5 Lessons That Will Set Digital Health Leaders and Their Teams Up for Success in 2024

This was a dynamic year for startup founders and people leaders. From the nearly 200,000 tech employees impacted by layoffs to the global events affecting employees at home and abroad, we’re reflecting on 5 pivotal lessons learned in 2023 that will help navigate the year ahead.

1. In a volatile talent market, stick to your values.
The fluidity of the talent market remains a challenge for growing startups aiming to attract and retain top-tier talent. In 2023, this dynamic nature accelerated with phrases like “candidates’ market” and “employers’ market” being tossed around all too frequently. Instead of trying to follow the trends, startups should proactively anchor themselves in their core values, maintain high hiring standards, and ensure consistency in compensation packages.

Whether your startup is in a high-growth phase or taking a more steady and deliberate approach to hiring, it can be easy to be reactive. A company growing fast may be willing to compromise on quality, or pay more than they intended just to hit a hiring goal or meet a staffing deadline. A company looking to only make a few hires in a year may try to negotiate too much to save on cash — or wait so long for the “perfect” candidate — that the role is never filled.

Our advice for 2024: have a philosophy on compensation that reflects your values and makes sense for your business, and stick to it. If you don’t have them yet, design cash and equity ranges that are based on data for each role. Build your ranges with enough breadth to allow people to grow within them, and be upfront about this with your recruiting team, search firms, and candidates. Overreacting to the market will leave you with a lot of “exceptions,” and a team with comp inconsistencies and inequities that may not reflect your values.

2. Onboarding is everything.
This year saw new hires increasingly likely to quit their jobs because of something avoidable: poor onboarding. Beyond a mere orientation, onboarding is a strategic imperative. A well-structured onboarding program isn’t just about paperwork and introductions — it’s about setting expectations, and integrating new hires seamlessly into the company’s culture and operations. This encompasses a thorough introduction to your values, mission, job responsibilities, and team dynamics.

After the hard work of finding and hiring the right candidate, it’s easy to think you’re “done.” But this is when employee retention starts. Our advice for 2024: have a new hire onboarding checklist and make sure everyone on your team knows their role in onboarding. Whether you’re including interactive elements such as mentorship programs, team-building activities, or personalized introductions, have everything scheduled before your new hire’s first day. Consider sending some helpful resources to study up on before they join, and make sure your new hire’s manager has scheduled time with them in advance. Finally, the onboarding process is not static — it should evolve based on feedback, and as your startup grows. New hires typically start their first day having felt a lot of love from a company. If they feel like their first day is an afterthought, it’s a first impression they won’t forget.

3. Know where and how you work.

The still-evolving dynamics of work arrangements in 2023 emphasized how important it is for companies to be clear and reasonable about their expectations. Ambiguity or inconsistency in defining these settings can lead to confusion, decreased productivity, and employee dissatisfaction. Even the US government is having trouble with this issue.

Establishing a clear stance on remote, hybrid, or on-site work models is foundational. Our advice for 2024: if you haven’t yet, pick a workplace plan that makes sense for your company, and set a reasonable timeframe to which it will be put into action. For best results, leverage employee feedback. Whichever model you choose (onsite, hybrid, or remote), make sure you’ve invested in the resources and technology that will support your team. Be clear about your model with candidates to avoid any surprises, and reassess on a regular cadence to ensure it still works for your company. Without a clear policy and enforcement plan, this topic can become a big distraction.

4. You can’t control current events, but you can control how you respond to them.
We were reminded again this year that unexpected events in the world — and here at home — can consume our attention, and bring out raw emotions. Founders and people leaders can find themselves needing to make quick decisions on when and how to respond to current events, in real time. This can lead to suboptimal decisions and messages.

Navigating heavy topics that are outside the scope of your company’s mission is a delicate process. Our advice for 2024: make a plan now, and base your thinking in your mission, your values, and the best interests of your business. Build a structured communications framework that will help you make decisions about when your company needs to respond to an issue, whether that response will be internal or external, and what channel of communication you’ll use. For example, how you handle a natural disaster may differ based on whether or not you have employees in the affected area. How you respond to a hate crime, a polarizing political situation, or international violence are all issues best to consider in advance. Having to make decisions in the moment about major events like these could unintentionally lead to inconsistent responses and the perception of bias.

5. The challenging times are when you define your culture.

Startups unfortunately saw a number of layoffs in 2023. Challenging moments like these serve as litmus tests for a company’s culture. When faced with the necessity of layoffs, it’s critical to make decisions that are practical, data-driven, and aligned to your values. From planning the layoff to designing the communication process to choosing the resources made available to employees, remember that all of these decisions are reflections of your company and your culture.

Managing a layoff “well” is easier said than done. Our advice for 2024: if your business needs to lay off employees, have two goals in mind. First, when your company is ready to hire again, aim for all of the people affected by the layoff to want to apply to come back. Second, aim for all of the people not affected by the layoff to want to stay. Being calm, transparent, and respectful in your words and actions are crucial to managing a layoff. Too often, companies going through a layoff forget about the employees who are staying at the company. Remember that everyone is impacted by a situation like this, and tailor your communications accordingly.

Regardless of what 2024 may bring, remember: maintaining consistency, grounding your people strategy in your values, and prioritizing what will truly drive employee retention will not just lead to success — it will define it.