Yesterday, I met with one of my old friend, who has started a business in real estate, HR outsourcing, and office management. He is doing pretty well nowadays. He has a team of 20 people working for him. He called me to seek my help in setting up HR department for his organization. He felt that it is the right time that Human Resource department should be set up to scale the organization.
Other than setting up basic operational functions of HR, I asked him about his expectation from human resources. He gave me very vague expectations. I could find out that he himself is not sure what does he expect from HR or maybe he is not able to articulate his problem. So I started digging in more by asking a different kind of questions. I realized that his problem is basically about the culture he has set up in last one year as a startup company and now he feels that this is NOT the kind of culture he is looking for. This culture is not scalable.
Basically, currently, there are no guidelines for doing anything. Everyone looks forward to three top management persons for any decision and most of the time decision depends upon the person seeking the question and may differ. Although, it is good to give flexibility to employees but flexibility without basic guidelines is dangerous and that’s exactly what happened to this organization.
Now, redoing all this is not that easy especially with old employees being on board.
This made my belief stronger that organization’s work culture is the most important thing even for startups. In beginning, startups try to give the most flexible environment to their employees but later they find it difficult to reverse or correct when they start growing.
I think it is important for startups to realize when should they start looking into organization’s work culture before it gets too late.
It’s important to cultivate a culture where everyone is treated with respect and dignity. You’d think this was obvious, but when things are moving at a million miles per hour and tension is high, it’s easy to get into habits of impatience, negativity, and frustration–and often, those behaviors are aimed at other team members. Simply put: treat others as you would want to be treated, and watch your company flourish.
Nothing is worse than a company culture where the leadership takes all the credit for countless hours their tech talent, marketing team, or key advisors have put into solving an insurmountable problem. While it is the leader’s job to drive the vision, often putting her/him out front for others to see, a culture devoid of sharing the proverbial wealth will kill any company–and in the startup world, this is even more pronounced. When your data scientist stays late every Friday night to solve a problem for the greater good, you better believe come press time she gets a shout-out.