After starting a new startup, you will want to grow the business as quickly as possible, thereby generating more income, ensuring more stability and also improving your reputation. But one of the secrets to effective scaling is an effective team; if your employees work productively and consistently, they will be able to make your vision a reality. But if they struggle to do their job, for one reason or another, you could fall into a situation of stagnation.

What makes employees productive in a new startup?

So what makes employees productive in a new startup? And how can you improve these conditions?

Productivity issues with startups

Every business has potential productivity issues, but startups have unique issues of their own, including:

1. Limited budgets.

When you start a business, you usually work on a limited budget. You don’t have a lot of income generated (if any) and you may have a strict or limited source of capital to fund the hiring of new employees.

This makes it difficult to find experienced and talented people, limits the number of people you can hire, and makes the loss of an employee even more devastating.

2. Uncertainty.

There is also a lot of uncertainty within a startup. You may have a descriptive and detailed business plan to serve as a model for the present and future of your organization, but there is no guarantee that it will turn out the way you think.

To survive, startups must flexibly adapt to new changes and circumstances, which means putting employees in a difficult position.

3. Experimental workflows.

You can design a streamlined and efficient workflow from scratch, but there’s no guarantee that “practice” will match “theory”. For example, you could have an efficient workflow in which an employee is in charge of reporting, while another is responsible for updating this report and taking action.

But if the technology doesn’t work or the roles don’t fit, even this simple process will quickly fall apart. You have no historical data and no first-hand experience to help you build more reliable workflows.

4. The malleability of the role.

Often times, startups require their employees to have malleable roles. Since you might not have the space or the budget to hire dozens of specialists, you will need generalists who can fill multiple roles and perform the work of multiple positions simultaneously.

This makes it difficult for any individual to achieve maximum productivity and can slow down your entire organization if you’re not careful.

Is Productivity Everything?

Before going any further, we must answer a crucial question: is productivity essential for a startup?

The short answer is no, but this is the gateway to getting anything you want.

For example, you will have to think about the profitability of the business. But with efficient employees, your costs go down, customer loyalty increases, and your business model will have a much better chance of success.

You will need to think about employee retention. But many of the strategies that boost employee productivity will also boost proxy retention. Almost everything in your business has to do with productivity in one way or another.

So what steps can you take to improve the productivity of your organization?


It all starts with the culture you create for your startup. Who you hire is important, and the dynamics of the environment you create will have a huge impact on individual performance.

  • Work ethic. Your culture should emphasize the importance of personal motivation. It is ideal to hire intrinsically motivated candidates who will always do their best, with or without supervision.
  • Passion. It’s also important to find passionate people – employees who really want to be here and who really care about this industry.
  • Team work. Right from the start, you need to set the tone in which teamwork and collaboration works for everyone. This will encourage your employees to get along and help each other on important projects.
  • Personality adapts. People work much better when they are around other people they get along with. While some personality conflicts are inevitable, it helps to hire optimistic, cordial, and cooperative people (and reinforce those traits in your culture) – so that you can keep those conflicts to a minimum.


You also need to make sure your employees have the right tools to help them do their jobs effectively. After all, you would expect an employee with a spreadsheet to do better than an employee with an abacus.

  • Equipment. You don’t need the latest and greatest machines for your people to do their best, but they need to be up and running and fast. Equip your employees with at least one mobile device and make sure all of their hardware is working as expected.
  • Software. You will also need to make sure that your employees have access to software that can help them achieve maximum productivity. Good software is fast, efficient, reliable, and designed to make it intuitive. On the other hand, you shouldn’t cram your infrastructure with so many software programs that it’s hard to keep them properly; there is value in minimalism.
  • Potential for change. Perhaps more importantly, you and your employees need to be open to change. Technology changes rapidly and you need to be in a sufficiently nimble position to be able to update your systems on the fly in response to new trends and new devices and programs available.

Work flow and process

Workflows, processes and procedures also have a huge impact on productivity.

  • Limited redundancy. You don’t want several people on your team doing the same thing at the same time; it is a purely unnecessary effort. Try to get everyone to work separately on things that really matter.
  • Autonomy. It’s also a good idea to give your employees some degree of autonomy. Bureaucratic decision making is slow and involves the whole team, multiplying the labor cost of each move. But stand-alone organizations are faster and lighter – and employees end up being happier in this arrangement because they have more perceived control over their work.
  • Consistency and reliability. Your workflows and processes must be optimized for consistency and reliability above all else. They must effectively predict all the variations in a given chain of events and provide a roadmap that employees can use to always find the “right” course of action.
  • Documentation. Of course, your workflows and processes should also be heavily documented, although they are likely to change in the future. It takes time to put together this documentation, but the more formalized your processes and the easier they are to review, the better your employees will follow them.

Personal motivation

Finally, there is personal motivation. What makes your employees want to do their best?

  • Goals. Individually and collectively, it’s a good idea to set goals. What are you trying to accomplish and within what time frame are you trying to get there? This is especially important when giving feedback on employee performance; what are the critical areas in which they could improve?
  • Salary and benefits. Money speaks. While some of your employees may be passionately invested in your business, the salary and benefits they earn will always be important to them. Make sure to bid competitively if you want your employees to do their best.
  • Other incentives. It is also useful to set up other incentives to encourage extrinsically motivated employees. Occasional pay raises, bonuses, nights with the team, special privileges, and other celebrations of individual achievement can all spur and reward good performance.

Increase productivity

It is almost impossible to be successful in increasing productivity unless you have a measurement and analysis system in place.

It’s not enough to put a few strategies in place and assume your employees are working – you need data to verify your claims.

Pay attention to hours spent, tasks completed, and even subjective comments from your employees. The more you learn about how your employees work, the more confident you can be that your productivity strategies are working as intended.

You might learn that some of your tactics aren’t working, and you can give them up before it’s too late. With this approach to productivity and a continued openness to experimentation, you’ll be in a much better position to make long-term improvements in the productivity of your workforce.

Image credit: thisisengineering; pexels; Thank you!

Timothy carter

Director of Revenue

Timothy Carter is the Director of Revenue at Seattle Digital Marketing Agency, & He has spent over 20 years in the SEO and digital marketing world leading, building and scaling sales operations, helping businesses increase revenue efficiency and boost growth of websites and sales teams. When not working, Tim enjoys playing a few rounds of disc golf, running and spending time with his wife and family on the beach, preferably in Hawaii with a cup of Kona coffee. Follow him on Twitter @TimothyCarter


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