From the outside looking in, it can appear that startup founders and managers have found the perfect recipe for success. Most of them have eager, motivated, and engaged employees who are insanely productive and, seemingly, able to adapt to anything.
If you are part of an enterprise team, you might think that this is related to their company’s size. Some things are just easier when you’re running a small team, right? In some situations, yes. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take a few pages from the “startup playbook” and apply them to your team on a much larger scale.
But know this from the outset, if you really want to learn something from startups, the first step is jettisoning the “this is how we’ve always done it” attitude.
Not Everything Can Be Solved With Money
Let’s say your company is looking to expand the products or services it’s offering; you want to do something innovative.
So, you get approval for a huge budget, create a team that will lead and execute the whole process, and pour a lot of resources into market research across multiple countries. But then you fall into the trap of procedures and approvals, causing the project to drag on for a long time before the product actually hits the market.
This type of stalled scenario is a hallmark of the “this is how we’ve always done it” culture. And, simply, it’s a huge limiter when it comes to innovation.
Startups don’t have large budgets. They can’t afford to have a full team dedicated to one thing. Or to hire market research companies before they start working on a new product.
So, what do they do instead?
They get out there. They talk directly to their customers, as well as to leads they’ve lost.
Startup employees and founders observe their clients while they’re buying or using their products. They look at what makes customers think twice before proceeding to checkout.
Eliminate the Fear of Failure
Fear of failure, judgment, and rejection are the key reasons why employees choose not to share the ideas they’ve come up with. They’re afraid that if their ideas are shut down, it could negatively impact their career progression or current position within the company.
This means your team members might be sitting on a goldmine of innovative ideas for your organization without a place to share them.
It’s time to change this.
Create a safe space for idea sharing, even though most of them might fail or never get off the ground.
Let your workers see that sharing their ideas won’t harm the rest of their work. Create an environment where their ideas can be tested quickly, in small batches, so you can quickly see if they are valid or not. The quicker you eliminate bad ideas, the quicker you’ll find another money maker.
Make every failed idea a learning experience - take what you find out and apply it to another situation.
You never know, your company’s next big thing might come from one of your employee’s ideas.
Take Collaboration Online
If we’ve learned anything from last year, it’s that almost everyone can work from home. More than that, the experience proved that it’s possible to collaborate effectively in a remote environment while maintaining employee productivity.
Once you return to the office, you shouldn’t go back to the old ways and organize meetings whenever something needs to be reviewed. Instead, keep using the online collaboration tools that you have.
For example, if you need to review a piece of content, use the Suggest Edits and Comments features in Google Docs. Try utilizing project management features to keep track of your team’s tasks, too. And turn to productivity tracking software to stay on top of your team’s everyday activities.
Startups have mastered online collaboration. They’ve tried and tested tools for document sharing, writing, design, project management. In short, they have a tool for everything you can think of. So, take a page from their book and invest in the software that will improve your team’s workflow on every level.
Create a More Flexible Workplace
An increasing number of people are leaving big companies due to a lack of flexible working policies. If enterprises want to continue competing in the job market they need to change their tune. This means allowing occasional remote work or work from home when possible. It also means creating a working schedule that matches employees' life and productivity levels.
Workers have become accustomed to having flexibility while working from home this past year, so it’s hard for many to go back to the old ways. For this reason, it shouldn't come as a surprise that many large companies like Microsoft, Google, Citigroup, and Uber are planning to create a hybrid working model to meet this shift in desire.
A hybrid working model means that employees will spend a few days in the office, while working from home for the rest of the week. Since, in the short term, we’ll likely still need to keep some form of social distancing when we go back into the office, having part of your team work from home while others work from the office supports this need too.
Besides working from home, and having a more flexible schedule, some companies have turned to four-day workweeks. Most notably, back in 2019, Microsoft Japan closed its offices every Friday for a month, which resulted in a 40% increase in productivity. If nothing else, the example from Microsoft shows that it’s possible to embrace flexibility even in huge organizations.
Startups are small. They don’t have enough time, money, or space. Their employees are wearing multiple hats and company productivity is scattered all over the place. This is why startup founders have quickly realized that they need to know exactly where individual productivity goes.
What has helped startup leaders take a deep dive into daily activities and understand how they affect company outcomes are productivity monitoring tools.
This type of monitoring software shows how time is spent during the day, whether it was productive or not, what caused distractions, how long specific tasks take to complete, and more. Once this data is analyzed, it’s easy to discover productivity patterns, lower distractions, and maximize staff productivity.
Since startups have few employees, it’s easy to focus on individuals. However, a large enterprise is still composed of smaller departments and teams, each of which can be thought of as a “startup”.
To manage their teams like startups, department heads or team leaders at your company can focus on measuring productivity at work specifically for their team members. They can look into productivity on a more granular level, while higher managers focus on more aggregated data.
Remember: Your Employees Are The Lifeblood of Your Company
No amount of procedures and tools can replace your employees.
They are the reason ideas come to life. They make the product you’re selling. They’re behind company strategies and support. So, you need to find the best ways to appreciate everything they do.
In smaller companies, all workers know each other. They work closely together and see each other daily. As a company grows, it may get segmented into more focused teams, but people on those teams still know one another and work together daily. This means, by again thinking of each team like a startup, enterprise leaders can engender startup-like relationships.
Enterprises are divided into departments and teams, and you, as a manager, have the opportunity to be close with people working with you. You should seize this opportunity.
Be genuine in your interactions and develop close relationships with employees on your team. Make sure to give praise outside the regular review process. Organize events, hangouts, and regular check-ins to make sure employees feel appreciated and heard.
In return, you’ll have a loyal, motivated and engaged workforce that’s ready to tackle all challenges that come their way.
Final Thoughts: Adaptation and Adoption
The key conclusion you should take from this article is to learn to adapt to, and adopt, new technologies. As you know, startups are constrained by many things, so that pushes them to be creative. They quickly adopt new technologies and adapt to any circumstances they’re in.
We understand that this is much harder on a large-scale level. But it can be done. And it starts with one department at a time.