The Smarter Startup

Do Your Startup’s Employees Have a Sense of Purpose?

Your people will drive your business to success when they are highly engaged and know where the ship is headed.

“I believe this thing called fulfillment, the ability to say that I love my work, I love what I do, is a basic human right. Not a privilege.”
~Simon Sinek

Some of the most important aspects toward job fulfillment for your employees are the ability to provide them with the necessary framework to do amazing work and provide them with a sense of purpose.

No four elements propel a startup forward more than culture, values, mission, and vision. They define what a company believes, what they expect from the employees, drive the direction of where the company is headed, and define why they exist. In working with startups through their growth stages, I’ve seen first-hand how these areas, when woven into the company fabric early, can be the difference between success and failure.

When these areas are unclear, startups struggle—employees lack clarity on the direction and purpose, and they at times make decisions without a “north star” to guide them. I’ve seen this happen time and time again where leadership is focused on delivering results and revenue—they forget to make these areas and their employees the priority.

Supporting your culture and creating your values, mission, and vision is just the beginning. All too often, startups spend a great deal of time establishing these areas but fail in the rollout and the reinforcement of them. They forget to weave this into the fabric of their company and they fail to keep the ‘volume turned up’ in these areas so that they are top of mind for their most important asset, the people. After all, the people will drive your business to success when they are highly engaged and know where the ship is headed. Leadership teams have a responsibility to integrate these important areas into their everyday lives.

Lead by Example

Your employees are watching you. Leaders set the tone on how others should behave, make decisions, and communicate with each other. Leaders must lead by example and demonstrate the example of culture, values, and mission through their actions, decision making, and communication to those in the company. People will not follow a leader they feel is inauthentic, so leading with authenticity is critical to making this work. As the leadership team interacts with each other, it is equally as important they set the tone with each other as they collaborate on direction and solutions.

Talent Acquisition

What is your employer brand saying about you? How are you communicating the brand? Can an external party understand what it’s like to work at your startup and what your culture and values are? The ideal startup makes its best employees even better. Employees are not just looking for the best places to work. They want to join the best places to grow. Ensuring your employer brand accurately reflects your startup’s ‘personality’ is critical to hiring the right talent.

It should go without saying that startups should be incorporating their culture and values into their interview processes. Those candidates who already demonstrate similar behaviors and decisions in line with the company’s defined values and culture, make hiring for success that much easier. This is equally as important as hiring for the right match in skill set and experience. Ensure you’ve incorporated the right screening and questions into your interview cycles.

Educate Your Teams

Too many startups print posters, mount them on the wall, and never address the values again. They send out communication announcing the company’s values, mission, and vision and then expect it to stay top of mind for the employees. That simply isn’t realistic.

Start by emphasizing their importance to new hires in the onboarding process and then continue to deliver ongoing training to employees that incorporates these components on a regular basis. You want to keep the ‘volume turned up’ on these at all times. When delivering employee training of any kind, areas such as values, culture, mission, and vision need to be incorporated into the thread of the training. Keep them front and center and your teams will understand the importance you make of them.

Communicating Regularly

Company meetings, email communications, intranet sites, should all incorporate and remind employees of the importance of the culture, values, mission, and vision set by the company. Remember to create communications that encourage the behaviors and decision making that reinforce them all.

Recognize Importance

Recognizing employees who are living the company values is critical to keeping them top of mind. Through employee recognition in whatever form you choose: awards, bonuses, or a call out at a company meeting, you’re sending a clear message that these areas are important and the individuals receiving recognition are an example of what you expect from everyone.

Performance Feedback

You’ve hired and trained employees on your culture, values, mission, and vision. The next step is ensuring you integrate these critical areas into the performance feedback mechanisms throughout the company. Your workforce deserves ongoing feedback on how they are performing and where they can improve. Ensure their importance by providing feedback in the key areas that drive the company. While many startups include this in their performance reviews, I’d recommend you incorporate them into regular, frequent check-ins between employees and their managers.

Measure Success

Culture, mission, vision, and values need to be measured on a regular basis. It’s your duty to create measurement indicators of the highest quality. Make sure they are supported by data, fact-based, reliable, and accurately convey their intent. As an example, if one of your values is ‘customer satisfaction’, what does that mean? Is it measured through your NPS score, or are there other ways by which you determine its success? How does your workforce support that value in how they work?

Remember that your mission, vision, and values are meant to be a road map for your organization, not to lock you into a particular direction. They are key to your ability to communicate clearly and consistently, driving your team to job satisfaction and your startup toward success.

As we battle to acquire and retain great talent, it’s become increasingly important to help our people make their fullest contribution. Create your mission, vision, and values that are in line with your culture, that inspire, motivate, and drive people toward them. In return, you’ll see high levels of productivity, employee engagement, and satisfaction.