Creative Strategies Can Advance a Startup

In a startup, using creative human capital strategies can enable work to be done, even when resources are scarce.

By Reuben Levinsohn and Angie Pope

Supporting point/Tip 1: Deconstruct the work that needs to be done

First determine the critical, few work items that need to be done from the broadest perspective. For example, we need to build a technology platform, we need to connect with our potential customers, and we need to respond quickly to user needs. Then ask the following questions for each category of work to deconstruct the broad categories of work:

  • What specifically needs to be done for us to connect with our potential customers?

  • How would we connect with our potential customers?

  • What has to happen on a daily or weekly basis to effectively connect with our potential customers?

This analysis will leave you with a list of important work activities. Consider what knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) are required to complete these tasks. Knowledge is what an employee would need to know or understand to complete the work activity (e.g., the building blocks of customer engagement). A skill is what an employee needs to know how to do in order to complete the work activity (e.g., how to use a CRM). An ability is what an employee needs to be (i.e., an innate trait) in order to complete the work activities (e.g., a focused, engaged communicator). There are many free, excellent resources online to help with this type of analysis.

Supporting point/Tip 2: Assess current team against the KSAs

If you already have a team in place, you can use the list of knowledge, skills and abilities required to assess where your current team has strengths and gaps. One consideration is that abilities are often described as transferrable skills. So, if an employee has successfully demonstrated an ability in one environment, like a social setting, it is likely he or she would exhibit success with this ability in another environment, like business.

Supporting point/Tip 3: Inventory and fill KSA gaps

Once you have compared your current team against the critical KSAs to launch your business, it is time find strategies to fill the gaps. Often at this point an organization determines to hire a full-time employee or outsource the work; but during times of scarce resources, there are other options to consider.

  • Building talent: Are there people on your team that would love an opportunity to learn new concepts or skills? Is there time? If an employee has the desire and the business has the time, allowing an employee to develop new skills is a great way to build morale and internal capacity. Even if there is no interest on the team to learn a new skill, if it makes sense to build it internally, find incentives that might make that skill development more appealing. There are many free or low-cost knowledge and skill development resources available to new businesses. Start with the Small
    Business Administration.

  • Borrowing talent: Are there local resources available that provide the support for you at no or low cost? Can you partner or create a give/take relationship with another organization that would plug gaps? There are mentoring organizations like SCORE that allow you to borrow the business expertise of another successful executive to support your growth. What local organizations are seeking “real-world” development opportunities for their members/students in the skills you need?

  • Buying talent: Finally, if the business needs to “own” the work or there is a lack of talent to build or borrow, a business can buy talent without adding a full-time team member. Assess talent you are considering to pay against the whole list of KSAs needed. Maybe the person you are considering hiring to design marketing materials also has a knack for spreadsheets and can support the inventory management for the near future. You could consider short-term or gig workers to plug gaps. Tap into local schools and universities to find talent that desires to find experience and works alongside someone more experienced (e.g., teacher, professor). Search out programs that offer incentives for businesses to provide experiences to a target population (e.g., underserved populations, career changers).

Determining how to do so much with limited resources be overwhelming, but taking after thoughtful approach initially can lay out a plan to provide some structure to the chaos.




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