Retaining employees at a startup (beyond a competitive salary)

Four innovative ways to retain good employees at your startup that goes beyond a change in their salary.

Evie Lutz
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August 23, 2022

Retaining good employees by investing in your employees

When startups find great employees, it feels like they've hit the jackpot. However, startups—including several unicorns—have seen that one in four of their employees leaves in a given year. High-growth startups are spending massive amounts of money and resources to recruit talent, and yet, recruits are still shifting. Given the sky-high cost of losing employees, new retention strategies could do wonders for companies struggling to scale up. The key to keeping good employees is making their job a competitive and holistic package.

Cultivate a authentic work culture

Company culture matters and it's powerful. It attracts the top talent and sends a message to your employees and customers about the kind of company you run. Employees are more likely to stay at a startup that clearly defines and implements their core values. Any company can list its values on the front page of its website, but authentic culture forms when the people within a company practice the values they preach, even when no one is looking. 

Allow employees to grow in their abilities

Ultimately, good employees want to grow in their abilities. They will look for other opportunities if they feel stuck at their job. Great startups will find them opportunities to grow within the company. In fact, Google encourages its employees to spend 20% of their time on new projects. This gives their employees new opportunities within the same organization and cultivates a drive for innovation. If your employees are stagnant in their current position, talk to them about the ways you can help them advance in their career and develop new skills.

Make it meaningful

While salary might be a large part of what motivates candidates to accept a job, it's not necessarily going to keep them. Now more than ever, there is a rising trend of employees searching for meaningful work, even ahead of other tangible benefits. Wise employers should respond to this by creating a more purpose-driven workspace, providing employees with moral motivations to stay at a startup. Your employees should find themselves a part of your company's more significant and meaningful story.

Provide benefits

Great benefits are usually a sign that the company cares about its people; it is a vital factor in why people transition out of their job. However, company benefits aren't just about money, they're about what your startup can provide to your employees. Does the job bring them joy? Is there an authentic company culture? These are employee benefits, even if they aren't listed in the job description.

Here are some extra workplace perks that don't involve a change in salary:

  • Free memberships: Costco, workspaces, gyms, etc.
  • Mental health days
  • Parental leave including paid maternity, paternity, and adoption leave
  • Educational assistance
  • Health and Dental Insurance
  • Cell phone expense reimbursement
  • Paid time off
  • Work remote options
  • Paid volunteer time
  • Company outings and offsites (check out AV Studio company if in need!)
  • Unlimited snacks & drinks

Spread the word

Many startups believe the answer to employee retention is a change in salary, which in some cases is correct. However, the goal of employee retention is making the job position worthy of their time. Sometimes employees will decide that it's in their best interest to leave. Not every job is a good fit for every person at every stage in life. Losing one employee may hurt in the short run, but the good news is that great employees make great connections and recommendations. Before your employee leaves, ask them if they’d be willing to recommend your startup to another candidate.


What are some other ideas to increase employee retention? Does your startup have any tips or tricks?

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