How to create a people-driven culture in your startup from day one

In the earliest days of a startup, founders wear many hats.

Establishing corporate culture may seem like a luxury, or you might think it comes naturally, but the sooner this is a focus, the better.

The later you go out to cultivate a culture, define and integrate your values ​​into your company’s operations and create fair experiences and processes, the more challenging it is to correct course. If it is cultivated from the beginning and maintained, the culture will develop in accordance with these values.

From this lens, it is clear that prioritizing people, regardless of the size or phase of a startup, is paramount. From hiring experience to onboarding and eventually leaving a company, management with a people-driven approach will contribute to a strong and cohesive culture and ultimately the company’s long-term success.

Rent for success

Finding the right people can be a challenge in the best of times. Coupled with an unusually competitive market, sky-high wage expectations and projections of additional benefits, flexibility and development, navigating it is not an easy landscape. But it does make it all sound doom and gloom.

Good news, it’s not! Startups that get the right employment, culture and employer brand have an abundance of unique selling points compared to large companies that many think they will work for. But communicating these and giving the hiring the time and focus it deserves is crucial.

This is where People and Culture come in; to focus fully on hiring and building and nurturing startups.

People and Culture will treat talent funnels with as much value as customer funnels, and with employees on board, they will treat employees and their needs as the most expensive asset they are while protecting the company.

We are seeing People and Culture roles hired increasingly early, and at the same time we are seeing an increased talent who are interested in joining startups rather than traditional HR roles at large companies. This was evident in Folklore’s introductory People Chapter – a community-driven course to nurture and develop the next generation of human experts – which was flooded with extremely skilled professionals eager to take up the challenge of building and nurturing startup teams.

That said, hiring comes down to a startup’s ability to create and communicate a strong employer brand to share their ambitions, mission, vision and values. The question then becomes, How can you hire and scale without losing the essence of your business along the way?

Create a holistic employee experience

To nurture the culture as the number of employees grows, the values ​​and culture you want to have must be embedded, promoted and practiced in all parts of the employees’ experience with managers and executives leading from the front. Everyone owns an organization’s culture, however how do people own it if they do not know what kind of culture and values ​​they should strive for?

This means going beyond the policies and incentives that are on the table. A critical component of this is the onboarding experience. Onboarding is not just putting someone in their role, it is an ongoing journey that will look different in any business. This should be a structured and fair framework for any employee and their manager to adapt to goals, performance, feedback and how they understand and incorporate company values. Multiple contact points across the probationary period ensure that a new employee feels included, heard and that their journey and development is valued. But feeling valued does not stop with onboarding and development.

Share the legos

Employees want to feel valued, have influence and feel meaning in their work throughout their employee journey. Startups are a unique place to engage and retain staff with this in mind. There are two main types of ownership available to startup employees: the type that appears on a cap table and the type that stems from the ability to have an impact; lead projects, products, processes and teams.

As Molly Graham states, one of the hardest things leaders have to learn and experience is handing over their Lego aircraft – that is, their ownership of projects, plans and strategies to help individuals, teams and organizations grow, and for individuals now to experience the influence the Legos can. has on building something big.

My first director once told me that the best leaders are the ones who make their roles redundant. As such, founders will be freed to concentrate on activities such as raising capital. Enabling people to own and pursue ideas brings purpose and meaning to their work, thereby enhancing overall job satisfaction and commitment.

People are a startup’s most expensive asset and their biggest risk. They can create or break an organization’s culture. On the flip side, they can foster a startup’s growth trajectory and ultimately success when they feel connected to a business and their work.

The startups and earliest hires of a startup sow the seeds of its culture; what ends up growing depends on how deeply rooted the startup’s vision and values ​​are in the team. When it comes to planting and nurturing culture, the moral of the story is: start early.

  • Laura Warden is Head of People & Culture at Folklore Ventures