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5 Tips for Managing the Digital Workforce of Your Startup

Mar 2, 2017

To get and keep the best employees, you have to change with the times.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Just when you think you’ve got a grip on today’s tech evolution, you look up to find the modern-day workforce — including the most effective ways of leading it — has changed as well. Today’s business managers are dealing with a double revolution. There’s a digital transformation changing how we work and an influx of generational young’uns who think, act and expect completely different things from those who lead them. It doesn’t matter if your employees are working from your company’s bullpen, their couch or a train traveling from Paris to London. The truth is that you need a unified method of hiring, inspiring and retaining the best and brightest if you want your company to grow.

Related: Employee Rentention: Why it Remains a Daunting Task at Startups 

The good news is that as a start-up, your company is younger, more nimble and more adaptable than many of the lagging giants in your respective industry. If there’s anyone primed to take on the world of contingent digital workers, it’s you. Still, that doesn’t mean the roadmap is a clear and simple one. Below are five tips for growing your business in the midst of global change.

1. Know what works — and what doesn’t.

In today’s digital economy, traditional leadership style is out. It doesn’t matter if you earned your degree from Harvard or Wharton — micro-management, power games and siloed leadership will never win in today’s free-loving, free-flowing world. Nowadays, employees favor freedom over structure. They want the flexibility to pursue outside passions and income streams and the chance to play a meaningful role in a place they feel good about. If you’re not onboard, you’re going to struggle finding, and keeping, the employees you truly need.

Indeed, research shows that an employee’s intent to stay increases 15 percent when rewarded with things that make life easier, like the flexibility of working from home. (Any parent knows the thrill of being able to start laundry or dinner while responding to emails or waiting for a conference call). Do not underestimate the productivity and loyalty of a happy employee, especially when today’s technology is aiding, and expediting, the process.

2. Let them grow. 

I recently read the speed and insight gained from technology are giving our best employees more time to take on new responsibilities and become even more important resources in decision-making and management. Let them make the most of it. The digital generation places high value on personal growth. After all, they’re not stupid. They know their job could be completely different — or eliminated altogether — come their next homeroom meeting. As such, they’re willing and able to wear multiple hats, just like you, if given the opportunity. Offer ongoing training opportunities, and take time to know their strengths so you can utilize them when times change. And they will.

Related: Thanks to These 3 Values, This Startup Has Shockingly Low Turnover

3. Get creative with organizational structure. 

I guarantee you this — nothing will make savvy employees jump ship faster than finding exhausting approval processes, redundant staffing and teammates who are unaware and unprepared for the work they want to accomplish. Keep your employees inspired by eliminating silos and structuring your company in a way that more closely resembles the movement of information and action within your market. This will encourage strong collaboration, productivity and improve your bottom line.

4. Get on board with BYOD.

From smart phones, tablets and computers to software and security updates, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with every tech trend on the digital horizon. Allowing employees to utilize their own devices via cloud computing and remote networking will enhance work speed and accessibility — and save you money. Just be careful. Know your security risks before allowing an influx of external devices onto your network.

Related: How to Give Millennials the Employee Development They Want

5. Never stop communicating.

Yes, open floor plans, electric plug-in stations and fancy gadgets could impress prospective employees, but they won’t necessarily make your workers more efficient or productive. At the end of the day, people are still people. There’s no digital transformation on earth that can change that. Focus on labor platforms that truly invite connection, rather than anonymization. Take time to get to know your employees’ passions, gifts and pain points. And understand, as surely as the sun is shining, communication is still central to helping your brightest employees grow — right along with your company.

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