A Startup’s Guide to Executive Retention

Categories: Advice for HR Professionals, Advice for Start-ups and Entrepreneurs, Recruitment Advice, Trends and Learning


Keeping key executive talents is essential to competitive advantage for startups, as retention failure leads to loss of organizational knowledge and experience and even damages employee morale. Nevertheless, startups may find difficulty in retaining key staff because of constant innovation and the ever-evolving competition.

With this in mind, hiring a startup recruitment consultant may be necessary to get expert advice on the matter. For the meantime, here’s a guide to start you off with executive retention.

Align Company Vision Effectively

Startups either experience fast growth or slow down because of many circumstances. Regardless of any situation, executives should always be reminded of the startup’s vision and their role in achieving it. Knowing how their role fits into the big picture helps in motivating them to stay, and enables them to position their individual and company success.

Hold weekly meetings with them. Ensure that the organizational goals are tied to your key executives’ priorities. Align company agenda, weekly deliverables, processes, and tasks that were completed in line with the company vision and execs’ professional goals.

Promote Learning and Advancement Opportunities

Fast-rising startup managers and executives, especially from the young Gen Xers and millennial generations, want growth through coaching and preparation for further career advancement. Having been quickly promoted make them interested in learning soft skills—from managing people to customer service or selling principles.

When it comes to retaining senior employees, they’re more likely to be driven by power and influence. Because of this, it’s important for older execs to have high levels of involvement, particularly by giving them a say and a receptive ear in decision-making.

Learning opportunities may also involve paying for advanced degrees (master’s degrees and PhDs), and classes in fields important to your startup company.

Exchange Feedback

Learning can’t happen without feedback. Executives not only want to know their place in your startup company but also what they can improve.

Hold regular meetings to evaluate performance in line with company goals. It enables your executives to gauge their contribution and feel connected with the company. Aside from giving the employees feedback, be open to suggestions, acknowledge good ideas and respect constructive comments.

Consider Unique Retention Packages

A report by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. found that generic efforts at retention packages often fail. Instead, companies should tailor retention tactics to the mindsets and motivations of specific team members, especially for executive employees.

For many executives who have made unique contributions to the startup, retention packages based on individual wants and needs is something you must consider. For example, a senior exec may appreciate benefits like financial assistance in schools for their children, as well as a flexible work arrangement. Other forms of compensation to encourage retention may include stock options, long-term incentive plans, and profit sharing.

Maintain Dialogue

Open communication and transparency by maintaining dialogue are often rewarded with loyalty, especially among executives. Open communication helps both executives and the startup foster a sense of shared purpose. If there are open door policy and opportunities for a senior employee to offer ideas and ask questions, he or she will feel that their input is valued.

Transparency, on the other hand, is all about honestly communicating the current state of the startup—whether positive or negative—and how important they are towards the company’s plans for growth.

Retention of executive talent is a big challenge for startup companies. It doesn’t work as a one-off exercise. The best approach to retaining key executive staff is through continuous communication, training and development, and even working with a recruitment consultant through every step of the way.

It is important for startup executives to be in line with the company vision and have clarity on their role and future with the company amidst the challenges of working with a startup.



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Ron Cullimore