Expert opinions, STARTUPS

HR trends in modern startups

Startup is a team united by a single goal that is sometimes quite venturesome but always ambitious. The majority of large technology conferences such as Pioneers in Vienna or WebSummit in Lisbon are focused on seeking and attracting talents to startup companies. This article will set forth the main trends in human capital which are important for those who are ‘starting up’ and those who are investing. These ideas have been voiced from stages of the best venues in the world and are successfully implemented by companies with global recognition. Market leaders using advanced technology to fulfill potential of their employees include Ernst & Young, Cisco, Siemens and others. These trends can be easily applied not only to startups but to any type of business. 

HR is the new life coaching 

Mentoring and coaching are the primary formats of communication. A good investor is not simply a generous investor but first and foremost a mentor and a coach who helps a company to steer its way into the market. The line between personal and professional development is being gradually diffused. Investor’s focus of attention is on a person who is constantly improving his skills. Lifelong learning becomes the standard. I realized this through my own experience. When our startup, Galactica Biotech, received investment from one of the top ten venture capital funds, SOSV, we not only obtained financial resources but a quality mentoring program from the investor’s team.  Step by step, our investor explained what initially seemed absolutely obvious. For example, we had a workshop on the skill of listening to our customers. For an investor, it is the basics of subsequent successful sales. For an entire day, we practiced our active listening skills and then received home work. Developing a presentation for our startup took three months. Every Friday was show time as our teams perfected their public speaking skills. Every day we held various events with the investor’s representatives and consultations on various business areas, from marketing, SMM, long-term strategy and many other topics. Regular meetings with participants of previous investment programs were also a key component of our training as they shared their successful experience and fails. 

Resume means nothing

Traditional resumes are becoming a thing of the past. What investors and large companies focus their attention on is talent. Classical education is losing its value; even work experience is not so important. Any investor would ask you to tell them about the startup team. In demand are bright and motivated individuals who have professional competence and whose values match those of the company. The most important thing though is a balanced distribution of responsibilities, as well as the team spirit and the ability to achieve results. 

Growing with your company

The main trend is a parallel growth of employees and the startup itself. Over the years of my work in business consulting, I have seen on numerous occasions that a team of managers simply lagged behind the business’ development, or just the opposite, when employees were advancing much faster than the company. For this reason, an efficient startup team should be based on specialists who grow together with the company, help it develop, easily adapt to change, and are fast learners. Once I heard an investor say, “People I invest in must have thirst for knowledge”.

Another interesting trend is called a ‘boomerang effect’, when a modern company can let talented employees go but always creates conditions making them want to return. This effect is probably a true nightmare for a Russian traditional business mentality, with top officials refusing this practice due to their principles and the company losing its flexibility along with the employer’s positive image.       

Working from home: The end of the office era

A 2017 Deloitte study showed that 2/3 of millennials around the world choose flexible working conditions – including a floating work schedule, the possibility of remote work and another important component – a healthy life-work balance, which previous generations clearly had disrupted. Back in 2008, while studying in the Netherlands, I met Jan Kooiman, Chief Financial Officer at Philips. When I asked him if I should invest in buying an office so that customers feel that my business is reliable, he replied:

“Forget offices – they are a passing era. Your team has to be effective anywhere in the world and under any circumstances.”

Now, after 10 years, his statement is no longer a forecast, but reality. The key performance indicator is not the time spent in the office but each employee’s contribution to the business development.

Make your employees happy

Google, Nike, Disney, Airbnb and many other top companies focus on building a strong corporate culture. But these days even a small startup can become a bright source of ideas and form its own business culture. Investors are interested in strong players, in teams with a strong core that can stand out in the market and attract attention.

In conclusion, here are several principles for building a strong corporate culture practiced by world business leaders:

• Surround yourself with talent.

• Appreciate each employee, because each and every one of them embodies the mission of your business.

• Make people happy.

By Alina Valencia – owner of the A-Linea consulting agency, Chief Business Development Officer of Galactica Biotech

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