In the early days of a startup, founders wear a lot of hats.
Establishing a corporate culture may seem like a luxury or you may think it comes naturally, but the sooner this is a focus, the better.
The later you start cultivating a culture, defining and integrating your values into your business activities, and creating equitable experiences and processes, the more challenging it is to correct course. If the culture is cultivated and maintained from the beginning, the culture will develop in line with those values.
From this lens, it is clear that prioritizing people, regardless of the size or stage of a startup, is paramount. From hiring experience to onboarding and ultimately leaving a company, leading with a people-centric approach will contribute to a strong and coherent culture and ultimately to the long-term success of the company.
Rent for success
Finding the right people can be a challenge at the best of times. Coupled with an exceptionally competitive market, skyrocketing salary expectations and the prediction of additional benefits, flexibility and development, it is not an easy landscape to navigate. But that makes it all sound doom and gloom.
Good news, it isn’t! Startups that have recruiting, culture and employer brand in order have a plethora of unique selling points against large companies, which many believe they want to work for. But communicating this and taking the time and focus it deserves is critical.
This is where People and Culture comes into play; to fully focus on hiring, building and nurturing startups.
People and culture will treat talent funnels with as much value as customer funnels and then with employees on board they will treat employees and their needs as the most expensive asset they are, while protecting the company.
We see people and culture roles being hired earlier and at the same time, we see more talent looking to join startups instead of traditional HR roles at large companies. This was evident in Folklore’s inaugural People Chapter – a community-driven course to nurture and develop the next generation of people experts – which was inundated with highly capable professionals eager to take on the challenge of building and nurturing startup teams. .
That said, hiring comes down to a startup’s ability to create and communicate a strong employer brand to share their ambition, mission, vision and values. The question then becomes, how can you hire and scale without losing the essence of your business?
Create a holistic employee experience
To nurture culture while growing the workforce, the values and culture you pursue must be embedded, promoted, and applied to every part of the employee experience with leaders and leaders at the forefront. Everyone owns an organization’s culture, but how do people possess it if they don’t know what kind of culture and values they should aspire to?
This means that we go beyond the policies and incentives on the table. A crucial part of this is the onboarding experience. Onboarding isn’t just about putting someone in their role, it’s an ongoing process that will look different in every company. This should be a structured and equitable framework for all employees and their manager to align with goals, performance, feedback, and how they understand and embody the company’s values. Multiple contact moments during the trial period ensure that a new employee feels involved and heard and that their journey and development are valued. But feeling valued doesn’t stop with onboarding and development.
Employees want to feel valued, have an impact and feel meaning in their work during their employee journey. Startups are in a unique place to engage and retain staff with this in mind. There are two main types of ownership available to startup workers: the type that appears on a cap table and the type that stems from the ability to make an impact; lead projects, products, processes and teams.
if Molly Graham states, one of the hardest things leaders have to learn and experience is handing over their Legos – that is, their ownership of projects, plans and strategies to help individuals, teams and organizations grow and for individuals who are now experiencing the impact who can have Legos to build something awesome.
My first director once told me that the best managers are the ones who make their roles redundant. As such, founders will be freed up to focus on activities such as capital raising. Enabling people to own and act on ideas gives their work purpose and meaning, improving overall happiness and engagement at work.
People are a startup’s most expensive asset and their greatest risk. They can make or break an organization’s culture. On the other hand, they can promote a startup’s growth trajectory and, ultimately, success if they feel connected to a company and their work.
A startup’s founders and first hires sow the seeds of its culture; what ultimately grows depends on how deeply rooted the startup’s vision and values are within the team. When it comes to planting and nurturing culture, the moral of the story is start early.
- Laura Warden is Head of People & Culture at Folklore Ventures