It is in vogue to talk about the startup mentality these days, but why? What is the allure, especially for a larger company? That’s easy: everyone wants to free themselves from the bloated, soul-crushing bureaucracy that chokes so many large companies, and they want to become more agile and innovative.
Startups seem to have a scrappy, can-do attitude – simply walk through the doors of one of these companies and the energy is infectious. The concept of startup represents optimism, agility, and ingenuity to create something special. They are new to the world, and the entrepreneurs who run them seem hyper-focused.
So how do we infuse some of this startup mentality DNA into a more established organization? Can we unlock these innovative and creative ideas without the legacy culture smothering this entrepreneurial spirit? The answer is yes. Look no further than companies like P&G, General Electric, and ADP. Each of these companies is mammoth by any measure. Additionally, they all have long histories steeped in big company, big brand, big organizational thinking. So how did they free themselves to unlock their innovative inner startup?
They adopted – no, they surrendered, and gave themselves fully to the principals of “The Lean Startup Movement” based on the concepts in Eric Reese’s book “The Lean Startup”. If it sounds like joining a cult, well, it sort of is. This is because everyone from the very top to the very bottom must own the concept and do everything in their power to execute it. As an HR executive, you are in the perfect place to help implement, oversee, and drive this innovative change.
For the HR leader, the Lean Startup method provides a scientific approach to creating and managing rapid change and constant innovation, whether it be in culture, processes, or management techniques. The Lean Startup method allows everyone to move concepts into practice faster. The Lean Startup method teaches you how to drive organizational change like a startup, how to steer, when to turn, and when to persevere and grow a business with maximum acceleration.
Building a Startup Culture
The key to making that leap is a fundamental shift in organization culture. Most big companies want to keep themselves relevant when faced with competition from smaller, more nimble companies. In order to stay relevant, a Lean Startup culture needs to be built and integrated into the whole company. When it comes to employee happiness, adopting a holistic approach is increasingly expected as part of the startup mentality.
Big companies focus on improving, executing and forecasting. Innovative companies focus on inventing, searching and experimenting. This is for good reason; big companies often have business plans they need to present to stakeholders or board members. For them, failure is not an option. That’s why putting certain people in charge of innovation, and others in charge of execution is critical.
Just as when basketball star Michael Jordan had a harder time transitioning to baseball, the people who are in charge of keeping the company moving forward on an even keel might not be the same people who will excel at innovation. Innovation can’t happen on command, it can only happen when it’s nurtured and supported in the context of the right business culture.
Not only does this make it harder for innovators to get their ideas into play, it also de-incentivizes the role of innovator at a big company. In fact, at most big companies, there’s not a lot of prestige for innovators; in some situations, it’s even “career suicide,”. If you’re relegated to a small team or a labs division, you’re not working on things that are mission-critical to the organization.
Ironically, as we can see from examples of companies like Google and Microsoft, innovation is indeed mission-critical, and must be treated as such. This may require a shift in organizational culture.
So often, people try to make culture changes at the tactical level (new HR software, a ping pong table, happy hours after work). However, if those tactical changes don’t ladder up to a higher goal, the culture of the business will never change.
It’s important to make the distinction that “culture” is not just about being friendly with co-workers or having fun after work. It’s about getting people engaged in the actual work they are doing. On average, seven out of 10 employees are disengaged, which is not only bad for employees but truly limits a company’s potential for success.
The Startup Mentality and Relocation
Often, disengagement results, not from factors related to the workplace environment, but from situations or events in an employee’s personal life, especially in cases where the employee is a new hire or a transferee from a different location. If an employee is distracted by issues related to his family’s happiness, his focus on work will always suffer. If they are exhausted from dealing with unpacking, finding essential services, finding schools for their kids or a new job for their spouse, how much energy will be left for making a difference in the workplace?
This is one area where the HR leader has the power to innovate and change the corporate culture. Rather than focusing exclusively on the workplace, companies should take a more holistic view of human resource management. When personnel move to a new city, it is usually for the sake of the company. Shouldn’t the company offer as much support as possible to make the move a success? Supporting personnel outside the office is a natural manifestation of the startup mentality.
On the other hand, accommodating the special needs of a relocating employee puts additional strain on the resources of the HR department. Not only that, the needs of an employee’s family are unpredictable. It is unlikely that the regular staff of your HR department will have the resources or expertise to understand and fulfill the unique needs of each employee. This is one area where it makes sense to outsource relocation and acclimation services to an outside vendor, one that specializes in the needs of a new family in their destination city – a vendor like Relocity.
Look, the new ping pong table is not going to cut it. At Relocity, we work with a lot of startups. We have changed the way these companies attract, hire and maintain their most critical asset: their people. Through taking a more holistic view of the employee’s complete life-work balance, our clients have been able to successfully recruit talent in distant markets, and not only transition them, but integrate them into their new home in Los Angeles, making sure they are truly happy in their new city.
Relocity has proven time and time again that the amount of care a company exhibits towards their employees during a relocation will directly corollate to the employee’s productivity and happiness. This happiness will lay the foundation for a positive and innovative startup mentality going forward.
Relocity is a concierge relocation service that is re-thinking the way people relocate to L.A. (with more cities soon). Besides helping clients move physically, we offer exceptional services to enrich their lives, connecting them with recreational and life-enhancing activities. We take a personal interest in each client, customizing our services to reduce the stress of moving while making them more productive and happy.