Starting Up: The Building Blocks of HR Start-Up Success

starting up: the building blocks for HR start-up success

I am really excited to join the great team of Workology writers and present here my first post.

When Jessica asked me to write on start-ups, I was left thinking about a great topic that has so far not been touched on much. Start-ups and their challenges are unique and so are the opportunities you find in them. My experience of Head of HR for a global start-up taught me a lot and I wanted to start sharing some of those learnings here.

While I start this series on HR for Start-Ups I will focus on the organization, culture and processes that can hopefully help your organization in the journey to start-up success.

What makes a great start-up, other than the funding or the promise of the product? It’s the human capital that is engaged and motivated to build a great organization. But to get there one needs the following elements:

1. Culture 

2. Talent

3. Enablers 

In this post, I’ll focus on culture as the cornerstone of any start-up ecosystem and how to build it

Culture and its importance can never be underestimated. There are lessons on this all around us, where organizations, as progressive as they might be, lose out on culture and the impact is loss of employer brand, customer retention and even exits. For a competitive start-up ecosystem culture is even more important – it’s the foundation for a great organization.

I want to talk about the culture we built for an organization I was a part of and how we ensured that became sustainable.

When an organization starts a transformation journey, it necessitates a shift in culture too. In the case of our organization, the change in leadership with a new CEO and a change in strategic direction brought about a cultural shift which we coined Ideaprenuership (entrepreneurs with ideas). I would like to highlight critical elements that drove this change forward:

Champion the New Culture

While it is very important for employees to breathe the new culture, the best way to embed it at all levels of the organization is by ensuring leaders champion it and making them accountable for change. Leaders walking the talk with the new culture helps employees assimilate it too. It would also be good to identify culture champions from both HR and the rest of the organization who could help integrate the new culture into various ongoing programs.

Connect Internally and Externally

I am not calling this branding, but how do you condense and communicate the change in culture into a message that can be connect to internal and external communication? Let’s take the example of ideaprenuership again. We brainstormed how Ideaprenuership could be understood better internally and externally. Internally we called this change in philosophy “Employee Led.” Management embraced it so that we could empower our Ideaprenuers more. Externally we reflected on how this would translate to better relationship with our customers and called it “Relationship Beyond Contract.”

Programs, Policies and Processes

Embed it into everything! We changed the way we did career discussion with our employees, so that ownership of career development plans was flipped to employees. This reflected the new “Employee Led” management philosophy and helped to truly empower employees. Performance discussions became the onus of employees. We also invited ideas on our Idea Gen portal and allowed them to be seeded and funded by a team. Some of these ideas then were groomed into business propositions.

The net impact of this shift was a large increase in the number of ideas we had, growth in the customer relationships, and overall, more engaged employees.

A journey of 100 miles is not easy to put into a few hundred words but I believe this post will help guide other culture transformation journeys.

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Amit Avasthi


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