Atypical response to a typical question "What do you do"? has undergone a massive change from the yesteryears. It is no longer startling to receive the answer as, "I pursue my passion, and that is my career too." The arrival of innumerable startup organisations run by the young as well as the old - who are willing to take risks, follow their passion, and turn it as a career path for themselves - has come about as an emerging trend. Such is the speed of the trend that several minds are sure to be working on different ideas to come up with something new or a better version of the existing preposition even while this article is being penned. They are the entrepreneurs, embarking on a journey of creating a unique path for themselves.
While all this sounds too simple and exciting, it is indeed true that running a business is too complex an affair. Because, it is not about a single individual following the passion, but also collaborating with others to make it happen. In an ideal scenario to achieve success, everyone associated with the startup should have the same passion as the owner/leader. But that hardly remains as true. Think of the time when the owners themselves were employed, how attached or engaged they were with their employer, and what drove them to work holds exactly the same for the people they employ in their team or their organisation.
Some of the basic people challenges that are faced by startups have been mentioned below:
The Employee Perspective
What am I doing here? Many employees feel that they are expected to do every little thing, irrespective of whether it is a part of their role or otherwise. Sailing with the wind and delivering the task as and when it comes has always been the need of the hour. While this seems like a fine deal, as the organisation grows, the lack of clarity to the role becomes one of the reasons for disengagement.
How am I Doing? This trickles down owing to the lack of clarity over the role. Without knowing what an individual is expected to do, there cannot be a mechanism for measuring performance. Performance measurement helps in catalysing productivity: it gives a sense of achievement when accomplished, and a clear-cut indication of developmental areas when not. A gap in goal achievement can be bridged when taken in the right spirit and worked upon. Imagine, a ship sailing without a direction, unsure where will it lead. Aimless sailing leads to nowhere!
What's in it for me? The leaders are passionately working towards establishing a brand and generating business for the simple reason that they are the founders and it is their baby. However, the questions that keep popping up in the employee's mind are :
What's in it for me if I work here?
What kind of growth can I see if I stick with the organisation?
And they are willing to put their heart and soul if they get an answer, and if not, they begin to explore outside.
What to do when I have a grievance? People and team challenges are not so much when the team is small as everyone is connected and bonded with the founders. But as the team grows, there seems to be a loss of frequent connect with the leaders for obvious reasons. Further, the time becomes limited, and the prime focus shifts towards organisational growth. This results in employees developing a feeling of disconnect. They may also feel lost when they have issues, which they would have otherwise shared with the leaders. They may refrain from doing so as the team grows, and this keeps building over a period of time, leading to an explosion in the form of attrition, conflict, low productivity, and/or disengagement.
From the Employer Perspective
Wrong hire: When an employer indulges in gut hiring, s/he gets a hold of the wrong people. Building a team of individuals with a similar mindset and technical expertise is not an easy task. Often, one hires on the basis of their gut instinct and a few basic attributes. However, the fact of the matter is that one size does not fit all. Every role requires different sets of competencies in order to be successful, and the prospective employee should be able to fit into the organisational culture seamlessly.
Why high Turnover: One of the frequently discussed aspects is the attrition level. The reasons could be varied starting from role specifications, culture fitment, workplace ethics, growth opportunity, and so on and so forth. High turnover reflects unstable functioning, negativity, loss of time, money and effort to hire a replacement, a negative brand image in the eyes of prospective employees, and/or external customers. This is a clear indication that there are gaps within the employee life cycle, and they need to be fixed.
Code of conduct: When the team is small, the flexibility is higher, and when the team grows, there is a need for discipline, punctuality, and adherence to the code of conduct laid down by the organisation. For the simplest of reasons, one needs to follow the leaders/owners, and let everyone know of what is acceptable and what is not. There is a thin gap between being flexible and accountable for what you do and being flexible and not accountable. It is the minor gap of "NOT" that alters the message completely. Hence, there needs to be a clear demarcation between the two.
Wrong people with higher responsibility: Wrong people getting promoted or given additional responsibility sets a way for failure of both the individual and organisation. Often, the one closer to the founder/owner is able to better manage perception than those who do not have much interaction with them. The absence of a structured performance measurement/ development mechanism makes way for doing perception-based promotion rather than performance-based promotion.
While the complete focus is to drive growth and revenue, the fact of the matter is that getting the right people and taking care of their well-being is equally important for the success and sustenance of any organisation in the making. Although the product on offer is the core, success is equally dependent on how engaged and happy the workforce is, and how passionate they are about the success of the organisation.
Is HR solely responsible for cultural change?
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