When a large, established business hires a new employee there is always a set of expectations and requirements for the position. While there may be some room for flexibility in the role, there tends to be little need for them to contribute more than needed. But in the startup world, there is a much different mindset needed to be able to foster growth through creativity.
As the CEO of a startup, I’ve observed three different types of employees, all with something to offer but certainly with enough distinguishable differences to justify a closer examination of who these employees are and what roles they can fill. Each of these three categories of employees adds value to your startup not only in the present tense but in building the future as well.
- The Clock Punchers
While at first, you might assume that this group of employees holds no value to your startup ecosystem, the truth is that this group is the mortar that holds up the wall. While there tends to be higher turnover with pure clock punchers, they do provide value by completing tasks assigned with little question.
These are employees who show up, do as instructed and leave when the clock strikes five. Often they perform at average levels, some striving for higher rewards, some just performing at the most basic requirements. I find that these employees eventually move on, or are moved out of the organization as they often lack the vision and creativity needed to contribute any more than what’s listed in their job description.
- The Middle
This group consists of constant conundrums. While it contains many employees who feel like standard clock punchers, often the employees that need a little push are hiding out here. They can follow instructions and follow them well, but they are still on the outskirts of becoming true strategists. There are big thinkers here, but there is a fear holding them back.
As a leader, you must be able to find the employees in this group that are ready for the next challenge. Can they go above and beyond? Can they exhibit a strong sense of creativity and expression? Can they manage? Or are they going to remain in this group forever, content to just float and collect a paycheck? Startups can’t afford to have too many employees in the middle, and it’s your job as a leader to determine who is ready to move on to the next group.
- The Superstars
Like the previous two groups, I find that your true superstar employees will perform the tasks assigned to them and more, but you can always sense a nervous and excited energy within them that begs to be challenged. Here is where you’ve found an employee from the middle who rose to the challenge. Often you’ll end up with superstars after molding one from the rough clay of the middle or sometimes you’ll be lucky enough to hire one.
This group is ambitious, ready to roll up their sleeves and get it done. They will develop a plan, manage it up to senior management for approval and get it done. This group moves with creative lightning, never settles on just the basics and always pushes to move themselves and the organization forward. They have the startup mentality rushing through their blood and are ready to put in the same level of love and commitment that you put into building your company.
The challenge that I think about all the time is that you don’t generally know where this superstar employee comes from most of the time. Family, parents, challenges, and schools all contribute to the makeup of an employees’ ambitions. Can they speak up? Were they told to always draw between the lines? Can they lead or follow or do both?
I have found that roughly 75% of those in the second group have the potential to be true superstars for your startup. Most of the time if they think I believe in them enough to have this conversation, they work very hard to show me they can do it. It is necessary that you have great people who can contribute and create in a startup.
Startups need nimble, creative employees willing to move within the organization and build where needed, but we also need dedicated employees experienced in their roles. Creating and maintaining this balance, while pushing the right employees to become superstars is key to building a strong and successful startup culture.