The majority of startup businesses are charging forward at speed, often growing faster than their resources can match. A common concern for technical startups is looking at how they can develop their staff so that employees can grow with the business.
Startups are often full of people who wear a number of hats and can find themselves in management roles without any formal management experience. It is therefore important, even for small companies, to develop sustainable leadership practices — notably, to support first-time managers who have been promoted from within.
As the business grows and develops, it is important to nurture your internal talent pipeline. Firstly, by building a strong team internally, you help to advance your culture and strengthen the business values, as senior employees are embedded in the business and committed to its mission. Secondly, growing internal talent helps to retain employees and promotes positive engagement levels as team members can see a career path and future for themselves within the business.
Developing internal talent sounds great – it benefits the employee and the business, but why then can developing internal talent be so difficult? There are stumbling blocks which businesses can trip over in this area. Here are a couple of these trip hazards and our recommendations for avoiding these to ensure your internal talent pipeline is robust.
The Technical Lead Vs the People Manager
It is important that as a business you understand what you need and expect from your senior team. Do they need to manage other staff members or are they developing into a technical lead role for a specific area? Perhaps it might even be both. Knowing up front will help you select and develop the right person for the role. If you are seeking a people manager, then it’s worth understanding if this is the direction your selected employee wants to take their career. Some employees may like to advance within the business but not necessarily manage a team. It is therefore important to understand your requirements for technical leads and people managers.
Be sure to discuss personal aspirations with employees. Through these conversations, you will learn that no two people share the same vision for their career. Some may want to become subject matter experts, while others really want to manage a team.
For some employees, being a technical lead is their desired outcome. If you require them to manage a team as well, it’s critical they understand their role has both elements and they are equipped to deliver both.
The Accidental Manager / Lead
With many startups experiencing periods of rapid growth and a requirement to scale up their team very quickly, it can often happen that longer serving employees become managers or area leads by default. In most cases this will be fine in the short term, as businesses tend to select employees with the potential and skills to take on bigger roles with more responsibility. The issues tend to arise when the lack of training for the new role means mistakes are made. For people managers this can lead to errors in compliance as well as poor management leading to lower productivity and inefficiencies in teams.
In addition, this can cause issues with company engagement levels as well as having a negative impact on the manager, therefore creating ‘flight risks’ (potential leavers) at all levels within your business.
How to Ensure a Strong Internal Talent Pipeline
In developing a management team, it is important to recognise that most people will need some help and training to be able to fulfil the roles required of them – especially if they are being promoted from within an organisation. New managers need more than technical know-how to be effective in their roles. They must develop a wide range of soft skills, ranging from effective communication to time management. A strong leadership culture can help them meet these challenges by offering guidance, training, and support. Even in a startup environment, it’s crucial that company leaders pause to make this investment in their new managers.
Training is the best place to start setting expectations for your managers. Do you expect them to hold regular 1:1s with their employees? Do you expect them to give performance feedback? Do you expect them to train their people? Do you expect them to agree upon objectives with their team? Once you’ve set expectations, your management training requirements have already been defined.
Often, the biggest inhibitor to putting a training programme in place is the perception that it will take too much time. External training courses generally require a full day or more out of the business, which is often just not practical. A much better approach is a structured internal training programme – aligned to your individual business needs, culture and values, and delivered in bitesize sessions to work around other priorities.
Keep in mind that there is no investment that you can make that will do more to improve productivity in your company.
When looking at the development of an internal team it is critical to understand your requirements and the associated timescales. Understanding how your People Plan and business priorities link will ultimately enable you to develop the structure to grow your team without hitting any of the above trip hazards.
Becoming a more effective manager is a continual cycle, building education on experience and branching into new areas as roles expand. That’s why it’s critical for companies of all sizes to invest in strong leadership culture. By fostering open communication and designing a management track that aligns with your employees’ goals, you will create a successful team that is eager to learn. Through training, goal-setting and regular performance reviews, you will ensure that managers get the tools they need to thrive.
Purpose HR have extensive experience in delivering manager training programmes to startup and scaleup businesses in areas including performance management, recruitment, development of team members, manager processes, absence & grievance management and HR processes. Delivered in bitesize sessions, our training is tailored to your business and aligned to your objectives, policies, procedures and practice.
Contact us to find out more about our practical training sessions for people managers.