Startups are commonly perceived as the new “cool kid on the block”, standing for everything contrary to their longstanding corporate counterparts. While traditional corporations value hierarchy, routine, and authority, startups value environments that offer innovation, challenge, and opportunities.
Today, startups are no longer just a type of company – it has evolved to become a state of mind with a cult following. Many have advocated the “startup mindset” even in large organizations, with the aim of fostering innovation at a rapid yet sustainable pace.
With this inherent positive image of startups and its culture in mind, human resources (HR) tech company Pulsifi with set out to investigate this question: are certain people with certain traits more attracted to work for startups than others?
Conducted by Pulsifi’s research team, the results for this study can help large organizations and startups leverage this information in their efforts to attract talent, thus leveling the playing field in the talent competition.
For the study, respondents were required to go through a couple of surveys, with the aim of understanding them holistically. Pulsifi studied respondents’ social network, employment history, demographic details, as well as the following three aspects:
- Personality: Personality is a product of nature and nurture, and describes a combination of qualities that define the way you think, feel, and behave. Research has also shown that personality can predispose you to be attracted to certain hobbies, lifestyles and jobs. For example, an outgoing person is more likely to meet different kinds of people than to be a recluse.
- Organizational Values: Specific to the workplace context, the study wanted to find out if people placed great importance on certain characteristics in the workplace. Some people might like to work in organizations that have a very people-oriented culture while others might like to work in organizations that offer them many opportunities to work alone with great autonomy.
- Work Interests: Work interests were examined in the study to find out if people who liked startups tend to have similar patterns in the type of things they like to do at work. While some may prefer working with machinery, others may prefer jobs that deal with people. Work interests may be related to people’s attraction towards startups, and this could be influenced by how people perceive the working environment of startups.
The outcome: A combination of elements
The study concluded that it is not any one specific aspect that drives people to be interested in startups, the determining factors come from an interesting combination of personality and work interests, and organizational values.
People who are significantly more likely to join startups are highly interested in work activities and tasks that:
- (a) allow them to help people by teaching or assisting them (social work interest),
- (b) involve creating original work (artistic work interest), and
- (c) involve leading, directing and influencing others (enterprising work interest).
Taking both personality and organizational values into consideration, the study found that people who are keen to join startups have certain distinct characteristics.
In terms of personality, these people are generally altruistic and are social risk-takers (e.g., willing to disagree with an authority figure on a social issue). With regard to organizational values, they value growth as a reward.
It is important to note that these are all very different aspects to a person; it is not one specific aspect of a person that drives them to be attracted to start-ups.
What does this mean for employers?
Now that we know this relationship between talent and startups, how can employers make use of this data? There are two key takeaways that can be derived here.
Firstly, startups can now be better aware of the type of talent they are attracting. In order to succeed, these startups should aim to market themselves as offering opportunities for professional growth and serving a greater purpose like benefiting the community at large.
There has been the belief that people who join startups are risk-takers; indeed, this study does show some support for that, but the risk-taking propensity is specific to the social domain, and not the financial domain as people sometimes think.
Hence, startups can attract and retain talent by providing them a way of life that is different from what they would have gotten from typical corporate careers.
Secondly, to avoid losing talent to an increasingly competitive labor market, larger organizations and enterprises can also utilise the findings from Pulsifi’s study.
For large corporate organizations who are looking to inculcate the startup culture in their organization, the talent pool to be targeted should not be those with the typical mindset of large organizations; rather, it should be more similar to those of startups.
These organizations will benefit from tailoring their employer branding efforts to this group of talent who are likely to be attracted to such job offerings.
Employers will also need to keep their talent engaged by ensuring that employees have the chance to grow and develop, as well as engage in efforts towards corporate social responsibility to appeal to their altruistic tendencies.