Hitting the brakes on startup workplace culture
Startups (and all companies) are on a continuous workplace culture journey — a journey that doesn’t stop and is never complete. CEOs at startups are wise to always be aware of how their actions may build or destroy the culture they want to create. HR teams likewise are smart when they continuously monitor how their practices expand or constrict agreed-upon workplace values. Culture is a living and ever-changing entity.
Although the journey towards a healthy workplace culture is never complete, there is a continuum of Talent + People practices that are riskier to embody than others. And there are also practices that, based on research, will build a more inclusive and high-performing culture.
When I work with my consulting clients, we divide the Talent + People process into three steps:
Building — how are you getting the right people into the right seats?
Developing — how are you enabling those people to be successful?
Integrating — how are you driving hig-performance and results?
Within each of these buckets of team development, there are risky Red Light practices, more developed Yellow Light practices, and strong Green Light practices.
Most startups will not check “green” in every practice in Year 1. Or even Year 5. That’s not easily achieved when resources are constrained and budgets are limited. That said, the bottom line for startups to monitor is: are you moving in the right direction on the continuum?
The first step to answering that question is recognizing what risky practices are inherent in your workplace. Some examples of those Red Light practices are:
When I am asked, as a former Head of Talent + People and a current workplace consultant, if a company’s culture will be successful, the above practices cause me to hit the brakes for three reasons:
These practices don’t scale
These practices don’t serve employees or create inclusion
These practices aren’t going to drive a strong bottom line
If you are seeing these Red Light practices in your organization, you are already moving in the right direction as you read this article. Recognition and awareness are the first steps. Next, I encourage you to ask yourself three questions:
- Are there small steps you can take to move away from Red Light practices?
- What is the timeline for taking those small steps?
- What is needed to take big steps towards more developed practices?
Workplace culture requires intention. Just as we, as individuals, have to put effort into the people we want to be physically, mentally, and spiritually, companies need to put a focus on the actions which will grow them into who they intend to be.
I’m convinced that just as we have seen massive innovation come out of previous recessions, we will see new startups and industries emerge from the current COVID-19 pandemic. We will also see current startups accelerate, change trajectories, and pivot for the better. I hope that many of you reading this article are leading or will be leading that charge.
As you create your new business vision and plan in the coming months, I encourage you to remember that having an intentional plan for creating developed Talent + People practices will prevent your vision from coming to an abrupt and unpleasant stop.
The focus of my consulting firm, CultureSmart, is partnering with companies to scale smart, save money in the process, and design an organizational culture in line with the company vision. If I can help your startup implement more Green Light Talent + People practices and avoid hitting the brakes too frequently along the way, reach out to me directly.