Karina Malhotra, managing director, Acumentice Health shares her thoughts and advice on how to help employees transition from corporate to scale-up. “There was a time when, if you jumped from a steady corporate job to a scale-up, you were considered something of a risk taker. A maverick. But in little over a decade all that has changed.
“For sure, joining a scale-up can still have an element of risk attached but in a lot of cases they hold more appeal than large corporations as people are placing all-round wellness over wealthiness and taking positions that offer fluidity, flexibility and a fun working environment that isn’t always the case in the suit and tie world of corporate commerce. Of course, there’s an element of perception to this dichotomy. Some of the biggest companies around today like Google and Tesla were once start-ups themselves but they have maintained the early stage mentality as they have grown.
“Whatever the reasons may be, the trend for employees moving to scale-ups is on the up. According to the latest report by the Scaleup Institute, there was a 6.1% increase in scale-ups growing by employment in the UK – to 13,965. Scaleups employed 3.5 million people in 2018, up from 3.4 million in 2017. But what can be done to help those employees taking the leap and moving from one world to another?
Counting on culture
One of the major weapons in the arsenal of the scale-up is culture. Most notably the ability for an employee to shed the straight jacket of corporate process and protocol and, to a degree this is absolutely true – particularly in big pharmaceutical companies or healthcare providers. But the trade off can come with an element of risk. Scale-ups do not offer the same levels of reassurance as businesses established and built over years. After all, they’ve simply not been around as long. Businesses that, because of their size are able to offer greater avenues of change. For instance, the NHS enables people to move around within it to different areas and geographies. In essence, it’s a job for life. But the value of creating a welcoming, fluid culture that enables its employees to thrive is almost priceless in comparison.
Contributing to growth
Another often cited reason for moving from corporate to scale-up is the ability to have more ownership of jobs and autonomy over delivering them. This is something big corporations simply cannot offer due to the volume of people in the company. Employees today are also more invested in CSR and accept that both their role, and that of the company they are working for, makes a positive difference in the world. This means employees become involved in areas that go way beyond previous experience – everything from branding, to marketing, new business development and culture. Scale-ups are not about following the instructions of people sitting in the ivory tower at a very senior board level in a huge organisation but involve actually contributing to the future journey of a company. Having the confidence and desire to get involved at this level and rate is vital and can be extremely rewarding.
Soak up experience
Scale-ups tend to hire two types of people. Those that are specialists in certain fields with specific experience to help the company grow and those that are relatively early in their career and that are not conditioned to one particular type of industry or skill set. Both are equally important. The more senior hires are able to help set the vision and see beyond the next few years while those from ‘outside’ backgrounds are able to think outside of the box when it comes to exploring avenues of growing the business. Scale-ups thrive on this diverse mix of backgrounds, personalities and skill sets. What is important for the employee to understand is that their opinion matters in a scale-up as one simple perspective can often spark the incredible.
Try, fail, try, succeed
Scale-up life fluctuates much more than that of the corporate world. One day can see a major success (and due the relative sizes of the companies, successes can be far smaller in the scale-up world to have an impact) and the next we’re trying to hold on to some important employees to help recover the business in some way shape or form. The important thing to bear in mind is that employees at scale-ups need to be comfortable with the freedom to try new things out and just go with it. Big businesses are often focused on reacting and pleasing shareholders. With scale-ups, it’s about continually innovating, trying things, failing, picking yourself up, and starting again. There is no room for perfectionism. Tradeoffs and failure are at the core of success.
Build on solid foundations
One of the main responsibilities of the business is to be crystal clear why we have hired somebody. Of course, there’s the fluidity and flexibility once a person is in the business, which I’ve touched on, but in order for any employee to join a scale-up and make a difference it is vital for them to know their role and how to deliver it well. From there, they can move, expand and do all the other things but getting the foundational and basic requirements right – irrespective of level – is a must.
While 2020 has seen the world of work shift dramatically, when it comes to helping employees transition from the corporate world to a scale-up there are certain qualities that simply won’t change in; communication, trust, transparency and flexibility. Get those right and, not only will it be a smooth journey, but one well worth making for anyone.
Karina is a healthcare and technology expert. She founded Acumentice with a view to sharing her NHS expertise and combining it with the development of new technologies. Since 2014, Acumentice has been advising, supporting and delivering improvement programmes, that make real change to healthcare pathways and patient’s lives through technology – adding value and improving patient experience. Karina is now working with many NHS trusts to help with digital transformation and modelling tools that harness data and operational intelligence to best recover from the Covid-19 pandemic