The change management masterclass: why startups should map working life daily

Pille Parind-Nisula Moticheck

Working at a startup can be compared to a rollercoaster ride. Everyday life includes changes and upheavals that team members need to adapt to. Change management is critical in fast-growing businesses, and monitoring the team’s well-being is essential for sustainability. There are several reasons for ongoing monitoring of employee experience and teams´ perceptions in various aspects of working life.

  • A non-regulated business environment causes frustration for many. Taking responsibility and acting without restrictions can be highly motivating for many but requires effective coordination from managers. Moving from the established corporate world to a new economy company sounds fantastic as a plan but can inhibit the ability to work. Stepping out of your comfort zone is always unpleasant.

By continuously mapping the stress level of different teams, the managers can quickly identify the critical areas of concern that need attention first.

  • Startup founders are often not professional managers, the need to manage teams can be an uncomfortable side effect when founding a startup. Recognizing your lack of professional knowledge and experience is the first step in seeking help. Unfortunately, a startup manager in active development or growth does not have time to go to school; at best, it is possible to get help from a good book on people management.

Technology helps the manager find areas of improvement faster and monitor the changes. A precise focus helps to deal with the topic more effectively with a coach or mentor, find specific help, and develop skills.

  • A high burnout rate among startup employees and managers (up to 50% of employees based on various estimates) requires conscious monitoring of risks and proactive intervention. Growth expectations expect intense work effort and mental flexibility in adapting to changes.

The ability to anonymously give feedback on various aspects of working life helps to find out areas of tension and their causes. Ideally, the collected feedback also provides an understanding of what type of support is needed by teams.

Involving coaches and mentors to support critical positions should take place before the red light lights up. Being aware of the work-life balance and offering mental health support can help prevent burnout. Returning to the same position after a recovery break caused by burnout is complicated. For a company, replacing an employee is far more expensive than proactive support.

  • In the race to raise money, a neutral technological monitor helps to red flags the danger areas of sustainable operations. With the support of adrenaline, you can sprint pace daily only within the framework of a short-term project. Even in a startup with a short sales perspective, the time horizon is at least a few years.

Investors are also paying more and more attention to the sustainability of businesses, bringing with them both their experience and a network of support services.

In an environment of high intensity, concentrated activities, and expectations of rapid growth, monitoring the pulse of the team is just as natural an activity as a heart rate monitor in sports.

  • Remote work and different locations necessitate the systematic collection of management information. FOMO (Fear-of-missing-out) is the ground of fears in a startup because everyone wants to be smart, beautiful, and irreplaceable. Therefore, involving all employees and monitoring their well-being is an additional management challenge in addition to collecting information on business results.

Internal communication can be an additional challenge in an environment full of changes. Collecting feedback helps assess information availability and adequacy across different positions or locations.

To ignore remote working needs in the initial phase of startup would be short-sighted. Even if the newly established company does not plan to go to foreign markets immediately, we soon need remote employees to realize our growth ambitions.

  • Working culture must be proactively shaped in a new company and a rapidly growing team to reach set targets. Startupers lack both time and money, and effective action is therefore critical. The team is productive when everyone has the same target, everyone’s role in reaching the mark is clear, and the company’s and its employees’ shared values are large enough. A fruitful work culture can be built on shared values ​​and a binding purpose.

The sense of culture differs among teams. Mapping the situation gives valuable information on how to plan further culture-focused activities. And later measure the results of the actions.

  • In startups, team members are often in dual roles. As a group of friends, areas of development (whether personal or business) may remain unresolved and can cause significant setbacks in a pile. The readiness and ability to deal with uncomfortable topics enable development.

Dual roles can also add complexity to intra-team relationships, where there is a risk that employees joining later will not be accepted into the inner circle and may therefore feel left out. Fairness and transparency in the relationship between founders and employees always bring success and support open culture. It would be helpful to ask them whether all employees feel the same about fairness in work relationships.

An additional subject based on dual roles is balance. Being on the same page supports teams´ performance, but when working intensively with friends, finding time for other topics (and company) is crucial for balance.

The growing management trend to collect employee feedback and map the employee experience daily is much broader than just related to the growth companies of the new economy. Annual surveys are no longer sufficient in a rapidly changing labor market, and retaining employees while attracting new talent has become the most prominent management challenge. Employees actively involved in improving their own work-life stay with the company longer.


Pille Parind-Nisula, August 2022

Pille Parind-Nisula Moticheck
Pille Parind-Nisula Moticheck
Pille Parind-Nisula Moticheck