The thing I love the most about start-up’s is the energy that you can feel when you walk into the office. There’s a buzz and an unspoken excitement that’s contagious.Why is that?
Start-up’s only have a certain amount of money that they can spend on employees so they tend to hire generalists who can help out in all different areas. But they don’t just hire any generalist. They hire smart, motivated people who are excited by the prospect of working hard and doing whatever it takes to make the company successful.
Because smart, motivated generalists are hired leaders tend to rely on them to help solve problems that lay outside their area of expertise. For example, at a small email hosting start-up that I worked for I was all things HR, Culture, and Engagement but it wasn’t uncommon for me to be brought into a meeting to brainstorm branding strategy, sales initiatives, or operational adjustments. In return, it wasn’t uncommon for me to pull together a room of thinkers to help me solve some of my biggest challenges.
This cross pollination was really exciting, allowed us to gather ideas from smart people of all different backgrounds, and created a really strong energy. Unfortunately, as companies grow so do the silo’s that separate departments. People become more specialized and are relied on less and less for their general intelligence and are only called on to perform in their area of expertise. Slowly that buzz starts to disappear.
Here’s the take-away: If you are hiring smart employees then chances are they are smart in areas other then their expertise. Break down the silos and start using employees from all areas of the organization to help with creative brainstorming, problem solving, new initiatives. It will send a clear message to those smart employees that they add value across the board and not just within their niche – and to smart, ambitious, overachievers that’s a huge source of motivation.
Editors Note: When it comes to her professional life, Marisa Keegan is passionate about three things; employee engagement, employee advocacy, and corporate culture. Her goal is to help business leaders understand the importance of giving their employees a voice. Since leaving her position as Culture Maven at Rackspace, she has joined Modea, a digital services agency, and is helping them shape their Talent Management Strategy. Both of these companies have been nationally recognized as great places to work.