The people and culture (P&C) function is an essential contributor to the journey of a startup right from the initial phase. P&C is vital in many aspects, including assistance to develop an enviable culture through to enabling a high-performance workplace and everything in between.
Startups need to invest in the P&C function and incorporate sufficient structure throughout each growth phase; i.e. have a framework, but one which embraces freedom appropriate for each stage of evolution.
Startups are ambiguous, dynamic, and reliant on flexible and multi-skilled talent. Often times, they seek to establish a culture that permits and aligns with the nature in which they need to undertake business
Startups, particularly in the fin-tech space, are looking to scale at a rapid pace, there is little hierarchy and spans of control which makes decision-making and outcomes speedy.
At times, this can be challenging for the employee lifecycle, and this is where there is an excellent opportunity for People and Culture.
Based on my many years of experience working in P&C and with the P&C function continually evolving, there is much to focus on. However, a startup should focus on getting the basics right first. Below are my five key recommended areas:
Talent - People are our greatest asset.
Provide a unique onboarding opportunity to enable your employees’ critical attachment in their first six months.
“Tech for techies” - leverage social media networks to hire.
Conduct a structured interview, which includes competency and scenario-based assessment or presentation and values-based/cultural fit questions.
You have to be tactical and operational with a strategic vision to drive continued growth and maturity, as well as impact a greater customer experience
Probe for who can align with your vision and thrive in ambiguity. The above recommendations will form part of your attraction and retention strategy as you continue to grow.
Culture - Enculturation of your workplace
Actively cultivate the culture of the office. Engage people to identify and develop the organisations values based on the vision and purpose, and empower them to behave and work in that way. Create the opportunity for organisational integrity and the knock-on impact of discretionary effort. Drive the ‘work hard play harder’ ethos. Celebrate all the milestones in a startup; big and small. Remember, your people are driven and energised by the ‘build’ and the ability to deliver an innovative product to market. And this is what underpins your culture.
Workplace diversity - Establish a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Welcome a community that comprises individuals of multiple genders, generations and cultures. Be conscious of the emerging and aspiring female techies and gender pay equity. Consider offering Diversity & Inclusion training also covering unconscious bias to educate and equip your growing business.
Policy formation - These will certainly protect you.
Do not get bogged down with developing policies. Think about what is essential to protect your business from potential risks. Some recommendations of startup policies include rules for code of conduct, work health and safety, and more, as well as strategies against bullying, harassment and discrimination. Furthermore, proposals for recruitment (including EEO), leave, performance management and discipline, use of tech (including social media), privacy and grievance management should also be considered.
Process and compliance - So with a startup, we are trying to empower and create nimbleness. Still, we also need to develop a culture of compliance.
Today, several regulatory bodies and agencies govern the overall effectiveness and legitimacy of a startup. It is therefore suggested that governance committees and structures are formalized early in the game to ensure transparency and discipline around processes (e.g. remuneration reviews) audits (e.g. finance & procurement) and decision-making (e.g. senior/executive and board member appointments). Compliance processes should provide for evidence-based data, security, privacy, regulatory, legislation, people ethics, and code of conduct. It is essential that all members of your workplace are informed and educated with the aforementioned points and ensure the retention of a record that illustrates their understanding and acknowledgement.
Getting the foundations right is where success lies. It meshes the employee experience and holds together an organization's structure In the start-up world, P&C needs to be tactical and operational with a strategic vision to transform and drive growth as the business matures, as well as intimately align with the customer value proposition and experience..