5 Worthwhile Incentives To Attract Top Candidates

If you want the kind of employees who make great things in their downtime and stick around for the long haul, here’s how to draw them.

5 Worthwhile Incentives To Attract Top Candidates
[Photo: Flickr user Heisenberg Media]

Many young employees and established professionals revere startups not only for the potential financial windfall they could provide–after all, Google was a startup in the ’90s–but for the creative, open, and inviting culture that comes with working for a new company.


After all, the two largest age ranges for startup founders is 20 to 24 and 30 to 34, which means that startups are statistically more likely to embrace new and radical ideas about company culture.

It also means that the smartest and best job candidates under 35 are flocking to startups because of the benefits they offer. Young professionals claim that work-life balance is more important than ever, and their job search reflects these changing attitudes.

Whether your company is just starting or you are simply looking to make your organization more enticing to potential and existing employees, here are a few of the most important aspects of the startup culture that makes it so desirable.

1. Trust Your Employees

Employees are more likely to stay at a company if they feel like their management and employers trust them to do their job without being micromanaged. According to an article published by Michigan State University Extension, organizations with a high level of trust have increased employee morale, more productive workers, and lower staff turnover.

Employees who feel trusted are more likely to also trust the company to make the right decisions regarding work culture and responsibilities. They also might be more likely to feel comfortable enough to share their ideas, which fosters an environment of innovation–something that is key to startup success.

2. Incentivize Employees

As mentioned earlier, many young professionals embrace startups because they offer unique financial incentives that can inspire employees to produce great results. After all, if employees know they own a piece of the company in equity or stock options or they can get bonuses for performance, they will be even more willing to do what it takes to make your company succeed.


According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, “shared capitalism has beneficial effects on all outcomes save for absenteeism and that it has its strongest effects on turnover, loyalty, and worker effort when it is combined with (policies, higher than average pay, and low levels of supervision). Most workers report that cash incentives, stock options, ESOP stock, and ESPP participation motivate them to work harder.”

3. Let Employees Create Their Own Schedule

Increased employee retention and job satisfaction has a lot to do with their schedules. Many startups do require long hours–at least in the beginning–but employees appreciate that many of their bosses allow for flextime or telecommuting. Because most people with desk jobs can work from home, having that flexibility can increase overall job satisfaction.

Another, more radical option is a results-only work environment (ROWE). This shift in culture means that employees are solely judged for their job performance, instead of the hours they put in at the office. The two creators of ROWE, human resource strategists Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler, found that productivity rises an average 20% and voluntary turnover rates decrease by 90% when companies shift from a “regular” expected 40+ hour workweek to ROWE.

4. Show Employees You Appreciate Them

Another crucial aspect of the startup culture (and probably the most well known by the general public) is the creative and open offices. The biggest startups offer some of the best perks: Google has nap pods and free electric car rental, unlimited vacation time (and even a bonus so you can go on vacation!), and free gym memberships or company retreats.

While some perks may not be feasible for some companies, any office perk shows employees that you appreciate the work they do for you. Employees who feel appreciated are much more likely to stay long term.

5. Allow Creativity To Prosper

Creative freedom is valued by employees, and it benefits your business too. Many companies like 3M and Google have allowed employees to dedicate 20% of their time (or about one day a week) to creating something they love. While Google no longer implements this policy, its employees created Gmail and AdSense during their “creative time.”


Even if you don’t want employees to dedicate 20% of their time toward self-driven projects, fostering a creative office environment can be beneficial. As many startups do, allow employees to decorate their desk space however they want, have a break or game room for employees to relax, or offer office yoga classes during lunch or before the workday. This balance between analytical and creative sides can help increase satisfaction in the workplace.

Embracing a company culture that has the innovative thinking of a startup can improve employee job satisfaction, reduce turnover, and increase productivity. These changes can lead to long-term success and happiness for not only employees, but the company’s bottom line as well.

Sujan Patel has championed Internet marketing and entrepreneurship for over a decade. His experience, ideas, and strategies have helped companies build and strengthen their businesses online. Sujan is the VP of marketing at thisCLICKS, the makers of When I Work, an employee scheduling software solution for small businesses.

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program.