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HRDs must lead on creating start-up mentality

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HRDs must take greater ownership of introducing an entrepreneurial culture, according to Sahar Hashemi, entrepreneur and business consultant.

Hashemi said that within those organisations she has helped introduce more of a start-up mentality, it is often a board member rather than HR professional who first gets in touch.

“While it is often an L&D professional or HR in bigger companies, it’s often almost as if the HRD is too busy with everyday HR to lead on this; they have so much on their plates,” she said.

She explained that HR should take the lead as they are in the best position to embed this approach – through appraisals measuring an employee’s success in launching new projects, risk taking and experimentation, for example.

Many corporates could benefit from reverting (to some extent) to a start-up mentality said Hashemi.

“When you get the suits in things get very different in terms of new ideas and how much more rigid the structure gets,” she said. Regarding her experiences as founder of Coffee Republic and Skinny Candy she added: “At the time I thought that was a natural progression. But then I came to realise what a problem it was.” 

Of what large corporates can learn from start-ups, she said: “Start-up culture is about always trying and is always close to the customers; it’s constantly saying ‘why not?’”

Hashemi advocates six habits to encourage start-up-style innovation and experimentation. These include stepping into the customer’s shoes, encouraging a culture of trial and error, removing fear of failure and encouraging employees to bring their whole selves, not just their professional side, to work.

She said: “Giving people freedom is incredibly brave. It’s a huge move. It’s not easy; all this doesn’t come naturally. It needs constant attention, it’s about constantly managing it.”

She added that while organisations in all sectors can benefit from this approach, people shouldn’t expect overnight results. “It’s subtle; it’s not to say that immediate innovations are going to come out of this. It’s incremental, everyday stuff – it’s not that glamorous. But most companies who are doing well are doing this.”