Startups boast about their culture, but most of the time they can’t even explain why it’s special. Culture is not about perks, it’s about why and how you do what you do and how that happens in the day to day; culture is about connecting the 3 P’s: purpose, people and processes.
In the grand scheme of things, there are cultures of all types and there isn’t a recipe that works for everyone.
What I do know is that a startup culture is the opposite of a corporate culture. Similar to how an established company can implement a set of components to drive innovation, a startup has a set of components that enable it to outlive its startup phase.
Having been part of many startups, the ones that I’ve led have the same components in common:
- Transparency and open communication. People should know and have clarity about how everything gets done, as well as how decisions get made; doing so breeds trust. Lack of transparency by a company’s leadership can impact organizational trust, consequently impacting employee effectiveness and productivity.
- Team-focused. It’s all about team. When employees share information and work to support one another, they tend to take more responsibility for their roles, as well as feel better about the company for which they work.
- Challenging work. Employees want to know that their work matters to the overall success of the company. Therefore, it is important that jobs are designed in a way that their value and impact is clear to the employee. Job design and clarity of contribution can make a big difference on productivity and engagement.
- Accountability. Clear roles, responsibilities, and accountability are a key element in functional company cultures. Have clarity about what you reward and what you penalize, because rewarding sub par performance or bad behavior can significantly impact company culture.
- Resources. In a perfect world, people resources should align with projects and revenue growth. Adding and subtracting headcount is often a very complicated issue. Too many employees can result in high fixed costs and the potential dilution of responsibilities, while too few can result in burnout and resentment. New products and projects can take a larger investment in people initially, but should eventually align with sales and revenue growth. When the growth does not follow, layoffs and reorganizations usually occur.
- Feedback. Driving employee engagement through feedback and development will result in happier, more motivated employees. Most employees crave feedback and really want to know how they are doing. Get rid of the traditional performance management system, it doesn’t work, because they are seen as a “check off,” the process is often too arduous to be truly meaningful.
- Autonomy. Want your employees to be motivated? Give them autonomy. Encourage, and let them decide how they do their job. People should be treated as responsible adults who can be counted on, not kids you have to babysit.
What do you think? What would you add?