Lessons in employee friendliness from the ‘cool’ start-ups

Why does the new generation of employees find startups so attractive?

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With India being the third largest start-up ecosystem in the world, and jobseekers getting drawn to start-ups like moths to a bulb, it is time to find out what makes these new workplaces so attractive to young employees.

Start-ups in the country are known for their flexibility, open culture, liberal policies and practices. Not surprisingly, they attract the new generation that values freedom and abhors rigidity. But what exactly makes these start-ups such great places to work in other than the fact that their founders are young?

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(i) Openness to change: Since the start-ups are young, they are more open to change and willing to experiment. They are only just starting out and have this strong urge to succeed, come what may. Therefore, they are keen to try new approaches, adopt new technologies without having to worry about a huge or major rehaul of processes. Their small size works to their advantage when it comes to bringing in rapid change(s).

(ii) Flexibility: Start-ups are rarely very rigid, especially when it comes to office hours. At PayU, the financial services company, there are no fixed timings for work. Its over 500 employees can arrive and leave whenever they want, and this has actually worked well for the firm, in terms of productivity. The employees are treated as mature adults who are aware of what is expected and deliver the same with responsibility and on time, that is all. The Company even goes to the extent of sponsoring team trips to various locations, such as Goa. This gives the employees a chance to work hard together as a team and also party and have fun. Such trips help the employees bond well outside the office environment. The change of scene is rejuvenating and goes a long way in increasing productivity.

(iii) Inclusiveness: Start-ups are emerging as progressive, inclusive and sensitive workplaces. They are open to hiring from the LGBTQ community. Many have put in place gender-neutral policies, providing maternity /adoption leave to couples of the same sex. Rental housing platform, Nestaway, has more than a dozen transgender employees.

(iv) Non-intrusiveness: Modern workplaces, especially start-ups rarely intrude into the personal lives of applicants. Most do not even enquire about the marital status of the applicants. In fact, even their forms do not require the applicants to fill in such details.

(v) Focus on well-being and relaxation: It is not uncommon for start-ups nowadays to provide sleeping pods, where staff members can lie down for a quick power nap. Snooker and foosball tables offer a welcome distraction in between hectic schedules. Such breaks help tired employees to regain energy and get back to work with more vigour. Some even have beer nights.

(vi) Women friendliness: The start-ups realise how important it is to retain good talent, which is why they are women friendly. Some of them are even tying up with daycares in the vicinity so that their young mothers can work without worrying, knowing that their infants are not too far away.

(vii) Animal-friendliness: At companies, such as online financial services firm, Zerodha, employees are allowed to bring their dogs to work. It not only feeds strays but also adopts them as official mascots.

(viii) Respect for merit/talent: Hiring is done on the basis of merit and all efforts are made to retain good talent. At Zerodha, talented women employees have even been granted maternity leave of up to a year.

(ix) Sense of belongingness: Employees at most start-ups feel so comfortable that they end up considering the workplace and the people their home and family. Even policies are implemented jointly, with each employee getting to vote. At BankBazaar, for instance, all staff members get to cast their vote on any policy that is proposed. Last year, its employees voted for all staff members to get the same benefits and allowances (in terms of leaves, travel allowances, mobile bills, and so on).

(x) Diversity: Start-ups believe that diversity in the workplace helps increase productivity. Not only are they open to hiring transgenders, they encourage their employees to pursue other interests. Start-ups such as Freshworks, a business support solutions company, believe that a workforce comprising a variety of talent, with different perspectives results in novel ways of problem solving. Freshworks’ workforce consists of theatre artists, musicians, stand-up comedians, chefs and even people who host podcasts. While one of its managers has been an assistant director for Tamil movies, another employee plays for the under 19 women’s cricket team of Tamil Nadu.

Considering that happy employees make successful organisations, it is probably time for even the old and established firms to learn from these new sprouts!

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