Can established businesses mimic startup style?

By borrowing certain traits from startups, organizations can create the best of both worlds for employees.
6 June 2019

There is appeal for agile working. Source: Unsplash

In recent years, we have seen a growing number of developers being drawn to the excitement and pace of working with innovative startups. As a result, medium-sized and large businesses are facing a growing skills gap and the challenge of competing with startups for talent to fill those gaps.

Businesses must, therefore, begin to look more closely at what it is about startups that attracts talent and what they can learn from them in order to offer employees the desirable elements of these enterprises but within a secure environment.

Firstly, it’s important to understand what exactly attracts talent to startups. For developers, the appeal often lies in the creative, agile environments startups create. They can test a concept, put it into practice and if it doesn’t work, fail fast and try something else with no hard feelings. This culture of promoting innovation is often sought out by developers who don’t want to feel constrained by set processes and pre-conceived ideas of what success looks like.

Fortunately, this level of agility is also being put into practice by bigger businesses. Many organizations are starting to adopt this fail fast mentality to allow their employees to try new things, as long as they quickly learn from mistakes and roll back any changes accordingly. A ‘fail-fast’ mentality will help to stimulate innovation and help organizations to not only attract a wider pool of talented workers but also retain existing employees.

Established organizations should also look at ways to encourage more collaboration within their developer teams, so they aren’t working in silos. It’s clear startups champion innovation and creativity but also individuality that technical employees now seek out. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is to create small, high-performance teams or business units that can act like mini-startups within the enterprise.

These units allow developers and other team members to behave as they would in a startup environment, but with the benefits of operating within a bigger organization – which tends to be a low-risk environment with strong financials and a sense of stability.

Established businesses shouldn’t be overlooked

While bigger businesses can learn a lot from the creativity and agility of startups, there is equally as much on offer to an individual within an established company.

Larger organizations that have been operating for a long time already have other tried and tested processes and policies in place and have built up a great deal of knowledge and expertise about their industry. While a fail-fast culture nurtures new ideas, some practices, such as data governance, need to follow more stringent frameworks when it comes to managing data assets and its initial usability for development.

Often, startups don’t have such a rich knowledge of data governance, whereas larger organizations will have dedicated people or even teams in place responsible for ensuring high-quality data is fed through to those actioning it. Failing to work in this way could be to the detriment of startups, particularly at a time when the ideas of trust and ethics are growing in importance and poor data governance could be the downfall of an organization.

Businesses looking to attract future talent by creating more engaging and creative cultures must also consider providing the right training to nurture the skills of their existing workforce in order to not lose out to the startup appeal. In the last few years, we have seen technology democratize education which is something businesses should take advantage of to upskill their workers.

Technology is playing a huge role in filling the skills gap as individuals and organizations are no longer reliant on conventional sources of training. It’s no longer necessary to enroll in classroom courses, paying people to teach those courses, and needing that cost to be signed off by line managers. Instead, individuals can now sign up to online courses and access a range of free resources on these subjects.

In addition to this, established organizations naturally provide more stability for a workforce and with that traditional organizational structure comes clearer career paths.

Ultimately, businesses must embrace the culture of creativity, flexibility, and agility associated with startups in order to attract a wider talent pool. However, it’s important to recognize that the experience and stability of more established enterprises are also attractive and shouldn’t be overlooked.

By combining the most appealing aspects of both types of organization, businesses will not only make themselves more attractive to new talent but will also stand a better chance of retaining their existing talent.

This article was contributed by Saurav Gupta, Sales Engineer at InterSystems.