How to Overcome Top HR Challenges in Tech Startups

Human resources can be a highly rewarding profession, especially at technology startup companies. In fact, recent research says effective human resources management actually helps drive innovation — and tech companies are all about innovation! Nevertheless, HR challenges can be tough to manage. So, what can you do to help your company deal with difficult HR issues? Let’s take a closer look…

8 HR Challenges Tech Startups Often Face (And How to Overcome Them)

1. Attracting and Retaining Top Talent

The ability to hire qualified people and keep them onboard is vital for every company, particularly in the technology world. But this is no easy task. Because tech hiring is extremely competitive and time is of the essence in a startup, employers must always be on the hunt for the best and brightest.

To build a strong talent pool, you need to be proactive. Job postings on job sites or social media are not enough. You can’t afford to wait for candidates to come to you. Go out and find people with the skills you need.

Applicants with qualifications like a graduate degree in engineering can help your company grow. To find them, focus on target-rich environments. For example:

  • Campus recruiting at a technical college is a good place to start.
  • Outreach among tech conference attendees can build brand awareness and establish valuable relationships.
  • Offering referral incentives to existing employees can leverage your team’s professional networks.

2. Managing Rapid Growth

Startups are unique because, from day one, you must rapidly scale and expand. This is necessary to make your presence known and gain traction in a fluid, highly competitive industry.

However, the pressure on employees is relentless, and HR teams feel the strain. For example, the continuous drive to grow often leads startups to rush the recruitment process. This can test the limits of even the most seasoned human resources professionals, 98% of whom say they’re feeling burned out.

To remain efficient in a fast-paced environment, outsource extra recruiters to help scale and support your workforce. This interim strategy can be highly successful, as long as your recruiting partners are competent and committed. Also, be sure their values align with your company culture, so you can rely on them to represent your brand effectively.

3. Building an Employer Brand

Establishing and defining your employer brand can be one of the biggest HR challenges for any startup. Because you’re unknown in the marketplace, the race is on to make your brand visible and engaging. Your mission is to appeal to the right talent by differentiating your company in ways that clarify your vision, values, and culture.

The Forbes Human Resources Council says your best brand ambassadors are your staff members. This is particularly true for tech startups. A personal, employee-driven strategy is a compelling way to set your brand apart from larger, more established tech giants.

Call a brand launch meeting to help employees get involved in making your company brand more widely known. Establish an internal team dedicated to employer brand advocacy. They can generate ideas and develop content for your website and social media pages. Also, incorporate staff in ongoing marketing and recruiting videos. Include their anecdotes on your website. The possibilities are limited only by your team’s time, budget, and imagination.

4. Navigating Legal and Compliance Issues

The tech industry’s legal landscape is highly complex. Data privacy and intellectual property rights are only two issues that complicate the already massive task of starting a company that complies with government laws and industry standards. To be a viable competitor in the tech industry, no startup can ignore these requirements.

But tech-related laws are not the only regulations. For example, one of the central HR challenges in any startup is to ensure ongoing compliance with labor laws. Do you have effective policies and procedures in place for this and other people-related issues that arise?

For example, are you prepared to manage discrimination and harassment charges against your organization? High-profile companies like Google and Facebook have come under fire for gender discrimination. Even as a small company, you’ll need to communicate expectations for employee conduct and put a disciplinary framework in place. This protects your team members, as well as your company.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a great resource for a framework that can help you handle discrimination complaints.

5. Creating an Inclusive, Diverse Workforce

Despite great strides in creating a more inclusive society, many companies still struggle to foster workforce diversity and inclusion. This remains a serious challenge for HR in the tech industry. For example, female representation in key roles continues to lag across the STEM spectrum.

The advantage of a startup is that you don’t have to overhaul existing processes that are archaic and outdated. Instead, from the beginning, develop targeted recruitment campaigns that appeal to a wider pool of talent. And adjust interview procedures so they are sensitive to gender and culture differences. Harvard Business School recommends explicitly stating your commitment to inclusion in job descriptions and removing gendered language from interview questions.

We’ve found that a gender-inclusive workforce brings many benefits to the table, including stronger so-called soft skills like communication, adaptability, problem-solving, and empathy. These skills can be invaluable to tech start-ups that rely on collaboration to innovate. As Marta Jasinska, Chief Technology Officer at Bloom & Wild says, “It’s really hard to scale something if you build it on your own.”

6. Managing Distributed Teams

In the aftermath of the pandemic, remote and hybrid work models are increasingly common. This can cause HR challenges involving communication and collaboration.

The tech industry is not immune to these issues, but we’re often better equipped to handle them. In a remote environment, teamwork and communication rely heavily on technology. And many tech teams are already familiar with software that makes distributed team collaboration possible.

But strong communication tools are only part of the equation. What makes or breaks remote work are the processes and social bonds that help team members work productively together. The challenge for HR is to help remote workers feel heard, included, and connected with broader goals, no matter where or when they are working.

You can make this happen by encouraging regular social interactions and team-building activities. For example, establish online chat channels designed exclusively for team members to share personal news and support. This helps remote workers feel like a part of the team, rather than isolated individual contributors.

7. Supporting Work-Life Integration

In addition to recruitment and payroll, HR is also tasked with performance management. This can be tricky in tech startups, where people are often expected to go above and beyond.

However, remote work options are common in the tech sector. Fortunately, remote work tends to support a healthier work-life balance, which in turn, leads to better performance. But how can HR encourage better work-life integration?

This can be particularly challenging at a tech startup. In a company’s early stages, the pressure to succeed is tremendous. Intense entrepreneurial focus and drive are essential. But long work hours and a high-pressure environment can easily become overwhelming.

HR plays a key role in helping employees avoid burnout. Introduce more work model choices: flexible hours, a hybrid of remote and in-office work. Provide regular opportunities for people to unwind and casually interact. Offer wellness activities as ongoing programs and as performance rewards. And provide mental health support so everyone knows they can manage stress privately with the help of a coach or counselor.

8. Developing and Retaining Leadership Talent

Strong leadership is the key to any successful startup. But one person can’t do it all indefinitely. When should a founder start expanding the leadership team?

Look for missed deadlines. These go hand in hand with missed opportunities. Also, when the stress of scaling a business leads to a drop in your quality of work, it’s time to add leadership bench strength.

This is one of the most critical HR challenges in any startup. You’ll need to spot signs of managerial weakness and counsel the founder when the time is right to find additional executive expertise.

Then it’s up to you to identify, recruit, and select leaders for critical management roles like operations and finance and customer experience leaders. Some candidates may emerge internally as they prove themselves in existing roles. In a startup, it can be easier to pinpoint internal candidates with high potential. Other senior roles are likely to be more difficult to fill, so they may require creative sourcing.

A McKinsey analysis says few founders do what’s necessary to reinvent their organization as they move from development to launch, and then into high-growth mode. Once the pressure of bringing a product or service to market passes, it’s vital to invest in developing and supporting other potential leaders from within. This builds a talent pipeline that can step up when a founder is ready to hand off responsibilities. Ultimately, this makes growing a business much easier.

The best way to do this is by delegating specific assignments to new talent while maintaining structure in senior roles. However, this balance continuously shifts as a company scales. You can act as a mediator, adjusting organizational design to minimize the chaos of too little structure while avoiding the bureaucracy of too much.

A Final Note on HR Challenges in Tech Startups

The tech environment is extraordinarily competitive, and recruiting the best talent can be daunting. But hiring for open positions isn’t the only priority. Tech startups face multiple complex HR challenges.

When navigating these various demands, it’s important to balance the needs of the company with the needs of your staff. Sometimes, you may be the only advocate for staff wellbeing, inclusion, or development. Be prepared.

Also, it may be tempting to react to immediate problems each day. Startup teams do that. But while you’re fighting fires, don’t forget to keep the long game in mind.

Image by Austin Distel

Avoid the Workplace Talent Cliff [Podcast]

The talent cliff is a phenomenon where businesses lose employees at a rapid rate. It isn’t a new problem, but it regularly appears in times of crisis, such as the 2008 stock market crash, and of course, the 2020-2021 pandemic. Because of the present WFH lifestyle, people are reconsidering their options, keeping their eyes open for new and better career opportunities.

Meaning the talent cliff is a constant threat to business success, especially right now.

Many organizations are in a position to suffer losses of key people who fill critical roles aligned with the organization’s overall business strategy. Finding and filling these roles quickly is essential but not always possible, especially when it’s a job candidate’s market. That’s why it’s important to stay ahead of the game and focus on preventing employees from leaving, rather than scrambling to hire talent later.

Our Guest: Jennifer Thornton, Talent Strategy and Leadership Expert 


The special guest on this week’s episode of #WorkTrends is Jennifer Thornton, a sought-after business strategist who has clocked over two decades as an HR professional. She takes an unconventional approach to building workforce development solutions for companies, and her impressive expertise in talent strategy and leadership helped drive the rapid growth of her consulting firm, 304 Coaching.

I asked Jennifer why some businesses wind up staring over the edge of the talent cliff, while others don’t. And the heart of the matter is: Businesses who don’t value employee satisfaction will likely suffer the most.

“When a business starts to take off, they start throwing all their resources into increasing their revenue, opening up new markets,” Jennifer explains. “But what they don’t say at the same time is: What do we need to do for our talent to ensure that they can keep up the pace with our growth?”

“After a company continues to grow, the leaders usually get super directive, and the good people don’t want to work for someone highly directive. So they leave. Then the people you’re left with are the, ‘Yes sir,’ ‘Yes ma’am’ kind of folks. And they’re not telling you the truth. And then all of a sudden the productivity–it just goes straight down–off the cliff!”

How Can Businesses Avoid the Dreaded Talent Cliff?

I asked Jennifer about what leaders can do to avoid the talent cliff, or at least curb more employee losses. She explained that leaders need to provide psychological safety. They need to give employees space to honestly express ideas, and leaders need to be prepared to respond in a supportive manner.

“Psychological safety allows people in the workplace to be honest, to be truthful, to fully embrace who they are without judgment, which creates productivity and innovation,” Jennifer says. “When you open up the conversation, people feel valued … They feel like it’s safe to bring ideas to you because you don’t just shut them down.”

“I would encourage your listeners to think: How do you think about opening up that conversation so there is psychological safety and so that the business can move forward with the truth?”

The talent cliff is a threat to all businesses. But if you prioritize team needs, it will help you to retain valuable employees and amplify overall business growth.

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. And I hope it communicates that the key to a successful business strategy is valuing the people who are helping you to achieve it. You can learn more about this topic by connecting with our guest, Jennifer Thornton, on LinkedIn.

Business Success and the Role Employee Engagement Plays

When it comes to business profitability and growth, business leaders are focusing on employee engagement like never before. Why? Employee engagement affects many things, not the least of which is employee retention, productivity, customer satisfaction, and more.

But tracking, monitoring, and measuring employee engagement, that’s where it can get creepy. Big companies like Deloitte and IBM are developing software that allows the tracking of sentiment in employee communications. So, not only can an employer access and read emails (nothing new in the business world), they can analyze the sentiment in those emails, Slack messages, and likely other internal collaboration platforms, and use data to figure out if you’re happy in your job, likely to stay, productive as a member of an internal team, providing good customer service, you name it.

The reality is that happy employees are engaged employees, and engaged employees are productive employees. Productive, engaged employees play a big role in business profitability and success.

Why Engagement

Companies with high levels of employee engagement see measurably increased levels of business success. Results include 2.3 percent to 3.8 percent greater stock returns annually than competitors, 22 percent higher productivity, “38 percent more likely to have above average productivity”, and increasing investment in employee engagement by 10 percent can yield $2,400 per employee in increased profit.

The Engagement Disconnect

Most employees are not engaged despite the priority leaders claim it to be. Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that while 71 percent of managers considered high levels of employee engagement to be a key factor in their organization’s success, only 24 percent of those managers described their employees as “highly engaged.” Gallup tracks levels of employee engagement monthly. In March of 2016, engagement hit a new high of 34.1 percent. By May it slipped back down to 32.7 percent.

Increasing Engagement

Not only do high levels of engagement improve business results, low levels of engagement can increase costs to employers in the form of increased turn over, and hiring difficulties. Given the bottom line benefits to organizations, how can employers successfully measure and increase employee engagement?

Many companies measure employee engagement through surveys. These surveys, however, often developed and administered by outside consultants, can be long, cumbersome, and infrequently completed. As a result, organizations are increasingly turning to new ways of measuring engagement.

One way of simplifying and speeding up employee surveys is to frequently ask one question. For example, John Deere added a motivation question to the review process at the end of two-week development cycles. This approach has allowed John Deere to identify disengagement and make corrections before an employee’s performance suffers.

Another single question measurement is a Net Promoter Score (NPS). This customer satisfaction metric is said to be the only number companies need to track to achieve growth. Similarly, organizations have started to use this methodology to quantify employee satisfaction.

New technologies are also enabling employers to track employee engagement continuously rather than waiting for annual check-ins. Impraise allows workers and managers to provide each other with real-time feedback. A tool called Vibe from Tokyo-based software company, AIR, allows companies to scan digital communications in the workplace by monitoring conversations on chat platform Slack. If sentiment analysis of those messages indicates a drop in employee morale, managers receive alerts so that they can address issues immediately.

Single question surveys and big-brother monitoring of employee questions can identify problems but by themselves they cannot build engagement and monitoring could even damage trust by the intrusive nature of the practice. How then can employers actively boost employee engagement.

Approaches that have proven effective include organization-wide communication, ensuring employees at all levels understand how their work is aligned with company goals, and providing frequent recognition. Former Campbell Soup Company CEO, Doug Conant, wrote more than 30,000 thank you notes to employees at all levels recognizing a specific contribution they had made. U.K.-based hardware company, Screwfix has created a 360-degree feedback culture that ensures their staff understands the company’s business goals and has a voice in achieving them.

Although legal, creepy surveillance software might seem like a quick tech fix for boosting employee engagement when almost 70 percent of employees remain checked-out, but a comprehensive, proactive strategy is necessary. Companies with happy, productive, engaged workers pair measurement with action. Oh, and if you want to explore that, we can help!

Photo Credit: recursosjuridicos Flickr via Compfight cc

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Does Your Data Contribute to Sustainable Business Growth?

No matter your business, it all comes down to the bottom line. How do you achieve sustainable business growth?  In the recruiting world, this often means making high impact decisions on data. Data isn’t sexy, but it’s a reality of every business move.  Marketers live in the world of data, always trying to test and refine what’s working. Recruiters are learning to take a page from their marketing coworkers. Recruiting firms need to focus on increasing their volume of sales and profitability to achieve sustainable business growth. What does this mean? It means attracting more clients, more candidates, and sourcing them at a lower cost.

Big Data and Sustainable Growth

The recruiting industry has changed a lot in the past 20 years. And in the last 5 years, it feels like it’s moved at warp speed.  What has emerged is a new form of recruiting, feedback, and monitoring that is driving business. As budgets shrink and demand raises, the following can be helpful to achieve sustainable growth:

Video Interviews. Video interviews are a low cost effective solution that saves both time and money. In the span of time that a recruiter can make a telephone screen, that same recruiter can view 10 on demand recordable video interviews. Many recruiters prefer to choose a set list of questions for consistency and send them to candidates. The onus is on the candidates to then record their responses to these questions and send the video interview to the recruiter. Within this platform, recruiters can share candidate responses, rank candidates and make informed decisions on how to proceed. Advanced reporting tools help inform recruiters how many interviews they’re conducting, their cost per candidate, and more. These tools can help recruiting firms recruit smarter on a tight budget.

Building Talent Pools. Having a bank of resumes is not enough to be able to lower your recruiting costs. Recruiters should be turning these resumes into talent pools. These talent pools should be searchable within narrow search terms, which why many recruiting firms turn to ATS systems. These systems allow recruiters to spend less money on advertising job postings and less time searching for candidates. It’s a cliche that employers say they’ll keep a candidate’s resume on file for future use. But now, recruiters can truly keep all of those resumes and search them at lightening quick speed. The data contained in all of these resumes, references, and attachments can help recruiters source talent at a lower cost, which contributes to sustainable growth over time.

Social Data Tools. Increasingly, social data tools will be able to predict which passive candidates are a good fit for organizations.  And most importantly, they’re beginning to predict when a candidate may be ready to make a move. This kind of data will be able to help recruiting firms identify candidates faster and reduce time to hire.

Data is becoming the new buzz word in recruiting. It’s clear that the data that various technologies are offering can help recruiting firms to identify talent faster and engage with them. Overall, a small investment up front is going to save recruiting firms both time and money. And this is where data is going to contribute to sustainable growth.  If you’re not yet using data to adjust your hiring process, you could be missing out. Gain the insight your recruiting firm needs.

Photo credit: Bigstock

Rise Above the Waiting For Godot Workplace Standard

“Hold your fire —
Keep it burning bright
Hold the flame
’til the dream ignites —
A spirit with a vision
Is a dream with a mission…”

—Neil Peart, Mission

It’s like every company meeting you’ve ever been in is a contemporary retelling of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Repetitive 20th century tragicomedies in continuous incremental acts. Painfully existential 30 to 60 to 90+ minutes blocks of time that makes you question why you’re there, along with the why of humanity and your very own soul.

You gather in conference rooms in pairs or teams, young and old, from diverse backgrounds and possibly a different country or three. More than likely somebody next to you is pretty new, whether co-worker or manager.

Some of you wait in the rooms, some of you on the conference phone lines, only to hear every other word during the meeting, if you’re lucky, with no video conferencing in sight.

Maybe there’s a formal agenda. Or a poorly written e-mail resent so many times you’re not sure which version you’re supposed to be referencing. Or there’s someone’s notes that loosely resembles one of your mother’s crumpled undecipherable to-do lists from childhood.

The leader, whoever that is at whatever level, arrives 5 to 10 minutes late, as always. He or she then opens up with an unrelated anecdote, interrupting those of you discussing what you did over the weekend, or the night before.

Stuff is discussed. Progress reviewed. Deliverables assigned. Subordinates undermined. Contradictions intertwined. Yet another reorg announced. A new CEO coming on board. Another round of investment coming in if your founders agree to switch from making X’s to making Y’s. And now you know you’ll have to work late every single night for the next three weeks.

You all adjourn to meet again a week or so later to find out that not much if anything had moved. Then you’ll have to relive it all while defending yourself during your annual performance review.

Let’s go; everything changes; nobody moves. The old “Godot” standard.

This isn’t all fair, I know. There are many companies and business leaders who rise above the painful ambiguity and actually get stuff done. But it’s still a top-down hierarchical hailstorm of old-school motivation, engagement and productivity. Even in global multi-national companies where progress is glacial until a dramatic upheaval of some kind, and where employees and leaders come and go, the world creates, innovates and moves products and services.

And now that Millennials are pretty much the majority of the workforce today, they’re aspiring for something different than the status quo, and inspiring in every generation something more. Weber Shandwick, in partnership with KRC Research, recently released Employees Rising: Seizing the Opportunity in Employee Activism. First, they remind us that more than 8 in 10 employees (84%) have experienced some kind of employer change in the past few years — most typically a leadership change (45%). And only 3 of 10 employees are deeply engaged with their employers (we’ve heard that over and over again, haven’t we?).

Activism isn’t new, but employee activism as explained in the above research and discussed with Jon Mertz and Danny Rubin on the TalentCulture #TChat Show is gaining traction. Every new generation pokes and prods at the status quo and thank goodness for that.

Employee engagement is the old Godot standard. However, employee activism today takes a more elevated mindset and initiates and executes positive actions with usually little to no negative reactions. This extends from leadership to human resources to front-line employees and all communication points in between. This workplace activism embraces a greater calling for businesses today, think corporate social responsibility, yet still drives new revenue growth, new customers, new products, better relationships in the workplace with leadership and employees.

Let’s go; everything changes; everybody moves and makes magic and a living. The new activist standard.

So leadership today please take note from the workforce majority: focus on the people first. Not just the other stuff that’s just about growth and return at the expense of people. Now more than ever many of us both young and old want employee well-being, employee growth and development, and a higher sense of purpose for the work we choose to do and the employee we choose to do it with. This all underscored by Deloitte’s fourth annual Millennial Survey.

We all long for flexibility and fun and greater purpose, but work is actually really hard at times, and it will be stressful and mind-numbing and even a little soul-sucking, especially when we’re working in a job that’s maybe not so higher purpose because we need the work. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again a thousand times – making a living plus an elevated mindset is all hard work.

We all still aspire to do the things we love to do for a higher purpose. And when these opportunities present themselves (and hopefully more businesses are helping present them), the power grid switch from passive to active flips on and every point in the pre-hire and post-hire experience lights us up like a summer county fair.

Because if we can, we all must rise above waiting for Godot workplace standard to do the same. That’s the part when we wink and smile and hold our fires burning bright.

I’m excited to announce that I’ve joined the Talent Board, the organization behind the Candidate Experience Awards. I will help lead and further their mission of benchmarking and elevating the candidate experience and recruiting performance, from the first job post to the final onboarding and beyond in North America and around the world. Join us and the 2015 CandE Winners at the 2nd Annual Candidate Experience Symposium September 30 – October 2 in Fort Worth, TX.  Connect with me to learn more.

How To Ensure Swift And Steady Business Growth

This post is specifically about acupuncture, but I hope you’ll find some lessons and ideas which can be used in any industry to achieve business growth. Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medical art that is practiced for centuries. The practitioners of this art treat a broad range of psychological and physical conditions. Nowadays, a career in this field has become lucrative and flourishing. For this reason, lots of students study acupuncture and want to make a successful career in it.

For a rapid business growth in the practice, I’d suggest that you keep in mind some tips. Here are a few key factors to consider for a smooth and speedy growth in acupuncture practice…

Give Your Practice A Sheer Importance

Practice in alternative medicine requires a lot of commitment. Give it an equal importance as you would have given to your business. Instead of wasting your time in going to cafe or club, give your complete attention towards the steps necessary to get success in the practice. All the successful entrepreneurs boast a good time management. Get engaged in the leisure activities only when you have earned it. Socialization and comfort come after the work. 

Part Time Jobs Can Be Done If You Are Short Of Cash

Try to invest all your time and money into your practice as an acupuncturist. Doing any other job with practice may lead to the delay of realization of your goals in career like business growth. You can do part-time job to ensure money floatation. 

If You Want To Work In Another Practitioner’s Office, Establish Your Own Office Too

Never settle for working for another practitioner for the long term. You will end up earning considerably less than independent practitioners. Try to set up your independent office. Having your own venture will pave a way for financial success of your career. 

Get An Office As Per Your Needs

As an acupuncturist, you will need a minimum of two treatment rooms, one waiting area and a bathroom. Setup an office and be regular to it. You must not treat your personal office like going to stereotypical jobs every day. Enjoying your work is extremely important for getting success in the career. 

Having A Sound Knowledge About The Field Is A Must

You must know almost everything related to acupuncture. For this, you will need proper education. Many institutes offer programs related to the acupuncture sector. You can go for a diploma in acupuncture program for any affiliated institute to embark and progress in this sector. 

Take Marketing Decisions Smartly

Taking the marketing decisions smartly is extremely important for growth in acupuncture practice. Hold off any decision if you think it may turn up into poor marketing. Having blind hope or fear can prove hazardous for your growth as a practitioner. 

Strong Vision Is Imperative

There may arise many vicissitudes in the practice. You must remain steadfast in your vision, as it will motivate you to achieve your goal without being failed. If you get easily distracted or lack in wide vision, you must maintain monthly or daily goals as the means of elevating your purpose and conviction in the career. You must write down about you goals in acupuncture practice and should visualize them as well. Setting up specific goals is extremely important for ensuring rapid growth in acupuncture practice. 

Relish The Marketing Of Your Practice

For dedicated marketing, it is imperative for you to enjoy it. You must consider marketing inseparable from your practice. Treating and drawing patients are the parts of the process. Not taking interest in marketing will lead to lack of quality of practice. To become successful, you must learn to relish the process of marketing. 

Never Avoid Taking Risks

Taking risk is business is extreme important for a remarkable growth. Managing risk in business is a skill that an entrepreneur must boast. Playing safe will never lead to success at all. Learning from the mistakes and keep refining the knowledge about the field will develop you as a professional practitioner. 

Make An Apt Team Of Professionals

A skilled team is equally important for the constant growth of your business as an acupuncture practitioner.You cannot do everything on your own and hence you need a team that encompasses marketing coach, graphic designer, accountant, web designer, etc. All the successful practitioners need a team of skilled professionals. 

Frequent Marketing Is Mandatory

Dedicated practice can never be fruitful alone if it is not mixed with smart and frequent marketing. Marketing should remain a constant emphasize. As long as you are in business, keep your marketing goals high and think of the ways to augment your exposure. Growth in business refers to keep expanding your reach. Frequent marking will prevent you from being stagnant.

Keep the above-mentioned guidelines in mind and secure a bright and beneficial career as an acupuncture practitioner.

Picture Credit: Big Stock Images

The Benefits Of Success Measured By The Effectual Stretch

It wasn’t exactly the romanticized version of backpacking through an exotic land, especially if you consider a cheap roller suitcase a backpack, which unfortunately I did. But that was me then in 1998, when my then girlfriend (now wife) had bitten me with the travel bug. Prior to that my travel was limited to North America. When I was 13 I went to Hawaii, which I actually thought was another country.

My wife had traveled extensively prior to us meeting, including the romanticized version of backpacking through Europe after college, only to get most of her belongings stolen in Prague after only two days into her trip. She could’ve got home after that, wanted to go home after that, but regrouped, bought a few new things, and went on to travel for another few weeks.

Mama and Me Costa RicaAnd so our first big journey together was to Costa Rica. A lovely country, it was the first time I had been to such an exotic land, and to travel with someone else who lived boldly, to experience such visceral sensations I had never before experienced was amazing in and of itself. But the meeting of people I had never met before, some of whom had alien worldviews compared to mine, and exchanging those worldviews with one another, was the epitome of the “effectual stretch.”

The “effectual stretch” meaning pushing oneself to learn and expand beyond what’s known and comfortable in a way that’s produces desired yet diverse effective results, whatever those results may mean to each person. It could mean the literal extremes of success or failure, or that fatty layer in between that gives sustenance to our tenuous journey of sinew and bone.

We’ve attempted to impress the same approach and attitude on our daughters, teaching them to be bold yet aware, to protect themselves but not live in fear, to keep getting back on the bull like they own the beast, horns held tightly in hands. This includes exposing them to travel, new locales and people, experiences that we hope will shape their adult lives and those they interact with for the better.

Listening to a recent Freakonomics podcast about empowering a better workplace and the cities where those workplaces are, I had to smile when I heard American economist and Harvard University professor Edward Glaeser talk about how he was taking a sabbatical while “…attempting to civilize my children by taking them to a variety of different cities.”

Glaeser believes that encouraging industrial diversity would contribute more to economic growth. Cities that embrace a people-centric view of community (around infrastructure, education, services, etc.) means that businesses are more likely to thrive in said communities. The same podcast includes commentary from Glaeser on Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s ambitious Downtown Project, which is primarily an urban revitalization effort, but also an effectual stretch project on a grander community scale due to the emphasis on business and workforce diversity. It’s a “collision” strategy that encourages others to live and work together, continually exchanging ideas in order to create positive and effectual change while powering sustainable business.

Which brings me to the live TalentCulture #TChat Show we did from Cork, Ireland for the IT@Cork European Technology Summit of over 400 attendees, as well as the tech talent diversity panel session that Meghan and I moderated at the summit. The panelists and guests included a diverse group of business leaders, an academic and one inspirational young student: David Parry Jones, VP UK and Ireland VMWare; Noelle Burke Head of HR Microsoft Ireland; Michael Loftus, Head of Faculty of Engineering and Science CIT; student Ciara Judge, one of the Kinsale winners of the 2013 Google Science Award; and Caroline O’Driscoll, Tax Partner at KPMG, and Vice Chair of IT@cork.

ITCork Diversity panel

Not only is the city of Cork (and much of the Republic of Ireland for that matter) investing in business-friendly infrastructure and creating competitive tax codes, they embrace the above collision strategy. The not-for-profit IT@cork European Tech Cluster, the organization behind the European Tech Summit, represents the interests of the IT industry in Ireland. This includes indigenous and international IT professionals, executives, multinationals, government leaders, public sector, academia, entrepreneurs, investors and the legal and financial professional services community joining together to drive thought leadership, collaboration and global strategic alliances.

ITCork15 TChat Show

Amen. The good news is that IT@Cork is being replicated in various iterations throughout communities worldwide. Even less formal, but no less impactful, events take place, including the likes of Event Santa Cruz in my own backyard, founded by Matthew Swinnerton, brings together local entrepreneurs and the community every month, again to facilitate the effectual stretch and diversity of ideas.

Although our core theme of the IT@Cork panel session and #TChat Show was gender diversity, what became crystal clear was the theme of broader diversity and inclusion. It’s all about attracting a wider array of backgrounds and worldviews of both women and men who support one another. This is what can lead to a competitive advantage in business and an equitable advantage for cities and communities around the world.

According to PwC’s 2015 CEO Survey, talent diversity and inclusiveness are not just the softer issues only given lip service, but instead are now considered crucial to being competitive. Of the CEOs whose companies have a formal diversity and inclusiveness strategy, 85% think it’s improved their bottom line. They also see such strategies as benefiting innovation, collaboration, customer satisfaction, emerging customer needs and the ability to benefit technology.

So it’s clear for me and many others today that the best business outcomes for organizations today can only be achieved through diversity and inclusion growth collisions. However, it’s also important to note that no matter progressive and elevated organizations are, complex regulatory changes and an increase in Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) audit frequency and intensity abound. This means many organizations need assistance to ensure diversity programs and Affirmative Action plans are documented and compliant, while at the same time magnifying their overall diversity impact.

Ever since my wife and I had met one day at the beach nearly 18 years ago, it’s been one growth opportunity after another. Not always travel related, and certainly not always successful, it’s been more about having an explorer’s mentality and approach to mindful and agile living both at home and at work. Business and community leaders who invest and sustain this approach will reap the benefits of success measured by the effectual stretch.

Top Work Benefits From Business Phone System Innovation

As the world changes and becomes more connected, more digital, and more mobile, the working world must adapt in order to keep up with the changing times. The need for innovation and advancement is even more essential in 2015, and business phone systems are no exception.

Remote And Distance Workers

More and more employees today are giving up the office and opting for a more mobile approach to work. Whether they work as freelancers or employees who work remotely from home, many employers are finding this to be the new trend in employee hiring and work hours. Integrating these new and unique off-site workers involves a change in approach and mindset. At the heart of this new trend is the utilization of the cloud-based business system. When this technology is embraced and fully integrated to its full potential it will help to significantly boost a business’s productivity and work quality. With the use of cloud-based technology and remote workers it is now possible for managers to oversee employees and manage workloads, no matter where their workers may be.

Phone Systems For Conferencing Calls

One of the biggest issues facing many business owners today is the existence of an ever-widening skills gap between older, established employees and new blood coming into the business. Young workers may need training on the specific ins and outs of the business and older workers may need training in the new technology and tools used in day-to-day business operations. Cloud phone systems give employers and managers access to a variety of video and audio conferencing features. Whether the training needs to be simple audio direction or a visual tutorial, these conference calls and conferences can be held and attended anywhere, no matter where all of the employees may be located. There is no longer a need to fight with conflicting schedules, transportation, and location issues when it comes to setting up a conference meeting. Training materials can be prerecorded, handouts can be emailed, and some conference call systems even have options for white board interactions!  Training has never been easier!

Easy To Expand

Many small businesses hope to see continued growth this year. Only the best business phone systems offer nearly unlimited options and customization features that can be tailored to fit any business and any industry. Costs are generally much lower than what most traditional phone systems cost to maintain and upgrade as needed, which of course goes a long way in making it easier to grow. When a business can keep up with the market, grow as necessary, and not be tied down by technology limitations, the potential for profit is limited only by the company itself. Two of the growing trends in businesses across many markets and fields are a new focus on greater automation and greater personalization. This can be easily achieved with a modern phone system that includes conferencing options, data plans, and much more! A new and modern business phone platform can meet these needs and open the doors for continued growth.

Phone Systems And Automation

Many businesses are leaning toward a business phone operating system that can be automated. From taking calls, channeling callers to the right departments, managing wait times, taking messages, and assisting customers, there are many areas where an automated system can help save time and streamline the communication process. The system many business owners are looking for is one that can also track and record calls so a record is generated; this can be helpful to highlight problem areas and to pinpoint areas that need additional work and assistance for customers. Other automated features that many businesses seem to be looking for in their phone systems include an automatic callback feature to reach out to customers to check on their satisfaction and the quality of the service they received with their call.

Personalization Is Enhanced

Phone systems are growing in popularity as well as in the services that they can offer. These services can help businesses manage their workers and teams more efficiently, help them know their customers better, encourage better communication, monitor team interactions, promoting a closer relationship between team members, and encouraging an overall better business platform. These phone systems can go a long way in helping any business be better poised to take full advantage of everything 2015 has to offer.

As the business world begins to adapt in order to keep up with the changing times and new technological advances, there are many wonderful benefits that can be gained from a business phone system that is automated and innovated. The need for innovation and advancement will be paramount if any business hopes to take full advantage of 2015.

About the Author: Sheza Gary has been a project strategist since 2009 and also involved in the launching of startups and tech companies in New York for over five years.

photo credit: Nokia E6 Business Phone India Launch via photopin (license)

Want To Build A Business? Lead With Trust

If you could define business success, what would it look like to you? Would you focus on market share? Growth rate? Revenue? Profitability? Or something else?

At young companies, conversations tend to revolve around how to raise seed funding, where to invest capital, and how to compensate key contributors. Often, it seems that our perception of business success (or failure) largely revolves around money.

While it is true that a well-run company requires appropriate funding and sound financial management, I would argue that there is something even more vital to the sustained growth of any venture. It’s not something you can buy or sell — nor does it come prepackaged on a shelf.

I’m talking about trust.

Broken Trust: Good Examples Of Bad Behavior

From the Enron debacle to the Madoff scandal, stories of insider trading and fraud have captured headlines far too frequently. Our nation is losing faith in corporate leaders, and there’s a growing demand for corporate accountability and transparency.

The only way to turn this around is for those at the top to take responsibility and lead by example. We must create open, transparent cultures that promote accountability, integrity and honesty.

The truth of the matter is that employees need to know what’s going on in order to feel connected with their work and perform at their highest level. Staff concerns about the stability and the health of the company are a distraction that can erode trust, inhibit productivity and have a negative impact on the bottom line.

Creating an environment of trust goes far beyond releasing quarterly reports. It requires a daily commitment to transparency that’s infused into all aspects of business operations, and reaches all levels of the organizational chart. Most importantly, it requires team coaching and open communication across all functions, with management that listens and responds to constructive criticism.

Trust Is The Cornerstone Of Culture

Leadership legend, Stephen M. R. Covey said:

“High trust is a dividend; when it goes up you’ll find that everything happens faster and cost goes down. It’s that predictable.”

Although trust can take a long time to build, once we have achieved a state of trust, we often take it for granted. But the fact of the matter is that trust is at the core of the daily work activities that collectively make up company culture. As Deborah Mills-Scofield explains in the Harvard Business Review:

“Trust trumps everything. And everything flows from trust — learning, credibility, accountability, a sense of purpose and a mission that makes ‘work’ bigger than oneself.”

When it comes to trust, the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. For example, many startups have created cultures based around staff perks like a ‘no vacation policy’ vacation policy, providing employees with top-of-the line equipment, offering flexible hours, and letting staff work from home. While benefits like these may attract and retain top talent, there’s also a higher mission. Companies that offer these unique self-directed work options are sending employees a message that says, ‘I trust you, and I trust your judgment in using these privileges.”

Earlier this year, HubSpot released its long-awaited Culture Code – a presentation that summarizes the organization’s nine core beliefs. The document is remarkable because it emphasizes that trust is at the center of Hubspot’s organization. Rather than creating binders full of company policies, HubSpot has created a simple three-word policy for nearly everything: use. good. judgment. From social media activity, to travel expenses, to sick days, HubSpot understands that a healthy company starts with trust.

The Trust/Time Ratio

Of course, trust is a two-way street. Not only is it essential for employees to trust management, but leaders must trust their teams, and feel confident in their ability to move the company forward.

As Stephen M.R. Covey explains in his book, The Speed of Trust, trust is the great liberator of time and resources. It’s also an essential condition for growth. He notes that “when trust goes up, speed will also go up and cost will go down,” and that “when trust goes down, speed will go down and costs will go up.” Therefore, he concludes that the speed at which you can grow a business is directly proportionate to the time that you invest in creating trusting relationships.

Leading By Letting Go

One of the most important lessons I learned as a CEO was the importance of trusting your team. As the leader of any organization, large or small, your primary job is to communicate the vision; give your people the information, tools and resources to move toward it; and then get out of the way. This frees your staff to be as productive as possible, while allowing you to focus on your responsibility to drive the company forward, strategically.

The truth is plain and simple: if you’re a leader who wants to grow a company, you must have faith in your staff to get the job done – without you hovering around their desks. It is impossible to innovate while being bogged down in the daily minutia of your company. Trust allows you to remove yourself from the details and create necessary space to focus on long-term growth.

Trust is a natural human instinct, yet we tend to over-complicate it when we try to apply it to the business world. The best way to create a culture of trust is to begin by being open and honest with ourselves and those around us. By committing to being transparent in all our interactions, we will gradually create a culture of trust around us. And as trust grows, we should expect to see business results follow.

How do create and sustain trust within your organization? What results do you see?

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome. Learn more...)

Image Credit: Pixabay

How To Help Top Talent Thrive

Written by Mona Berberich

Back in college economics class, I discovered a common assumption about economies of scale — actually about returns to scale. In business, we assume that if we increase factors of input by a given amount, the output will increase by that much or more. This concept seems intuitive, and we rely on it to simplify the management process and maximize profits.

Recently however, while researching how companies treat their top talent, I’ve found that many organizations apply this “returns to scale” theory to their most valuable asset — their smartest, most creative people. In other words, leaders often think that, by doubling the number people with creative abilities, the organization will be at least twice as creative. But if innovation is the goal, this theory isn’t sufficient.

Finding More Of The Right Stuff

What really matters in this equation? It’s ultimately about organizational culture. When managers create an environment that inspires the brightest and most talented people to thrive to their fullest potential, that’s when business performance increases proportionately (or more).

That said, to foster a scalable creative culture, it’s important to understand the smartest and most creative among us. What motivates the top 2 to 5% of the workforce with genius in software design, molecular engineering, and other areas of specialized expertise? Better knowledge of this will lead to a more supportive environment for top talent.

Portrait Of An Innovation Star

I’m not saying that clever people are all alike, but they do follow similar paths and tend to share multiple characteristics. For example, unlike most of us, top contributors know what they’re worth. In today’s more mobile, global world, they have more opportunities. They know their value, and they expect employers to know it, too.

They also tend to share a single defining characteristic — they don’t want to be “managed.” This requirement can be quite a challenge for business leaders. Very talented individuals often are adept at accomplishing great things on their own. They tend to have no special bond with their employer, but they know how to behave to gain funding and support. On the other hand, they’re aware that their employer relies upon them. They generate the ideas that no one else brings to the table, and often they go the extra mile to breathe life into their vision.

Often high flyers demand organizational protection and ignore corporate hierarchy. Quite frankly, they despise titles and promotions, at least in the way that most people perceive those business conventions. Being part of an organization chart is often a thorn in their side. Meetings tend to be seen as waste of time — a by-product of bureaucracy. Bottom line: They prefer immunity from organizational activities because administration is what keeps them from doing what really matters — creating change.

The smartest people often have unconventional expectations. They’re likely to assume managers don’t understand what they are doing, but they want respect for what they do. They want managers to recognize their ideas, and reward them with access to corporate leadership, information and resources. They want freedom to explore new territory, and permission to fail, because failure ultimately can lead to better outcomes. The fact is, they tend not to speak the same language as others in an organization, and often they don’t even want a public voice in the organization’s discussions. What to do? Here are several suggestions…

How Can Your Culture Support Extraordinary Creativity?

1) Be a Guardian

The most talented contributors don’t need a boss, they need a guardian — a sponsor who opens doors on their behalf. Focus on helping to facilitate their work. Give them appropriate guidelines, but eliminate rigid rules.

2) Offer Praise

Create company-wide visibility and demonstrate appreciation by showcasing your rockstars’ projects at company meetings, and in other internal communications. In addition, provide opportunities for them to meet informally with senior leadership. For example, organize lunch with your CEO or top executives (but don’t force rockstars to wear business suits).

3) Grant Operational Immunity

Exempt your top performers from unnecessary meetings and departmental administrative activities. Streamline monitoring and reporting mechanisms, and minimize structural and procedural requirements. Above all, encourage trial and error. Be prepared to recognize failure (or even celebrate it) as an integral part of learning and progress.

4) Provide Freedom to Explore

Encourage your brightest stars to use 20% of their time to drive independent projects. Grant leave of absence for professional development or participation in industry conferences. Consider providing discretionary budgets to fund exploration and ideation — whatever may sparks fresh thinking. For example, a user experience designer might expand his frame-of-reference by operating as a “visiting fellow” at multiple leading-edge customer sites. Or a biotech product developer might “connect the dots” by creating a private virtual forum where life science incubators can share insights about basic research projects.

5) Acknowledge Achievement Beyond The Organization

Rather than evaluating rockstars on typical performance criteria, consider their role in the industry at-large. Perhaps replace classic one-over-one performance appraisals with peer-to-peer evaluations. And consider metrics based on industry awards and rankings, progress in securing patents, volume and quality of articles published or presented, and other indicators of innovation leadership.

How Do You Encourage Top Talent to Thrive?

Do you have extraordinary people in your organization who need to be led in a special way? What have you done to accommodate them? What kind of issues and results have you seen? Please comment — we’re interested in your thoughts!

Mona Berberich2(Editor’s Note: Mona Berberich is a Digital Marketing Manager at Better Weekdays, a Chicago-based company that has developed a platform to help HR leaders source, screen and develop talent based on job compatibility. She is a researcher and writer covering HR, career growth, talent management and leadership development. Contact Mona on Google+ or LinkedIn or Twitter.)


Image Credit: Pixabay