Picture a growth phase company where your development team is in overdrive to crank out the latest software feature while the leadership is busy analyzing conversion funnels and interns are hard at work building pivot tables. In this optimistic chaos lives a subtle organization and harmony that is woven into the culture of every start-up. While this culture is fantastic for creativity and collaboration, it often sacrifices productivity that large corporations are designed around.
The objective now grows to better understand how companies can retain the much needed creative and collaborative environment, while not sacrificing lost productivity. We have researched 40 start-ups, all of them venture backed and quickly growing, to better understand how your company can get the best of both worlds with these productivity hacks to integrate into your business plan.
- Have a fitness program in place
Around 30 – 45% of mid-sized companies have some type of fitness program in place, according the Center for Association Leadership. This may range from an onsite gym, to subsidized gym memberships, and training programs. However, your company should have a smart fitness program in place and build a culture around fitness and health. Subsidizing a gym membership is only blindly investing in the problem. The fact is, most people don’t avoid the gym because of the $15.00 monthly fee. A company should have a fitness culture and proper incentives in place in order to encourage their staff to exercise. Moreover, it should come from hiring people that have demonstrated this as a hobby.
- Encourage eating healthy, balanced diets
Many large companies invest into the diets of their employees through on-site eating facilities. These investments are far from altruistic, as companies hope to save time from employees ordering food and eating unhealthy diets at work. When food is ordered
d by human resources, it can be selected for productivity, but then employees may not like the meal. The stereotypical image of a young engineer drinking an energy beverage and processed snack foods at 3:00 AM is not biologically productive, as the snack food may be replaced with a fruit and the energy beverage with a source of energy that lacks sugar.
- Hire ambitious people
Hiring ambitious people is common knowledge, but the challenge lies in properly identifying ambitious people without discriminating. Does an ambitious person look like a young immigrant that worked his or her way into a top ranking university or a minority that struggled through adversity? Maybe an ambitious person comes from an old money family and is expected to reach certain standards set by the family.
Even a grade point average is not a good indicator of ambition, as someone that received a 2.5 GPA while working two jobs to support their family abroad could be considered more ambitious than one with a higher GPA that is naturally bright and works very little. If someone has not been promoted within their company, perhaps they do not want to be promoted. On the other hand, maybe they have friends in the executive office that moved them forward.
- Be the leader that your company needs
While we admit that this is also an axiom, it is in place to remind you that productivity is the responsibility of a good manager. If a company is not productive it is not the fault of the personnel, but management. The management has failed to properly hire and incentivize people within the company to create a productive environment. They have failed to create and sustain a culture that instills passion and satisfaction into the employees that impacts their work quality.
Being a leader is different than being a manager when it comes to productivity. A manager gets people to accomplish objectives through any means necessary, in most cases, it is leveraging their authority. A leader makes people actually want to stay at the company and work hard, regardless of the level of actual authority that they may have. Joan of Arc was a teenager from a peasant family that directed the success of the Hundred Years’ War. Even if you do not own the company, if a teenage girl from a peasant family can shift macroeconomic events, you can have an impact in your company.
- Encourage people to leave your company
As I am writing this, I prepare to answer many calls from business school professors that are disappointed for my ignorance. I was consistently told how companies can build a competitive advantage if they are able to obtain and retain top talent. This does not mean helping your best talent to leave the organization at every whim they may have. However, top companies like Google and McKinsey & Co consistently encourage people to leave their company. In fact, many consulting firms have a forced promotion system where you are simply terminated if you do not want to be promoted. Jack Welch, during his famed turnaround time at General Electric, allegedly terminated non-performing staff at a level that would cripple most companies of comparable size.
The method to the madness of these cases is no that companies detest talent, but they understand two things. First, they would rather build a culture where people want to stay rather than remaining only for a paycheck. There will almost always be a company standing by to steal your talent for a high paycheck. Second, people that want to leave your organization will not do so quickly. Research has shown that they will slowly become less productive and are likely to encourage others to exit as well. Hence, it is best to get people out of the firm as quickly as possible if they are not satisfied.