106 Communications

6th Sense

Start-ups/Scale-ups and the importance of psychological safety

October 2018 | Employee Engagement, Employer Brand, Internal Communications

We recently held an event entitled Purpose, Culture and Talent in High-Growth Businesses.  We had three great guest speakers – Duncan Cheatle from The Supper Club and Learn Amp, Clare Mullen, an HR professional focused on high-growth companies and most recently at Pockit, and Caroline Evans, Head of Marketing at MoneyFarm.

We discussed a broad range of topics and ideas about talent and purpose within high-growth businesses, including:

Employee Lifetime Value – and why we should start measuring this (as well as Customer Lifetime Value).

Leaving the business – yes, you heard that right; having those conversations right at the start about where you want to get to in your career and in life, how the company can help take you to the next stage and why you’re likely to leave at some stage.

Candidate experience – i.e. don’t just let your Chief Exec interview everyone and make sure you give feedback, be open and diverse in your approach and treat the interview process as much as sales pitch about your company as a chance to talk to the candidate.

Wellbeing – why it’s important to put in place some wellbeing programmes to stop burn-out or undue stress.

Funding and leadership – when funding rounds happen, some colleagues can start to get worried and jump ship (if they suspect things aren’t going well or just going slow) while others can look at the next funding round as an opportunity for a pay rise, bonus and lots of new team members.  It’s important to manage expectations in both instances.

Induction – no excuse not to have laptop, phone, desk, proper induction – no matter how small you are!

Collaboration – even in relatively small companies, cliques can start to build – e.g. developers and engineers can create their own group.  It’s important to find ways (social or work-related) to break these down.

But one of the most interesting for us was the concept of psychological safety.

Start-up and safety aren’t two concepts that seem to go together.

For some people, choosing a start-up after a world in the apparent security of the corporate world can seem to be a risk too far.  But increasingly more and more people are working in start-ups.

Why is that the case?  And who are they?

Yes, a lot of people working in start-ups are young people.  But it’s not because they’re young, they don’t need to earn much and they crave offices with Foosball tables.  There’s a more revealing truth (aside from their age):

They enjoy the opportunity to fail;

They get opportunities they wouldn’t in many big companies;

And there’s no doubt that it can feel more meaningful.

So what we heard is that while you might get a bollocking (or worse) for doing something wrong in a corporate, this is often part of life in a scale-up – at least the best ones.  You dust yourself off, learn from it and move on.  No need for investigations, blame games or lessons learned sessions.

It seems obvious that in the lean world of scale-ups, you’re likely to be pushed to take on more responsibility and get involved in stuff that would be earmarked for others in a larger organisation.

Finally, there’s often a much greater sense of purpose.  Not in a charitable sense; after all, scale-ups want to make money for their founders and investors in particular.  But you can feel a far-greater connection to the outcome of what you are doing – after all, scale-ups are invariably trying to solve a problem and simplify something.

In MoneyFarm’s case, helping customers to invest their time in the things that make them happy.  Caroline shared a great story about how one customer was able to retire four years’ earlier because of her use of Moneyfarm.

All in all, a fascinating discussion.  If you’d like to come to our next event on Purpose, Culture and Talent in High-Growth Businesses, then drop us an email now.

You might also like:

Tech grown-ups v start-ups – and how to connect with new tech talent

Leadership and culture: reflections over breakfast




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