Technology Is A Great Lever For Startups To Support Their Pace And Energy: Rishu Garg

Technology Is A Great Lever For Startups To Support Their Pace And Energy: Rishu Garg

People in startups usually work across functional boundaries, wearing multiple hats and performing a range of different tasks in roles that can be very different from the one they were hired for.


What are some of the biggest HR challenges facing startups that differ from those confronting larger companies? What is technology’s role in overcoming them? 


Startups are known for a fast-paced environment, low structure, informality and low hierarchy. Since startup organisations beginning their journey are willing to experiment with multiple ways of approaching work, they are a great place for sharing and working on new ideas.


One of the challenges faced by startups is a continuously evolving organisational design. This means people in startups usually work across functional boundaries, wearing multiple hats and performing a range of different tasks in roles that can be very different from the one they were hired for.


This also means that people continuously work with different teams, projects and leaders, including adapting to their leadership styles. This might be unnerving for people who want stable and well-defined agendas.


Early-stage startups are also characterised by limited budgets and, therefore, small teams, which means the lines between home and work get blurred and benefits like paid time off and dedicated 40 work hours a week are not available till the team grows.


Technology has been a great lever for startups to support their pace and energy. At our organisation, technology plays a pivotal role in recruiting, developing, and managing talent. From ensuring all important information is available anytime, anywhere and anyplace, to enabling high collaboration, communication and learning, technology today ensures that people at a startup are set up for success and can hit the ground running. 


Are there any surprising changes you’ve seen in the mindset and approach of startups towards HR tech adoption over the past year and a half? 


HR technology was earlier considered as a tool to automate mundane tasks and store peoplerelated information. However, in the past few years, it has become the foundation for collaboration, communication, learning, managing talent, influencing change, and providing a great people experience. Hence, decisions about HR technology selection and adoption are no longer restricted to the lowest cost product but now lean towards digitisation tools that support the achievement of an organisation’s talent and business outcomes. Another trend is to select interconnected and comprehensive technology instead of investing in multiple different tools that do not talk to each other.


The COVID era has expedited HR tech adoption, aligning tools that help a diversely spread hybrid workforce feel connected with the organisation’s mission and continue to passionately work towards its goals. For example, at our organisation, over the last 1.5 years, many offline processes are now completely online, tracked through HR tech, providing advanced analytics for ensuring business continuity and faster recovery from disruptions. 


Given that the HR tech market is fast-paced and flooded with products and vendors, what are some important considerations for startups to keep in mind when evaluating options to select the right tech tools? 


To select the right tech tools, it’s important to begin by defining key organisational objectives that the technology should be able to achieve in line with the people strategy. It’s important to then list expectations of key stakeholders and outline a lifecycle experience, reflecting both engagement and personalisation. Once the expectations are clear, parameters like the comprehensiveness of modules, flexibility in configuration, user interface, speed of implementation, level of investment and ease of integration with other existing tools should be evaluated.


Speaking from personal experience, I feel it is vital for key C-suite executives in the organisation to understand and buy into the business case for the right tech solution. Apart from HR, I believe the CEO, CFO and CIO also need to champion the cause of selecting the tool that is most suited to the unique needs of the organisation, which will deliver the best ROI and user experience. 


What are the most common pitfalls scaling startups should watch out for from an HR technology implementation standpoint? 


I want to mention two common pitfalls here. The first is following a traditional waterfall approach in implementation. This approach reduces flexibility to make changes in an ever-changing environment and may lead to redundant processes, high costs, and time overruns. Following an agile mindset, keeping employee experience and key business objectives at the centre makes for a better approach for HR tech implementation as requirements are expected to change and evolve continuously.


From my personal experience, in using an agile approach while implementing HR tech for an organisation spread across eleven different countries, we were able to automate end-to-end employee lifecycle processes with a small team, satisfying the changing needs of end customers and prioritising modules based on business requirements.


The second pitfall is to try and replicate current offline processes as is during digitisation. Technology is a medium to do more with less, so rethinking every process and being flexible to modify it to achieve better transparency, speed, and overall experience are the keys. While your offline process may have multiple stages, workflows and decision approvals, it is important to question the need for each step and configure a simple process online which is modelled on self-service, automated controls and increased speed of process completion and decision-making.


For example, we recently introduced a new sales reimbursement process for our pan-India sales team, where instead of filling up long monthly sheets that took hours to submit, they can now share information through the HR app every day. This takes under 60 seconds, and the team now gets reimbursements every week. This has reduced the overall time taken by the sales team, the payroll team and the finance team for submissions, audits, approvals and calculations by 90% and has improved communication, policy understanding and overall experience.


To conclude, once a technology solution has been selected, outline a flexible roadmap in accordance with business needs and readiness for its implementation. Have regular governance meetings with your project team and key stakeholders to review progress, frequently checking that the roadmap remains pertinent and adaptable enough to meet the organisation’s changing requirements.


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