Start-up culture trends conjure up images of nerdy engineers skateboarding through open offices, working in lounge chairs, with pool tables and free food everywhere. These are, obviously, not the types of images mature organizations want to project. But, there are lessons and initiatives that can be taken from these start-up culture trends. Massive organizations also can implement these trends to promote themselves as innovative, competitive, and largely desirable destinations for talented people to work. These days, a start-up culture is not exclusively reserved for start-ups.
Steve Jobs described Apple's culture as "that of a start-up," despite the fact that Apple has nearly 100,000 employees and has been the world's most valuable company in terms of market capitalization, at more than $500 billion. But just as start-ups learn from larger organizations, mature organizations can learn from start-ups. These culture trends can empower fast-growing organizations to innovate and disrupt entrenched industries, and thereby attract high-quality talent without chasing employee perk inflation — i.e., free food, free transportation in private buses or reimbursements for the purchase or lease of electric cars.
Here are three of the start-up culture trends that more established organizations should pay attention to and consider adopting.
The New Honest Employee-Employer Relationship
In the book, "The Alliance, Managing Talent in the Networked Age," the authors Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, and Chris Yeh describe a new kind of agreement between employers and employees openly acknowledging that job stability no longer exists as it once did, but still seeks to build mutual trust in the relationship, in the form of an alliance.
The book describes the early days at Linkedin, where they sought to build these alliances by asking employees to embark on a four-year tour to accomplish some specific high-minded professional achievement. At the end, a new "tour" would be sought in an ideal world. For some, this could mean a new opportunity elsewhere.
The message was, "come on, let's accomplish this great thing together over the next few years. Then we'll see where it takes us." There is honesty in this approach and trust is built, which is the opposite of what most organizations do by trying to act like employment is permanent, even when no one has any intention of ensuring it is.
Your organization could learn from this approach by educating managers on how to build similar relationships, with employees focused on an alliance toward a common, long-term objective rather than just an employment contract.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
Organizations large and small, but especially start-ups, are allowing employees to use their own devices at work. Obviously, from a financial standpoint the savings for your organization could be quite substantial. But, there are still many BYOD issues, including security and software compatibility that would have to be addressed to make this work on a grander scale.
Ultimately, your employees would probably welcome the option to use their own devices at work. Organizations not thinking about BYOD might be left behind when job candidates turn down job offers when they find out they'll be forced to work on an antiquated/unfamiliar machine.
Outcome-Based Culture: Work When and Where You Want
In early 2013, Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, eliminated Yahoo's work from home policy. The announcement triggered widespread debate about flexible work arrangements of any kind. Start-ups are known for allowing employees to work from home or even to hire people who exclusively work remotely. This start-up culture trend is not so much about whether people should or should not work from home, but rather it's about being more focused on outcomes than about logging time in the office.
Organizations large and small can take advantage of this trend by actually being flexible. Yes, customer-facing jobs are less flexible than back office jobs, and there are differences in how organizations must treat exempt and non-exempt employees. But people have lives, and the more flexible an employer can be with schedules and work styles, the more likely people will view your organization as supportive and in tune with their needs. As long as an employee gets results, when or where they do it should be of secondary concern.
Culture as Competitive Advantage
Start-up culture trends and the dizzying growth of start-up perks are two very different things. What makes start-up culture unique is how they leverage culture as a competitive advantage to innovate and disrupt their respective markets. Just as start-ups learn from huge organizations about structure, process and governance, your organization can learn from start-ups about flexibility, innovation, and using progressive company culture to entice the best talent to come work for you.
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