebook co-founder wrote. And of course, burnt out startup employees are also more likely to switch job.
The new trend among startups is to implement a mandatory vacation policy. Adobe for instance completely shuts down one week in the summer and another in December.
3. Encourage Your Employees to Learn and Grow
The opportunity to learn should not be understated.
Encouraging your employees to learn new skills can make for more engaged, insightful and overall happier employees.
One startup, Jolt, is experimenting with two-year contracst it calls “chaptership” with a strong focus on helping their employees learn. Employees at Jolt are assigned an “Employee Success manager” who invests resources to help them grow professionally. After the two year period, the employee is free to work elsewhere or can stay on and work on a completely different mission.
Young people aren’t looking for lifetime careers – they’re looking for places where they can spend 12 to 24 months learning what they can before they go on to the next thing, Roei Deutsch, Jolt’s CEO says.
Similarly, the employees of Chartbeat, a New York startup take a break from their regular schedule every 6 weeks to learn a new skill or work toward righting some social injustice.
There are of course less drastic ways to encourage learning. Both Twilio and Buffer give their employees a Kindle and a monthly allowance to purchase books while other startup companies reimburse the school tuition of their employees.
4. Promote their Physical and Mental Health
Good health insurance coverage always rank pretty high on the list. In addition to these benefits, complimentary or reduced membership to the gym is a good perk to give away. To maximize their mental health, yoga classes, a meditation room or even providing access to a life coach are big trends for 2017.
Working for a startup almost always means asking employees for long hours and making sacrifices for the greater good of the startup. The four perks described above can be utilized to attract and retain a first-rate team that truly delivers employee engagement and happiness.