August 2023

Top Startup Employers Guide 2023

By Tim Atkins, COO of Osara Health and Founder of My Startup Gig

I started Top Startup Employers 2023 with the intention of making startups more attractive for demographics typically under-represented within startups. As an industry, if Australian startups develop a reputation for being inclusive and diverse environments that facilitate learning and professional development, the talent pipeline will grow, and we all win.

This guide is designed to give startups objective information to develop their employee benefits (i.e. paid parental leave) as well as practical tips and ideas on how to improve their workplace (i.e. inclusive hiring practices).

We had 70 startups participate and kindly share their company practices - I sincerely thank you.

If you work at a startup and need some assistance executing your people an culture function, Rachel Zerr (the other judge alongside me) is available to help. Reach out here and I will connect you!

Finally, watch out for the winners of Top Startup Employers 2023 - to be announced on 21 September 2023.


What's in this article

Leave benefits

Across the 70 startups that participated, here are the stats on the paid parental leave policies. 
Paid parental leave (all startups)
Paid parental leave (by company size)
Paid parental leave (by $ raised)
Consider these other types of leave offered by some of the top startups (which are still rarer but growing in prevalence):
On average, start-ups set aside ~1.5 extra days off which may be either:

Remote work

Across all startups, effective use of software was the key to making remote work a success.

 Slack was used by most startups. Here are some ideas for how to use Slack:
The best startups ensure that announcements, company information, OKRs, progress, meeting notes, action items, tasks etc. are in a public forum or knowledge base, so people can stay up to speed. Some use Notion, Jira, Confluence, Trello, Slack, ClickUp, and Miro.

A number of companies use Loom screen-recording software to record tutorials, how to use the knowledge base, how to work the system, employee training, induction, how to set up your company signature.

For communication, the top startups use Slack, Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams.

The best startups successfully developed a culture and company value around open-ness and over-communication, with clear ways of working that have become habit. 

Team meeting ideas for fun:
Most startups have the following team-wide meetings:
Some other team meeting ideas:
A key to successful remote meetings was to keep them engaging:
Consider a simple policy or set of guidelines for ‘how we make remote work a success’. You could pin this in Slack, or set it out in your knowledge base (i.e. Notion).

If your company has people spread across Australia:
Coordinating who comes into the office:
Flexibility was valued by employees at the top startups:


The top startups invest in the onboarding experience.

Professional development, career progression and performance

There was a strong correlation between startups that invested deliberately in training and career progression and their eNPS score (“How likely are you to recommend this place to work to a family or friend?”).
Career progression, 1-on-1s and performance management
Using software is not critical (particularly given there’s a cost), although they tended to provide more structure to onboarding, 1:1s, performance improvement, career development, and employee recognition. 

A recurring theme to companies that did this well is having performance conversations or personal development plans every 3 months. These generally covered:
A few top startups follow the 70:20:10 model of learning (70% of learning is on the job, 20% from ‘social learning’ and interacting with peers, and 10% from formal education)

It might be a good idea to keep managers accountable for having these development conversations. A few top startups used 360 degree feedback - although this can be challenging to implement in smaller teams.

For HR software, some of the top startups used Culture Amp, Bonusly, Employment Hero, Workramp, InteliHR, Pyn, Yarno, 15Five, BambooHR.

It is worth checking in on how employees are finding the company’s approach to career progression: you can use an anonymous free Google Form or pay for software like Culture Amp.

If you want to train your managers, a few top startups work with The Mintable. You could also consider creating ‘management’ guiding principles of how to manage up and down.
The top startups used a variety of providers for external training and professional development, including ReforgeCodecademy, Udemy, Coursera, LinkedIn LearningSkillshare, Folklore's Growth Chapter, Puddle Pod, The Mintable, KaleidaA Cloud Guru, Blackbird Sales Academy.

Alternatively, some startups have built internal LMS systems with company-specific training modules and self-learning libraries. These can be custom LMS providers, or self-built using Notion.

A few top startups engaged external training and coaches for giving and receiving feedback.

Improving gender representation

There was a strong correlation between startups that were perceived as being committed to improving gender representation and the overall company eNPS / employee satisfaction.
Company practices
Work180 is an endorser of great organisations for women - a few of the top startups were certified.
In terms of hiring, the top startups debiased their job descriptions - the Gender Decoder Tool and Textio were popular. In your job descriptions, look for ways to emphasise your commitment to equal opportunity.

Other ways of reducing bias through the process is engaging organisations like

When hiring roles that have a smaller talent pool of women, look for recruitment partners that have a DEI focus.

Consider having a minimum 50/50 split of candidates at the shortlist stage. Consider also having a diverse hiring panel involved at each stage of the interview process to reduce unconscious bias.
Providing objective salary benchmarking was well-received. Some startups used Think and Grow’s Startup Salary Guide to provide better objectivity around pay.

Top startups also keep an eye on the gender pay gap within the company with a structured plan how to close it over time. A small proportion openly provide data on the pay gap to their team.
Parental leave, remote work flexibility, and investing in training and development were highly valued by women. On the parental leave front, moving towards primary/secondary caregiver tended to be considered more inclusive.
Community involvement
Some top startups got involved in organisations, conferences and programs such as Code Like a Girl, Girls in Tech and Startmate Women’s Fellowship.


Here are some ideas from the top startups around how to be more inclusive:

Non-leave benefits

Benefits varied massively between startups - many offer none or only 1-2 of the below. Here’s a full list of non-leave benefits offered by startups:


Here’s some of the ideas participants shared:
I hope you found this helpful!

Tim Atkins - COO of Osara Health and Founder of My Startup Gig

Rachel Zerr (the other judge alongside me) is available to help startups execute their people and culture function. Reach out below and I can connect you!
Get support from the Top Startup Employers judge
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