For a startup to establish itself, it must do things differently and be better than the best in the business. Employees can help stay ahead of competition by innovating, learning and adapting real time.
Talk to chief-executive officers (CEO) and they will share that attracting the ‘right’ people with the ‘right’ skills remains a daily challenge. All of them realise that employee skills, capacity and productivity can be big differentiators to their growth story. India, today, is an employment bazaar that is turning pro-employee. Attractive job opportunities, bigger brands and great salaries constantly tug at employees. A startup can become an exclusive choice from an employee’s perspective when it guarantees learning opportunities.
At present, training at a startup is categorised as important, but, not an urgent priority. There always seem to be other critical ways of utilising employee time. Dr. Balasubramanian Krishnan, CEO at NuVeda Learning (which designs, delivers, and measures the effectiveness of learner-centric solutions, using products and services across business verticals), shares, “Finding the time to get away from product or service delivery is the biggest challenge in a startup. Productivity of employees is almost directly proportional to revenue or time to product release which is why the long term perspective requires that startups take the time out and do the right thing for employee development”.
It must be said that conventional training methodologies are not the most effective at a startup. “Traditional training routines and formats do not work for Indian start-ups. A lot of innovation is needed due to the nature of these organisations and the expected performance standards. Startups need to carefully craft business processes and workflows that integrate training as part of their work routine,” says Sunny Ghosh, director-CEO of web-based technology developer, Wolf Frameworks.
There are certain simple, low investment ideas that can help take training forward at a startup.
4 simple, low investment ideas
Learn on the job
Take a leaf out of Kreeo’s book. The information technology startup which helps organisations harness the intelligence in their ecosystems has institutionalised on the job training as a core business practice. According to Sumeet Anand, founder-chief-executive officer, Kreeo, “We hire employees with no prior industry experience and train them on them job. Our focus is to expose employees to all facets for effective on the job performance. For instance, when we hire a developer, he/ she is exposed to all the layers of the technology and domain. We find immense value in this integrated approach from productivity improvement, resource utilisation and cost optimising perspective standpoints.” Amit Desai, who works with Nurture Talent, India’s first training institute for entrepreneurs, adds, “Immediate managers can play an important role by helping the employee learn. They can offer opportunities to multi-task, cross learn, handle varied roles and coach them on acquiring new skills by trial and error.” Wolf Frameworks encourages cross learning on a formal basis as every team is exposed to each other’s task and anyone from any team can participate to work on collective projects.
To top it all, research validates that on the job learning is the fastest and most effective way to train your employees and startups must make the most of it.
Learn from peers
“We get everyone at NuVeda Learning to teach their colleagues about their favorite topic through monthly sessions. Recently, one employee taught us “how to draw” and the creative potential it unleashed was remarkable. The key takeaway for us has been that as soon as an employee learns to teach, his / her learning aptitude grows exponentially,” says Krishnan. Recognising employees who anchor the learning culture in your organisation can go a long way in building this culture.
Learn at a negligible cost
There is no shortage of low-cost learning resources available to a startup. Your customers can help build employee skills for free. The experience of working with a world class customer on customising or deploying your product or solution is an invaluable learning opportunity. An irate customer can teach the sales team a lesson in customer handling skills. Industry networks and forums can also offer a great source of informal training. You can find a pool of resources on best practices, innovative ideas and more. Even the internal processes such a project review or sales review can be transformed to an enriching learning session. Here, you must think out-of-the-box and find learning opportunities. A processes to document the learnings and sharing it across the board will ensure that everyone in the startup benefits.
Hire the passionate
Hiring employees who are passionate learners will drive your business in the long term. Kreeo provides prospective freshers free technical training for the initial four weeks. During this period, they watch out for people who are able to grasp concepts, question them, take initiative and demonstrate a great attitude towards their work.
If an entrepreneur reflects on the cost of failure, lack of adequate focus on employee training will emerge as the top reason. In addition, advancing employee skills can lead to new business opportunities, more so at a startup that needs to differentiate itself from competition. A good start to growth would be making the employee learning process the most sought after, unique and fun aspect of your organisation.