5 Tactics for Improving Startup Culture

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Guest post by Gaurav Bhattacharya, CEO and co-founder at Involve.

“Culture” is a set of norms and beliefs commonly shared by a group of people that give them a sense of belonging. We humans are social creatures. The sense of community is what makes us thrive. Why should the startup culture environment be any different?

For early stage companies, setting a good foundation is key. A good workplace culture has become an essential factor behind every startup success story. But what is startup culture? Even when you ask the best founders and execs, you will more often than not get a rather abstract answer; unquantifiable and, for the most part, mysterious. But still, every successful startup has this mysterious “culture” bolstering its success.

While there is not one definitive culture for every company that can be replicated, you can use some specific tactics to help guide you along the way towards a happy, productive workplace. Think of these tactics as ways to get the ball rolling in the right direction, and then trust your instincts as you shape a culture that works best for your team. So without further ado, let's jump into the five things you can do right now to improve your startup culture.

1. Encourage innovation by embracing failure

Creating a culture of innovation may seem like an elusive and daunting task. However, it can start at the most microscopic level in your organization. Start by embracing failure. That’s it. This is something I implement religiously in my startup, and it’s worked wonders for me. If a team as a whole sets a goal, doesn’t achieve it, and then accepts that the plan bombed, they’ll find a new work around. If you aren't accepting failure, then your team will be too afraid to innovate the next time around - they will just keep doing what they already think works and play it safe.

2. Assess, assess, and assess again... together

Pick a time to reflect regularly, and stick to it. I sit down every Friday with my team and we go over the highlights and lowlights of the week. We all discuss what was fabulous and celebrate it. We all grieve the failures and figure out how to do it better the next week. We bond over the week’s happenings. Some food and drinks isn’t a bad idea either.

3. "You know you’re awesome, right?"

If we can recognize someone messing up, and call them out, the same attitude should be made towards someone’s accomplishments. Every week, my team members have at least one highlight to share in terms of a tactical win. Make sure to congratulate them on it. Even if it didn’t move the needle in the bigger picture, that individual worked hard to reach that goal, and that small goal will lead to bigger wins in the future. Encourage everyone in the team to appreciate each other’s effort. How do you do that? Lead by example.

4. "Aren’t you the developer?"

Great company cultures are built around an environment of constant learning throughout the team. Have the whole team take a course and learn together. It doesn’t have to be skill specific. Wouldn’t it be great if your marketer is taking a basic programming course and your developer is learning how to use a CRM? It’s not just about learning. It’s about building the appreciation for each other’s work. No job is easy, and until you don’t step in someone else’s shoes, you’ll never know how hard it is to walk in stilettos.

5. Give back

So your startup has a mission and a vision? Of course it does! Do your employees know it? Umm... maybe? Not by heart I bet. Find volunteering and donation opportunities in, and around, your area that align with your startup vision and mission. Let your employees be a part of the bigger picture by contributing to the causes your startup is passionate about. Cement that emotional connection.

At the end of the day, whichever way you choose to steer your startup culture, there is just one golden rule: ‘Love thy employee.’ Remember that, and you’re all set.

What are your thoughts on improving the startup culture? What did you do to build it? Leave a comment and I’d love to have a conversation.


Gaurav Bhattacharya is CEO and co-founder at Involve, a CSR management and employee engagement platform.




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