We can all agree early stage startups are a blast. The only constant is change, and you iterate so fast you can’t even remember what you were working on last week. On a daily basis you and your team generate new ideas, experiment, pilot things, and make sh*t better. You learn and develop your craft and by default, yourself.
Then comes “growth.” In most VC backed companies, it’s inevitable. With the need to grow your customer base, comes the need to grow your employee base. So what happens when you no longer have time to “train” new people? Or what happens when your team grows too quickly and suddenly you’ve got people *managing* other people? 😱
Start brainstorming around these five learning and development concepts:
1. Start with a kickass on boarding experience. This is your new folks first impression of what it’s like to work for you. They’re stoked and expecting the same treatment they received while you courted them during the recruitment process. The days of handing them a manual on day one are long gone. They need to be injected into your community, introduced to who’s who, walked through your vision, and shown how they contribute to the company’s overall purpose. On day one (and even day two and three) don’t worry about teaching them to use any of the 1,478 different software apps that exist to get work done. You’ll only overwhelm them. The learning and application of those will come with time, naturally. And c’mon, Slack takes all of 5 minutes to figure out anyway. “/giphy Tom Hardy with puppies.” Done. They’ve mastered it.
2. Don’t stop there. L&D = on boarding, right?
This is where some organizations fail at L&D. Yes, your people are getting a great deal of professional development through simply doing their job (I mean, I hope) but it doesn’t end there. What do you expect them to know three months in, six months in, one year in? Map this out even before you hire for a role. But once the role is filled, work together to make it happen.
And what do they want to know once they’ve hit those milestones? Help them uncover their own purpose, the reason they believe their role exists. Get to know their personality, and get them interested in the personalities of their teammates.
3. Allow for self-organization. Empower your people to take charge of their own learning and development. Give them tools, and let them run with it. For example, if you notice someone on your team is a project management queen, help her host a session on “PM 101”. This will snowball. Someone in that session will realize that they have a unique skill they’d like to share next week. And all of the sudden, your team has set up their own skill sharing program.
4. Managing and leading. More and more companies have found alternatives to traditional organizational hierarchy. Flat organizations, Holacracy, self-managed organizations, participatory organizations, and many other emerging structures seek to decentralize decision making. Not every person has equal power, but every person should feel powerful.
Managing has become less and less important, while leading now holds more and more value to companies across all industries. Management and leadership structures will look unique to your company. But as your team grows, develop your own set of leadership and management values to help guide people. Give them a framework to make decisions. This will increase their autonomy and trust, and release pressure from the executive team from being the only people capable of making decisions.
5. You can’t do it all. Be humble. Take a look at your organization, and be honest. What can you simply not offer to your people, that they need to succeed? Also, just ask. In your 1:1s or anonymously in your engagement survey, ask people what they’re missing. What do they need to be the best version of themselves at work? Work with them to figure it out, and if it's external professional development they need, seek out external help. Learning and development is a collaborative process.