It doesn’t have to be hard: Radically improve your start-up’s performance with better people practices

After 6 months of interviewing 80 impact businesses, 25 investors/accelerators, 20 Human Resources experts and 100 talented young professionals across 4 markets, we are more convinced than ever that better talent management could help promising businesses to really take off.

Key difficulties edge uncovered through the market research include:

  • Recruitment – a lot of businesses think that people management begins and ends with recruitment. While this is undeniably a crucial part of the job, subsequently leaving the promising new hires to their own devices sets up the relationships to fail.
  • Mismatched expectations (“Why was I hired?”/”Why isn’t this person helping me more?”) – new hires may be sold on a vision of changing the world, at scale – but left in the back office (which, by the way, may be falling to pieces) without much contact with BoP customers or even upper management.
    Furthermore, CEOs and other members of the management team may have unrealistic expectations about the extent to which new hires will automatically share their passion for the work.  Often, this needs to be cultivated through exposure, conversations, shared (yet clear) responsibilities… which brings us to;
  • Internal communication – members of Generation Y in particular crave feedback in real time.  Yet often managers are so hard-pressed for keeping the business afloat, or delivering products on time, that they put this off indefinitely, or provide only vague direction.  The mere thought of implementing a regular performance evaluation system, especially one that includes customized coaching, may understandably make them groan. But not having one makes their staff groan…or worse, leave.First Blog post image

It reminds us a bit of the football world cup: Putting great players in a team is not all that makes a well-oiled winning team. Following this comparison, in the start-up space most teams are already signed up for the world cup, while still looking for players, defining their game strategies and searching for a new training ground at the same time while fundraising for flights. Sounds familiar?

From our interviews, we have seen that a variety of factors stop management teams from improving their people performance on their own.

  • Awareness – management may not even realize that the way they are managing their people is contributing to substandard performance.  Their focus is so firmly on sales, product development, raising investment, or other more tangible goals that they can’t see the forest for the trees.  (Well, they don’t have TIME to see it!)
  • Cost – the business is already bootstrapped.  Management may fear that investors won’t approve of spending money on improvements that they don’t know how to correlate to increasing revenues, profit or other business outputs.  However, when speaking with the most sophisticated investors, we have encountered a great deal of interest in providing portfolio companies with tools for better people performance.
  • Know-how – they’ve never done it before and don’t have the time to invest in figuring it out. They are anxious for someone else to come in and just do it for them.

What are we going to do about it?

Now that we’ve learnt so much from all of you about your expectations and disappointments with people performance, we’re even hungrier to help you find solutions!  We’ve developed a variety of product prototypes in response to your needs and will be testing them in assorted markets throughout the coming months.

We aim to design all of them to be both affordable and empowering to management teams, so that as many businesses as possible can benefit from their outcomes for as long as possible.

We’ll be seeking your feedback on these prototypes along the process, and please do drop us a line if you have any new feedback for us.