Top 5 Tips to large firms on how to 'Act Like a Start-Up'
Mita Srinivasan
10X People

Top 5 Tips to large firms on how to 'Act Like a Start-Up'

With an estimated 40 percent of professionals looking to move jobs this year – and a push from Government to create twenty $1bn value ‘unicorns’ in the region within the next 9 years - analysts at Robert Walters, warn of ‘The Great Corporate Resignation’ where the most established firms could stand to lose their best talent to emerging and fast-growth start-ups. Jason Grundy, Managing Director of Robert Walters Middle East, shares his top tips with larger firms.

Half of white-collar professionals in the UAE have stated that they would ‘only’ consider a start-up for their next career move, following a record year of investments into start-ups across the MENA region ($2.6bn) – with almost half of this going toward UAE-based start-ups ($1.2bn)

According to a new report from Robert Walters, Act Like a Start-Up and Win the War on Talent, the number of professionals working in start-ups has grown by 20 percent globally in the last 12-months, and expected to grow further as tech, marketing, HR, legal, and finance professionals are all in demand from high-growth companies in the UAE.

Currently, 42 percent of professionals in the UAE are employed by SMEs. This figure expected to grow to around 60 percent as the government enhances it support towards start-ups by way of relaxed visa rules, business reforms, and funding packages aimed at boosting start-ups as well as attracting more expatriates to live and work in the region.

Almost a third of the total funding raised in UAE went toward fintech highlighting the increased innovation and digitisation in the sector.

Jason Grundy, Managing Director of Robert Walters Middle East commented, “After any period of economic change, we typically see a wave of entrepreneurial or start-up activity – and so it doesn’t surprise me to hear of the success of these businesses. What is interesting – however – is how these relatively-new 10-30 person companies are managing to draw some of the UAE’s top talent away from established firms who typically offer much higher levels of job security.”

According to Grundy, post pandemic saw a seismic shift in what professionals want from their employer – with purpose, culture, and people, rated above competitive pay and the well mapped-out corporate ladder.

The ability to be innovative (47 percent), undertake interesting work (34 percent), be exposed to open & effective management (30 percent), and have high levels of autonomy (28 percent), seem to be the leading factors drawing professionals to a start-up.

In fact, it is the flat structure and fast-moving nature of the business which appeals most to ambitious professionals – with 52 percent stating that they would move to a start-up for lower pay if they saw an opportunity to progress much quicker than they would do within a corporate set-up.

Almost half of professionals (42 percent) want to work in a culture that inspires them to do their best, and a further third seek out employers whose social values align with their own – be it equity, mental health, or the environment.

Jason Grundy shared his his Top 5 Tips to large firms on how to ‘Act Like a Start-Up:’

1. Adapt for agility: An established company can copy some of a start-up’s agility by adapting its structure by introducing new, much more flexible ways of working and breaking down divisions into more smaller teams operating in a matrix structure.

2. Change how work gets done: In a start-up, professionals have the opportunity to ‘craft their own job’ as the business evolves and grows. Established organisations should look to replicate this by not having such structured and process-driven departments that can sometimes stifle entrepreneurialism and creativity. When recruiting, keep the job description fluid and consider asking “what would you look to bring to the role.”

3. Encourage innovation: “Fast failure” is a prominent feature of start-up culture. Embracing failure encourages innovation and allows for multiple ideas to be tested in quick succession, in search of the idea that works. Established companies can reconsider their employee KPIs and targets to be more focused on trying new things rather than delivering set tasks. In appraisals shift your focus to key learnings rather than output alone.

4. Focus on Talent: Changing the lens on talent is something large organisations can do. Hiring managers need to rid themselves of preconceived notions and unconscious biases and look to hire, promote, and develop different kinds of people who have the potential to grow with their business. Rather than experience, consider the outlook of a person – ask how they would tackle a certain business problem to see their use of creative thinking and initiative.

5. Adapt your leadership style: Successful start-ups work in a productive way if the leaders running them personify all of the traits they want their staff to emulate. Leaders of established companies need to adopt some of these skills in the way they operate - welcoming innovation, reducing levels of hierarchy, and adopting a more collegiate and meritocratic working style.

Some of the fastest growing in the UAE (less than 50 employees)
Some of the fastest growing in the UAE (less than 50 employees)