‘Train’ Out Your Startup Founder Woes!

According to a recent article by Startup Jobs Asia, high employee attrition rate is one of the biggest challenges start-ups currently face. With a large influx of millennials with a ‘job-hopping’ tendency entering the start-up space, founders are finding it harder and harder to retain quality talent. Given that many start-ups are operated with lean business model, employees are often forced to wear many hats. Business development, marketing and sales all-in-one representatives are not an uncommon sight in the ecosystem. In such a high-pressure internal environment, coupled with employee mindset that lacks a sense of company loyalty, it comes to no surprise that manpower issues are the bane of every start-up unicorn.

In an article published by Straits Times, Singaporean employees were found to be the least engaged in Asia. While it might seem that we are in dire straits, nothing should be worried. In the same article, Mr Josh Goh – marketing director of recruitment firm ManpowerGroup said that, “Training and development is key to retraining Singapore millennials. In the last two years, we observed that employers focus more on what employees have to offer instead of how they can be trained and developed.”

So why does training matter?

Training enables your employees to become more efficient workers by developing a wider base of core skills or by enhancing and improving on current capabilities. Knowledge is power. It really is. By providing employees with more information and arming them with more skillsets, the frustration of wearing many hats will ultimately be dissolved over time. Why? Because with more education and training, employees will be better at coming up with strategies to better handle the often reactive-in-nature start-up ecosystem in Singapore.

Additionally, training helps improve the general impression of the company in the eyes of the employees. It shows that the company is making efforts to actively engage in the employee’s personal development instead of just focusing on the organisation’s interests alone. Employee engagement rates should rise over time, as start-up leaders should maintain a happy and motivated workforce prepared with capabilities to handle anything that is thrown at them.

So where should I start?

In order for start-ups to be less manpower reliant and operationally efficient, start-ups should make attempts to shift from an input-driven approach to a productivity-driven approach. Change should be implemented in a progressive manner, starting with the path of least resistance. Productivity practices like the Lean Six Sigma and the 5S system are internationally tested and proven practices that have created insurmountable benefits for start-ups, SMEs and MNCs alike. Programmes like the Productivity Management Programme (PMP) and the Business Leaders’ Productivity Best Practices Masterclass (BLPBPM) serve as an ideal pilot training project for start-ups looking for proven and instantaneous results at a cost-effective price.

In an increasingly competitive space with customers constantly being bombarded by a wide range of products to choose from, the truly innovating businesses have learnt that quality service provision should run in tandem with an emotionally engaging brand experience across all touch points. Being able to connect emotionally with your consumer ensures that they will keep coming back to your business again, regardless of how aggressive a marketing strategy your start-up’s competitors implement. Progressive companies like Wang by NTUC FoodFare and Frank by OCBC have taken the leap and in turn a larger percentage of industry market-share, by implementing effective Customer Centric Innovations over and over again through the skills and knowledge obtained from the only heavily funded, prestigious Business Design Thinking programme in Singapore! By creating an engaging brand with return customers, start-ups can now focus a larger percentage of their internal efforts on product development and service provision instead of marketing and sales, reaping the rewards of a more productive and better developed business strategy than its competitors.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam once mentioned in his 2014 budget speech that ‘Raising productivity is at the centre of our economic agenda’. With only 37% of Singaporean employees feeling empowered by their organisation’s culture and managers to be able to work together productively and collaboratively (based on data from Microsoft Asia’s Workplace Study 2020), the need for a productivity-driven approach to running a business is still as dire as it was in 2014. Running a business is tough. Singaporean start-up founders need to learn how to leverage on the right training programmes in order to adapt to a changing economic landscape. With funding and support readily available from governmental organisations for both the productivity-driven initiatives mentioned in the article, perhaps running a start-up just got a little bit easier.

Next read: Year in Review – Hottest Startup Jobs in 2017