Be flexible about employee profiles in the start-up phase

19 August 2019 5 min. read
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Starting out on one’s own may often seem a greener option to those slogging in a job and making the employer richer with their own sweat. However, entrepreneurship is not always a sweet pill to swallow, especially when it comes to human capital challenges. According to Manoj Kulkarni, a HR Advisor with Prose Integrated and founder of talent acquisition firm Shodh Consulting, being flexible and innovative about employee profiles is key to overcome early-stage people-related bottlenecks.

Being successful as an entrepreneur requires three important things – work, work and work harder. It is a fact that there is no substitute to hard work, perseverance and persistence for a new entrepreneur. Then the entrepreneur should also be smart enough to tide over the initial teething problems like those of employee attrition and poaching in a competitive industry.

In the last 5-6 years of being an entrepreneur and having ridden through the initial start-up phase to enter the next level of growth phase, I have learnt that the answer to overcoming these initial challenges are not written in any rule book. In fact, that is the first thing you should avoid – i.e. sticking to the set norms, especially when it comes to managing your employees. 

So, consider throwing that HR rule book straight out of the window and make room for flexibility. If it is about your people in your fledgling organisation, out go the job descriptions, employee profiles and key responsibility areas and in-come multi-tasking and finding the right fit for the right one. After all, you should remember that it’s all about dealing with the human capital. 

Be flexible about employee profiles in the start-up phase

Employee turnover

Some management gurus will tell you that new entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid to “hire and fire”. Be warned. As I said, since it is about dealing with the human capital, it involves investing much of your time and money in nurturing this resource. Since both are limited in the start-up phase, using the human resource intelligently makes things much easier for a new entrepreneur. 

I have learnt to do that in my organisation and have found great results. Based on my experience, I present here three case studies on different ways of employee management. Not that these are full-proof tips for preventing attrition, but at least these have helped me to bring the best out of my people with the windfall gain of some switching to multi-tasking roles or even becoming skilful managers on their own right. 

Case Study 1: Finding the right place
An employee of mine who was into the third year of his job decided to hang up his boots. His reason, as he put it, was not for better job prospects or a better pay. His wife had just delivered a baby girl and he claimed that he found it difficult to strike a balance between his demanding job in a start-up and his duties as a new parent. Living in Mumbai and the local train commute for 4-5 hours day was also draining him out and leaving him with no time for his new baby or his wife. He also said he wanted to leave Mumbai and look for a job in a city where life was not this challenging. 

Since, by then I had invested in a co-working space in Bangalore and was planning to set up a Pune office too, I offered to transfer him to any of those cities to manage my clients there. I also gave him the option of setting up the IT infrastructure at the upcoming Pune office, given his background in computer applications. He lapped up the Pune option. Today, he not just manages my Pune office and the clients there with deft, but is also handling all IT purchases for all my other offices as well. Needless to say, he is much happier too.

Case Study 2: Incubating talent
She was handling Press Relations (PR) for many important clients but again was finding the daily travel to work from a faraway Mumbai suburb to my Andheri office very exhausting. She decided to quit as the stress was taking a toll on her health. 

I offered a solution that she could mentor new trainees to take on some of her responsibilities if she wished. She was happy with a sudden leadership role and agreed to stay back. This way, not only I found a manager who could depute responsibilities and handle a small team on her own, but also mentor and train a back-up workforce. 

Case Study 3: Fit where you can
She was a natural multi-tasker and would seamlessly fit into any role wherever there was a gap – be it into analytics for public relations or digital media. When I learnt that she also had a talent and knack for number crunching, I offered that she handle some of our accounting work as well. She was too happy to oblige and today she is an invaluable support to our accountant.

To conclude, all the above cases show that when it comes to human resources, finding a solution around the problem often works better than insisting on a person to continue doing the job that he is no longer is happy or willing to continue on. Often, such innovative solutions often bring results that may even surpass their upfront expectations.